Kapuskasing is searching for a new producer to take over operations at the town’s former demonstration farm after the previous tenant departed in April.
In June, Guylain Baril, Kapuskasing’s chief executive officer, said the town was in the process of putting together a bidding package in preparation to issue a request for proposals (RFP) seeking out a new tenant for the acreage.
The property is owned by the Kapuskasing Economic Development Corp., the development arm of the Town of Kapuskasing.
“We want to continue to lease for another two years to complete the five years that was initially set out, and then at the end of the five years, the lease would be a lease to buy, so the person would have the option to buy it,” Baril said.
“We're going to issue the leasing agreement to whoever is willing to pay the most for buying the property at the end.”
Prospective tenants would be bidding on the entire property – including more than 850 acres of land available for beef, sheep and pork production; a 5,000-square-foot business incubator equipped with a board room, offices, a laboratory and equipment; and land available for crop trials and research.
Baril said a full inventory and assessment have already been completed on the equipment, and potential buyers have the option of including the equipment in their bids as well.
The previous tenant, Andrew Gordanier, gave his notice in April after fulfilling three years of a five-year lease agreement.
All the livestock was sold to a Mennonite community in Matheson, located east of Timmins, which continues to produce and sell the meat under the Kapuskasing Meats banner.
Contract details related to the lease between Kapuskasing and Gordanier are being kept confidential, but Baril said penalties associated with breaking the lease early will apply, and the town hopes to recoup some of the costs it’s accrued since the departure.
“We want to try and reduce some of our losses here, because it’s been an expensive last few months without a tenant at the farm,” he said.
A century ago, farming was a thriving industry in and around Kapuskasing and the Great Clay Belt.
In 2012, identifying an opportunity to revive the industry, the town made agriculture a top priority in its strategic plan, and shortly after purchased the Kapuskasing Demonstration Farm, which the federal government had divested and shut down a few years earlier.
Despite the disappointment of recent events, Baril is optimistic the town will be able to find a new producer to fill the tenancy.
Interest has already been building from local and outside producers inquiring about operating the farm.
Agricultural activity is picking up in nearby areas, too.
One farmer in Val Rita is in the process of relocating his operation from Saskatchewan and plans to make the full transition in a year’s time.
There is also the ongoing livestock pilot project with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, which has identified eight 2,000-acre plots – three in Val Rita and eight in Opasatika – designed to promote livestock farming in the North.
Baril is hesitant to call it a “boom” just yet, as most producers are still only operating their farms as hobby farms or side jobs, but the town still believes in the potential for growth in the industry.
“I think there’s still some challenges ahead before agriculture really sets deep roots the way it did 100 years ago in Northern Ontario,” he said.
“But there’s certainly some more talk in the last five years than there’s been in the last 50.”