One of the regions of Canada that still offers an opportunity to purchase affordable land and start a farm business is the Maritimes. I would like to give a huge thank you to Kim Waalderbos for her assistance in putting together this resource guide to farming in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
Let’s start with some basic statistics in each province.
- Population: 924,000
- Median Age: 45 (Canada-wide 41)
- Median after-tax income of households (2015 $): $53,129 (Canada-wide $61,348)
- Nova Scotia farmland regional price ranges (2018 FCC data)
- Annapolis Valley (south) averages $5,329 with a range of $1,600 – $7,500
- Truro-Shubenacadie (central) averages $3,595 with a range of $1,000 – $6,100
- Pictou-Antigonish (northern) averages $1,740 with a range of $1,200 – $1,800
- English speaking province with a high demand for skilled workers in healthcare, finance, and accounting. Due to an aging population, nursing is considered an in-demand occupation.
- Harmonized sales tax of 15%. The income tax rate is the second-highest in the country.
- Horticulture crops are very common due to the milder climate in the southern end of the province.
- Population: 747,000
- Median Age: 45 (Canada-wide 41)
- Median after-tax income of households in (2015 $): $52,553 (Canada wide 61,348)
- New Brunswick farmland regional price ranges (2018 FCC data)
- Western averages $4,729 with a range of $1,000 – $5,900
- Northern averages $5,081 with a range of $1,900 – $4,600
- Southern averages $1,702 with a range of $1,000 – $2,500
- There is significant variability within the regions with the highest prices in the Moncton-Sussex area.
- Only officially bilingual province in the country, some parts are very French. Careers in translating services, wholesale and healthcare are on the government in-demand list.
- Harmonized sales tax of 15% and has the fourth-highest income tax rates in the country.
- Main farm sectors are dairy, wild blueberries and potatoes. The average farm size is 370 acres. Further agriculture statistics can be read here.
New Brunswick’s climate is more severe than that of the other Maritime provinces and has a humid continental climate, with slightly milder winters on the Gulf of St. Lawrence coastline. Elevated parts of the far north of the province have a subarctic climate. New Brunswick is 83% forested and has been experiencing more intense precipitation events, more frequent winter thaws, and one quarter to half the amount of snowpack. Sea levels have risen 30cm in the last 100 years. Along the Bay of Fundy coast during the spring and early summer, fog is quite common. Precipitation is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year.
Although Nova Scotia is almost surrounded by water, the climate is closer to continental rather than maritime. The temperature extremes of the continental climate are moderated by the ocean. Nova Scotia has frequent coastal fog and marked changeability of weather from day-to-day. Nova Scotia’s cold winters and warm summers are modified and generally moderated by ocean influences. The province is surrounded by four major bodies of water, the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to the north, the Bay of Fundy to the west, the Gulf of Maine to the southwest, and the Atlantic Ocean to the southeast. Due to the ocean’s moderating effect, Nova Scotia, is on average the warmest province in Canada, primarily due to the milder winter temperatures. Because Nova Scotia juts out into the Atlantic, it is prone to intense cold-season storms and occasional tropical storms and hurricanes in late summer and autumn.
Suitability for agriculture
“In a nutshell, to do well in the region…know yourself, know your market, play to your strengths, and think outside the box.”Kim Waalderbos, farmer in Nova Scotia
Both provinces are suitable for most farming sectors, as long as you seek the best region for that sector. Conventional grain cropping is the most restricted. Soils tend to be acidic and can be shallow in spots, especially in New Brunswick. Forage and crop production systems can function well with the regular precipitation a growing season (frost-free days) that is similar in length to central Ontario and southern coastal British Colombia. The northern parts of New Brunswick do have a shorter growing season much like the Gaspe Pennisula in Quebec. The heat units, however, are much lower with 2100-2400 for corn silage in New Brunswick and around 2200-2600 for Nova Scotia. You can find a heat unit map here.
If maple syrup production is of interest, New Brunswick has the second most maple taps in the country next to Quebec. Unlike Quebec, New Brunswick maple syrup is not supply-managed. There has been significant support in recent years for maple syrup production by the provincial government. About 22% of farms within the province sell some portion of their production directly to consumers.
Both provinces have a good new entrant program for the supply-managed sectors, both dairy and poultry. The poultry sector has built up some impressive ventures including Groupe Westco and Maritime Pride Eggs. The capital requirements for both are the same as the rest of Canada, quota must be purchased.
Sheep and goats are definitely a sector with good potential in both provinces with a federally inspected lamb processing plant located in Nova Scotia. There are also a number of provincial abattoirs that can offer a creative farmer the option to connect with local businesses that already market products like lamb at regional farmers’ markets to bring in a consistent supply and quality. Milking sheep or goats would have to be done with on-farm processing as there is no wholesale buyer for the raw milk.
Agritourism, especially the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia is another opportunity. Nova Scotia is a very populated province for its size with provincial support for buy local. If your interest is in horticulture crops, the Maritimes would definitely be a place to consider given its long-standing history in the sector. There are sizeable really good farmers markets in Moncton and Fredericton, and Halifax. Smaller-scale markets of interest include Pugwash, Nova Scotia and Woodstock, New Brunswick. There are growing fibre groups within both provinces as well as Briggs & Little Woolen Mills in Harvey, New Brunswick.
