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The gentrification of Ontario's cattle country

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For as long as I can remember, northern Grey County and all of Bruce County were considered “cattle country.” The official mascot of Bruce County was “Big Bruce,” a beef cattle-beast, whose twelve-foot-tall likeness still welcomes you at the northern approach to the town of Chesley.

A hundred acre spread up the road just came on the market at $1.5 million. A hundred acres let’s you graze a dozen cow-calf pairs over the summer, plus grow the hay to overwinter them. In a good year, those twelve calves will fetch $12k at sale. Out of that you pay for your inputs. Hayfields need to be rejuvenated, equipment must be maintained and replaced, and veterinarians will occasionally be called upon. Your hundred acre beef farm might reliably return five or six thousand dollars in the course of a year.
Do the math, and you quickly realize that farm up the road won’t be bought by a beef farmer. 
Instead, it’ll either go to an absentee investor who will separately rent out the house and the pastures, or an affluent urbanite looking for a weekend retreat and a retirement option.
To the untrained eye, the landscape will remain the same. There’ll be cows grazing in the fields, because neither the investors nor the affluent urbanites care for farming, and are happy enough to rent their pastures back to authentic farmers.
And that’s an endangered species, the authentic beef farmer. The only young farmers getting into beef around here are kids who are inheriting the family farm and are debt-free. Not all farmer’s children want to live the farm life, and as time goes on, more and more farms end up owned by non-farmers.
That’s just common sense, given current market conditions. The guys who graze their cattle on my farm are a father-son team who own a couple farms of their own, inherited mortgage free, rent a few more, and have a herd of 150 cows. My guess is if you divided their total net annual income by the hours they put in, they’d be shy of making minimum wage.
On the other hand, they could cash out, pocket at least three millions for throwing in the towel, and the next generation of their family can live the good life in an exciting city somewhere. 
As much as they love what they do, you know what’s going to happen eventually. 
On the plus side, the Audis, Porsches, and Land Rovers give you a nice break from watching nothing but pickups and John Deeres going by.


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