When Danielle Pennel and Garnet Underwood sold their property at Stories Beach in Campbell River to become sheep farmers in Sayward, they couldn’t predict that rising lumber prices would disrupt their plans.
Of the seven acres of land they bought in May, the Vancouver Island couple planned to build an off-grid solar-powered “green” farm by April 2021 where they could raise furry sheep.
With food security on the agenda, they were looking to develop a sustainable model to add to British Columbia’s supply of locally sourced meat and hair sheep – known for their meat – seemed like an appropriate option. .
The poultry and meat of heirloom breeds – from a proven quality line, slow growing and naturally mated – from their farm had to be delivered to a slaughterhouse in Courtenay.
But the farm is now stranded and set back three and a half years because of the “ridiculous price” of lumber.
âThis has been a bigger challenge than I thought,â said Pennel, who is still considering different permutations to solve the expensive lumber problem.
Ideally, they imagined the pandemic was a good time to âhideâ on their farm and complete construction before the next growing season.
They brought in an excavator, cleared land, cut and sold the alder trees, and used the money for part of the construction expenses.
âBut at the moment, we can’t afford to fencing our field and become sheep farmers,â said Pennel.
All because lumber prices have “just tripled” since they started building the barn.
Wood prices in North America are at an all time high thanks to the pandemic.
The latest price as of September 18, published by BC Forest Product Prices, shows 2 Ã 4 SPF (Spruce, Pine, Fir) lumber at a record high of $ 1,288 per thousand board feet. Prices have tripled since 2019, when the annual average was $ 499.
A disruption in the supply chain due to the tight supply of lumber and high demand has resulted in a very sharp appreciation in prices. High lumber prices have increased the average cost of building homes from $ 10,000 to $ 20,000.
Pennel and Underwood evaluated many options, including talking to local sawmills who would machine their logs for them in exchange for half.
âSo I would end up losing half the lumber, and on top of that I would have to pay the trucks – around $ 150 an hour – which makes it an expensive option. It’s a catch-22 situation.
|Turkeys roam around the farm the couple plan to develop as a fully solar-powered farm. Photo courtesy of Danielle Pennel.|
If prices don’t come down, the couple are also considering buying a portable sawmill and cutting down trees on their property.
“But it will be a very laborious process considering that we are just the two of us.”
Pennel and Underwood were able to build the barn and the nearly three-quarters acre fence.
They put off building their house until lumber was more affordable. The couple live in a trailer on their property.
“We’re going to wait another six months to see if the prices go down – if not, we’ll have to apply for a farm loan,” Pennel said.
They were also in talks with a Nanaimo university to host agricultural program students for cooperative education on their farm.
âWe were eager to provide the students with the unique experience of working on a 100% off-grid farm,â said Penne.
âIt’s also going to be put on hold. “