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Pemberton draws buyers as investors look beyond Whistler

Pemberton is fertile ground for a growing number of buyers
The sale of the historic Mitchell family farm in Pemberton is one of several taking place as investors look beyond Whistler.

A deal for one of the most exceptional farms in the secluded Pemberton Valley went firm late last month as investors discover life beyond Whistler.

The 134-acre property, consisting of two parcels at 8573 Pemberton Meadows Road on the banks of the Ryan River, has been in the Mitchell family for seven generations. But like many farmers, family patriarch Robert Mitchell is ready for retirement and has chosen to sell the property.

“The sale of this extremely rare and iconic farm has generated a lot of interest among the local community, who are sad to see it leave the original family but excited about the possibilities of new ownership,” said Frank Ingham of Royal LePage Sussex and a Pemberton resident, who had the listing.

Ingham said the sale, which is set to close Feb. 6, achieved one of the highest land prices Pemberton has seen in years at more than $35,820 an acre. 

The one recent deal to surpass it was a private deal for 50 acres of farmland that saw pricing of $52,000 an acre. That deal was driven by a neighbour’s interest in acquiring the property to expand production.

In this case of the Mitchell property, the working farm – which has traditional produced potatoes, but now also yields hay – will be retained for agriculture by the new owners, who have not been disclosed. It sits in the Agricultural Land Reserve and features the original barn, a mechanical workshop, several outbuildings as well as the original home.

Ingham says Pemberton has seen growing interest from foreign investors, who come up to Whistler from Vancouver and then hear about the place beyond the resort. Whether they cycle up or arrive by car, they’re taken with the spectacular mountain scenery and seclusion.

“They say, ‘Wow, look at that farm over there! Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little estate?’” Ingham said.

And then the buy it, and either lease it back to local growers or install a caretaker who oversees the farm operations for them in addition to maintaining a residence on site.

Ingham lists off a string of examples: a buyer from Dubai who bought 48 acres, and another from New Zealand who bought 72. Still another, from Iran, who acquired 28 acres. He’s currently working on a transaction involving a 164-acre property.

Many of the vendors are farmers who are aging out. Once renowned for its seed potatoes because its remote location ensured clean stock from fertile soils, the valley is now home to a handful of growers.

But improvements to the Sea-to-Sky Highway that have brought Squamish within the ambit of Metro Vancouver have also benefitted Pemberton. And unlike Squamish, Pemberton is exempt from the province's Speculation and Vacancy Tax. This has made it fertile for investment.

However, farmers from Metro Vancouver see it as no further away from buyers in Vancouver than the Fraser Valley when traffic is considered. Recent years have seen the valley welcome hops and cranberry growers as well as a number of organic producers.

“It’s really changing the picture here for us,” Ingham said.