Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Regional Science

Hobby Farms and Protection of Farmland in British Columbia/Les Exploitations Non-Conventionnelles et la Protection Du Territoire Agricole En Colombie Britannique

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Regional Science

Hobby Farms and Protection of Farmland in British Columbia/Les Exploitations Non-Conventionnelles et la Protection Du Territoire Agricole En Colombie Britannique

Article excerpt


Agricultural land protection near the urban-rural fringe is a goal of many jurisdictions, and none more so than British Columbia, Canada, which uses province-wide zoning to prevent subdivision and non-agricultural uses of zoned land. Preferential farmland taxes are also in place in many jurisdictions, and the number of small-scale hobby farms near major urban centres is expanding. In the study area, the Saanich Peninsula near BC's capital city Victoria, hobby farms are found both inside and outside of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). We investigate whether or not hobby farms are an obstacle to agricultural land preservation. We make use of a geographic information system (GIS) model to construct detailed spatial variables and employ two approaches to analyse parcel-level data--a hedonic pricing model and the propensity score method. Results from both approaches indicate that the existence of hobby farms has served to raise land prices within the ALR. Outside the ALR, however, hobby farm parcels are worth less per ha than conventional farms.


La protection du territoire agricole pres de la peripherie urbaine-rurale est un but de plusieurs juridictions et particulierement celle de la Colombie-Britarmique au Canada, qui emploie le zonage a travers toute la province pour la prevention de la subdivision et des usages non-agricoles dans les reserves agricoles. Par ailleurs, des impots preferentiels de la terre agricole sont etablis en plusieurs juridictions et on voit des fermes non-conventionnelles reduites pres des centres urbains majeurs. Dans la region etudiee, la peninsule de Saanich pres de la capitale Victoria, des fermes non-conventionnelles se trouvent au sein de et a l'exterieur de la Reserve de la terre agricole (RTA). On cherche a decouvrir si ces fermes non-conventionnelles sont un obstacle ou non a la preservation de la terre agricole. On utilise un modele d'un systeme d'information geographique (SIG) pour construire des variables spatiales detaillees et on emploie deux approches a l'analyse des donnees au niveau des parcelles--un modele de l'analyse hedonique des prix et la methode du score de propension. Les resultats des deux approches indiquent que l'existence des fermes non-conventionnelles a cause l'augmentation des prix des terres au sein de la RTA. Hors de la RTA, cependant, les fermes non-conventionnelles ont moins de valeur par hectare qu'ont les fermes conventionnelles.


Protection of agricultural land, especially near urban areas, is an important public policy objective in many jurisdictions. Zoning is the most widely used instrument for protecting agricultural land, and it is used in British Columbia (BC), Canada, where most agricultural land is in the province's Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). One of the downsides of zoning is that it creates an incentive for landowners to lobby for variances so they can transfer land from lower-valued agricultural uses to more valuable ones. In jurisdictions where the probability of being granted an exclusion is high enough, those wishing to develop the land or otherwise change its use have bid up the price of farmland beyond its agricultural value. In BC, the primary policy response to speculation has been to provide landowners with tax breaks (farmland is taxed at much lower rates than developed land) to encourage retention of lands in active agriculture. But this creates a whole other set of incentives, especially along the rural-urban interface, as illustrated in this paper.

The lower tax burden on farmland has been partially responsible for the growing number of hobby farms and large rural estates in the urban fringe. In some jurisdictions, the threshold for qualifying for preferential taxation rates is set deliberately low in order to make agriculture an attractive land use, although this has the unintended consequence of subsidizing sometimes wealthy landowners pursuing a rural lifestyle in proximity to the urban area (Cotteleer et al 2009). …

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