In New Brunswick, we don’t just need access to land for today, we need access to land for future generations.
In our province, farmland is not protected by legislation; rather we have farmland protection recommendations in the form of “land use policies” within our Rural Plans, which can be administered in different ways across the province. Hopefully, we will see some changes as our local government restructuring develops; but if not, we will need to employ creative solutions to keep farmland from becoming clear cut, soil mined or used for housing developments.
Whaelghinbran Farm at South Branch (near Penobsquis) is one such creative solution.
Whaelghinbran adopted an organic approach to agriculture in the 1960s during a time when companies were really pushing post-war chemical products onto farms of all sizes.
As the farm owners Sue Tyler and her late husband Clark Phillips were aging, they needed support managing their 30 to 40-acre farm so they partnered with Community Forests International in 2012. The Sackville-based organization then bought more land around the farm to extend the property to 798 acres.
The arrangement made with Tyler and Phillips was called a “buy back” or “reverse mortgage”: a rent-to-own scenario, where Community Forests International paid the owner’s monthly payments instead of paying the mortgage at the bank (all covered by a detailed Agreement of Purchase and Sale).
Part of that agreement entailed that Tyler and Phillips had a “life interest” in the house and a small amount of land around the house (mostly the vegetable gardens) until such time that they chose to leave or passed away. Sadly, Phillips passed away only a month after the agreement was signed. Tyler remained on the property for several years after and has since moved to another community in the area.
The New Brunswick Community Land Trust currently holds a working lands conservation easement on the property, which describes what may and may not happen on the property. Restrictions on such properties include a limit on how much wood can be cut and that the land be used only for certified organic agriculture. The site offers education and inspiration, it protects an uninterrupted swath of one of the most biodiverse temperate forests in the world (amid vast clearcuts), and it offers carbon capture. You can read more about their story in this great article by The Narwhal.
If you know of farmers who are interested in passing their land on for farming, but are not able to find farmers who can afford to make an outright purchase, this could be one option. The landowners should speak with their tax specialist. It may be more beneficial to get monthly payments as opposed to having to pay capital gains tax on a lump sum. If you purchase land and feel called to protect it for future generations the New Brunswick Community Land Trust can help you learn about land trust easement options (which could prevent land from being clearcut, soil mined or having agricultural chemicals used on it, for instance). As with all of the case studies in our Land Access Guide for New Brunswick Farmers, relationship building, patience and perseverance are certainly key with these types of arrangements.
This story is part of the Land Access Guide for New Brunswick Farmers published by the RAVEN project. You can find more stories about the creative ways that New Brunswick Farmers are getting onto the land on RAVEN’s website.
Amy Floyd is a Senior Food Security Policy Analyst with the RAVEN Project and focuses on rural issues, food sovereignty and permaculture. Amy can be reached at Amy@RAVEN-research.org.