The largest piece of cultivated land for sale in Canada isn't in B.C.'s Fraser Valley, southern Alberta or the land of the living skies — it's in northern Manitoba's Carrot River valley.
For a cool $56.5 million, the buyer could own just over 10,480 hectares of farmland near The Pas, Man., about 520 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. The parcel is made up of four different family farms, including Big Lake Angus Farm, which is owned by the Markus family.
"We actually don't have family members right now who are willing to take over in the next generation, so we're looking at selling the farm and hopefully having that legacy carry on in another form," said Linda Markus, the daughter of the family patriarch who bought the first 4,406 hectares almost 60 years ago.
The Markus family took on the services of a Saskatchewan-based real estate agent who specializes in marketing farmland.
Darren Sander looked around the community and felt there was an opportunity to package a few people's properties into one big parcel to attract buyers from farther away.
He ended up finding three other families who wanted to go in on the sale, and their properties all intersect. That's unheard of, he said.
"That is unprecedented as far as finding that in the West or the East," Sander said. "It's all in a block, basically. That's a very difficult thing to find or to put together, whether you're looking in Saskatchewan, Alberta, or even the east. The competition is such that it's very difficult to put those things together."
The size of the land is also remarkable. It dwarfs the City of Brandon, which is just about 7,730 hectares. By comparison, the City of Winnipeg is about 46539 hectares.
Sander said that as far as he knows, it's the biggest piece of cultivated land on the market in all of Canada.
60 years of farming
For the Markus family, the Big Lake Angus farm represents a legacy of determination, Linda said.
Her father Anthony and mother Margareta bought the farm in 1962. Anthony had fled Hungary just before the 1956 revolution and ended up in Austria where he met the woman he would end up marrying. He moved to Regina, where he worked as a baker until Margareta followed him.
The couple began farming nearly 65 hectares near Swan River, Man., but Linda said her dad's dreams were bigger than what the property could accommodate.
"There were stones and a few little issues and no opportunity for him to expand," she said.
Her parents eventually bought their farm on a much bigger piece of land in the Carrot River Valley. Anthony knew the area was good for farming, plus he could get a good deal on the land because it was so far north.
It's located near the confluence of the Carrot and Saskatchewan rivers, making it prime farmland. The area is dominated by boreal forest, lakes, rivers, streams, bogs and marshes.
"The land here is flat, it's full of top soil as far as you can go, it's all top soil," Linda said.
The family now grows wheat, canola and oats, and has 1,000 head of cattle.
Anthony Markus Sr. said the farm is now the product of a lot of hard work.
"I'm proud of what we've done here. This used to be all bush at one time and now it's all open and there's cattle grazing here all summer. So there's a lot of time and a lot of effort that's been put into this farm."
Although the Markus family is excited about the change, it's not just a loss of a home or a job — it's a lifestyle.
"We have mixed feelings. This has been our family home and we've been here for close to 60 years and I think for my parents, they're not planning on leaving the community. This is where they're comfortable and where they're at home," Linda said.
Her brother Tony said it can be tiring work.
"When you're on a farm, it's not a job, it's a lifestyle. You live it, you breathe it, you're here every day. You wake up to it. You never look at is as an actual job," he said.
"I can be busy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year."
Linda hopes another family will take on the challenge.
"If there's another family out there with enough family members that want to carry out the labour, this is perfect for them."
Sander said the price point is right for family-run farm operations looking to expand. He's heard expressions of interest from the Vancouver and Toronto areas, as well as from the U.S.
But who it will actually go to remains to be seen. Sander has also heard interest from larger investment companies, including some in China.