What is your farmland worth? Alberta farmer, entrepreneur, and author Bruno Wiskel says in his new book The Wealthy Farmer that Canadian farmers may be sitting on a gold mine and not even know it.
Wiskel has just published his sixth book, The Wealthy Farmer — The Complete Guide to Investing in Agricultural Land, an easy-to-read 150 page review of farmland investment ideas and opportunities. It provides advice on how to get the most out of your farmland. In many cases you don’t even have to own any livestock or grow a crop.
Wiskel, who operates a diversified market garden and farm woodlot at Colinton, about 120 km north of Edmonton, says in the early 1980s he gave up the fame and fortune that comes with being a geologist to go farming.
With a keen wit and good sense of humor sprinkled through a book tackling what could be a relatively dry topic, Wiskel in his own words says he “has combined 32 years of grain growing, cattle wrangling, sheep shearing, hog handling, fish frying, goat herding, fruit producing, tree planting, board sawing and vegetable raising know-how into a series of publications that show precisely how other agriculturally minded people can make more money and have more fun in their farming operations.”
Lots of ideas
The Wealthy Farmer isn’t a detailed “how to” book explaining the nuances of farmland investment, but it raises the reader awareness of dozens of investment and money-making opportunities that in many respects represent fruit waiting to picked. Tax breaks are just one example, he says. “The more I researched, the more I realized that every level of government in every province wants to encourage people to stay on the farm by giving them tax incentives to do so,” he writes.
“Although the main purpose of this book is to increase the awareness that investing in agricultural land is a sound financial vehicle, it is also meant as an introduction to “the joy of farming” as a pleasurable way of life,” Wiskel writes.
He says he is not on a campaign to encourage people to quit their day jobs and go farming but “there are a number of reasons to consider agriculture as a hobby, career or part of an active retirement,” says Wiskel. “Probably the two best reasons are that farmland is a great investment and rural living can’t be beat.”
And if you are just looking at farmland as an investment he says, “There are a whole whack of other non-agricultural uses of land that require no intellectual or financial input at all. In fact some of the land that is least suited to agriculture can be the most productive in terms of profit per acre, especially in the three prairie provinces.”
The book is divided into more than 30 short chapters that look at farmland as an investment, comparing it to traditional investments and reviewing equity stocks, dividend stocks, savings accounts and real estate.
There is another section on the Business of Farming that looks at “death and taxes and how to avoid both.” This section includes chapters for the beginning farmer, and looks at other revenue sources such as communication towers, oil and gas production, gravel, mineral rights, peat moss, pipelines, seismic, power lines and timber harvest. He also describes opportunities for leasing land and renting farm buildings.
There is an interesting photo of a typical prairie farmstead with a house, barn, out buildings and grain bins — a total of at least 20 individual structures — with a caption that reads “Every single building and granary in this farmyard is rented out to a different person.” The chapter makes the point you don’t have to have cattle or be growing crops to make money from the farm.
In another section of the book, “Dividends Squared: Personal Use of the Assets,” he talks about the value of rural living. There is a chapter on “Building a Lake at the Cabin” — note the placement of those words. He also talks about “creating your own provincial park” and designing and landscaping an energy efficient home.
The book presents the reader with a wide range of options to consider. “Currently the most money to be made form a piece of land is by growing crops or raising livestock,” writes Wiskel. “But, it is possible to make a five to 10 per cent return on your agricultural land investment without actually needing to get your hands dirty by receiving money for non-farm uses or renting the land and buildings out.”
The contents of the book aren’t just musings that came to him as he sat on the dock by his fishpond. He credits the advice of his brother, a business executive who he describes as a “financial wizard when it comes to managing farmland assets.” He also consulted a wide range of experts including economists, municipal assessment experts, accountants and a lawyer specializing in agricultural law.
The Wealthy Farmer retails for $19.95. For more information or to order a copy visit the author’s website at www.brunowiskel.com. †