In terms of regulations, Nova Scotia is much stricter for water and land use than New Brunswick but not as strict as nearby Prince Edward Island. Both provinces get decent CAP funding programs that help new entrants and innovations etc. The provincial government representatives are helpful to ask about these programs. New transportation regulations have caused problems within some sectors such as dairy which was sending bob veal calves to Quebec. Providing creative new solutions to the agriculture industry in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick might just be your ticket to your farming dream.
The Maritimes have some really cool value-added things some unique marketing. It is crucial to do your homework on where to set up, what breeds or crops to choose etc. There is a really big distance factor that can easily kill a lot of good ideas. If you want to produce products with a commodity mindset, the Maritimes are likely not the ideal place for you. For livestock, it can be a challenge to get enough buyers to show up at the public auction live sales. Some farmers end up sending feeder calves through larger Quebec auction barns in hopes of better prices.
- Atlantic Stockyards Ltd (Truro, Nova Scotia) – main sales barn with a weekly sale and special sales for equipment and feeder calves
- Sussex Livestock Auction has a sale once a month in New Brunswick.
- Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia also has a livestock auction occasionally.
- Northumberland Lamb Marketing Co-op is a federal plant for sheep in Truro, Nova Scotia that accepts new sheep producers
- List of provincial abattoirs in New Brunswick
- List of Nova Scotia provincial abattoirs
- There is a federal beef plant on Prince Edward Island but access can be tricky for non-Islanders.
Grain marketing is quite limited. Although there is a grain elevator at the port in Halifax, marketing options are limited to some smaller enterprises. Nova Scotia is home to Horton Ridge Malt and Grain Company in Hortonville, Atlantic Canada’s first commercial malt house. A list of businesses associated with grain farming can be found at the Atlantic Grains Council. You will also find a list of input suppliers and agronomy services for various cropping needs. New Brunswick has Crop Exchange Inc in Jacksonville providing elevator services. Most farmers looking to sell crops aim to sell them directly from the field.
Moving away from being a fan of a certain colour of equipment can be helpful if you want to farm in the Maritimes. There are not enough farms to support dealerships of every colour within every region. Having to do several hours long parts run costs you more than just time.
Various regions will be better suited for individual farming sectors as you will also be located closer to suppliers if your neighbours are farming similar types of livestock and crops. Commercial cropping is very regional and related services would be most likely found in the potato growing areas as they use crop rotations.
- J.G. VanOostrum Farm Equipment Ltd. Case IH and New Holland in Truro and Port Williams in Nova Scotia
- Blueline Tractors has a New Holland dealership in Truro as well.
- Kings Equipment Sales & Service is a Massey Ferguson, Landini and McCormick dealership in Kentville, Nova Scotia
- Fort Equipment is the Kubota dealership and Fundy Bay Tractors the Massy Ferguson dealer in Amherst, Nova Scotia
- Central Equipment Inc. has Kubota, Fendt and Massey Ferguson in Truro, Nova Scotia
- Nova International Ltd dealerships in Windsor & Aylesford, Nova Scotia and one in Moncton, New Brunswick sell Kubota.
- John Deere dealerships are under Green-Diamond Equipment with locations throughout New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
- Proudfoot Motors is in New Glasgow with Massey Ferguson and Kioti tractors.
- Arbing Equipment Ltd. has Deutz and other major farm machinery brands in Sussex East, New Brunswick
- G R Farm Equipment in Edmundston (New Brunswick) is the Kubota dealer
- Grand Falls Tractor in Grand Falls, New Brunswick is an AGCO dealer.
- Maple Leaf Tractors and Equipment in Berry Mills (New Brunswick) is a dealer of Massey Ferguson, Kuhn, Pronovost, Horst, FAE, Dion, HLA and Sunflower
- HJV Equipment in Grand Falls, New Brunswick has Claas and other farm machinery
- County Tractor in Florenceville, New Brunswick is a Case IH dealer.
- Bell Crop Services – agronomy consulting services in northwestern New Brunswick
- Eastern Grains Inc. is located in Drummond, New Brunswick and offers feed, seed and marketing.
- Truro Agromart in Nova Scotia provides fertilizer, seed, agricultural pesticides, farm supply, and agronomic services including crop scouting, GPS mapping, and soil sampling.
- Similar services are offered by the Hartland Agromart in New Brunswick and Cavendish Agri Services which has locations throughout the Maritimes.
- Purina and Shurgain both have a network of dealers in both provinces
- Co-op Farm Stores are located around the province with general feed and supply services.
The Maritimes have the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus in Truro, NS and the Atlantic Veterinary College on Prince Edward Island.
I highly suggest checking out this roadmap from New Brunswick HERE which has a ton of information and guidance.
Thanks again to Kim for her assistance in making this guide possible! What are you waiting for? Your farming adventure could be awaiting you in the Maritimes!