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Posted on March 13, 2019 @ 08:02:00 PM by Paul Meagher
In my last blog on remote land investing I discussed some of the factors that drove me and my wife to purchase a remote 9 acre lot. That investment, however, is only a small part of the remote land investing me and my wife did within the last 8 months. We also purchased some nearby lowbush blueberry fields, forested land, and wetlands on the other side of the road from the recently purchased 9 acre parcel.
The decision to purchase the first wild blueberry field was driven by different factors than the 9 acre parcel:
My main farming enterprise was focused on making grape-based wine but it was proving to be a long hard slog to get the 2 acres of production required to apply for a mini-winery license. The prospects for selling grape wine from the farm were too far into the future with alot of unpaid work in between. I'm not getting any younger and can't afford to keep doing farming for exercise. What to do? It is hard to fully pivot from 1.70 acres of planted grapes vines even if you are making unsaleable wine from them every year.
Where the wild blueberry fields are located is near a place where a good buddy of mine has a cabin. I grew up in a nearby village so I've been traveling these remote back roads since my childhood. My buddy took me up to the upper blueberry field where he likes to watch the sunset. Wow!
Local wild blueberry prices have been in the toilet for the last few years. Many blueberry growers are not harvesting/maintaining their fields and are selling unique agricultural land cheaper that it might otherwise sell for. I was offered a deal I couldn't refuse to acquire the largest parcel.
Before we started acquiring more land last year our farm was 61 acres in size. It is now around 190 acres in size. A 3x scaling. What growing the acreage of the farm does for me is give me hope that the farm has a plausible chance of breaking even in the near future. The 14 acres of wild blueberries on it gives me that hope. This allows me to apply for a non-grape winery license because I have more than 2 acres of non-grape crop in production. I intend to make the argument that my grape berries are for blending and can also be used to make my wine. I have 30 carboys of wine brewing from last year's harvest. I am trying to determine which blueberry/grape blends might be the ones to scale up in next year's wine making.
The point of telling my personal investment story is to make the idea of remote land investing more complex and textured. It is not just about dollars and cents. In my case it resolved the issue of making a necessary pivot away from grape-based winemaking while not totally walking away from a sunk investment. The peace of mind that resolution gave me was priceless. I don't have to declare the farm startup a failure just yet. The sales taxes we spent to acquire the land will be coming back to the farm because it is "losing money" so that will help when tax season comes this year. Finally, I do think the price of lowbush blueberries will go up again and people will begin paying more for land with this incredible agricultural resource on it. Real estate prices in the nearby rural villages and towns are going up and could spread into the more remote areas we now own. My strategy for most of the acreage is to hold and improve and see what happens. I do want to dabble in developing some permaculture inspired vacant lots for sale.
Here is a video of the blueberries used to make my 2018 vintage blueberry wines. A light phenomenon known as golden hour appears to kick in at the end of this video.
Black bears (Ursus americanus) also like wild lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) and may be a significant source of manure in the fields. I was in my truck when I encountered this black bear. This photo was from 2013 and was the last time I saw a black bear. I do see fresh scat in the blueberry fields so they are around. I intend to continue sharing the blueberry bounty with my wildlife neighbors.
Below are a couple of videos by the Pretty Archie band that I've been keeping my eye on. I had a chance to see them performing recently. Great show. I'm listening to alot of their music lately. Poor Boy is a bluegrassy song about having no money and the joy of drinking homemade wine with your girl. Also the pain of losing your girl because of the homemade wine.
Hardwood Floors is another song from the same recording session that is also worth a listen.