Danielle Pennel and Garnet Underwood were able to complete the construction of the barn on their property in Sayward before lumber prices hit the roof. Photo courtesy, Danielle Pennel.

Vancouver Island couple’s sheep farm dream disrupted by high lumber price

The solar powered farm project in Sayward will be set back by three years if the lumber price continues to remain high

When Danielle Pennel and Garnet Underwood sold their property at Stories Beach in Campbell River to become sheep farmers in Sayward, they could not predict that rising lumber prices would disrupt their plans.

On the seven acres of land they bought in May, the Vancouver Island couple were planning to build a solar-powered off-grid ‘green’ farm by April 2021 where they could raise hair sheep.

With food security on their agenda, they were looking at developing a sustainable model to add to the supply of B.C.’s locally-sourced meat and hair sheep – known for their meat – seemed like a suitable option.

The poultry and meat from heritage breeds – coming from a proven quality lineage, slow-growing and naturally mated – on their farm was to be supplied to an abattoir in Courtenay.

But the farm is now stalled and set back by three-and-a-half years due to the “ridiculous price” of lumber.

“It has been a bigger challenge than I thought it was going to be,” said Pennel, who is still looking at different permutations to solve the costly lumber issue.

Ideally, they imagined the pandemic to be a good time to “hide away” on their farm and finish construction before the next growing season.

They brought an excavator, cleared land, logged and sold the alder trees and used the money for some of the construction expenses.

“But right now we can’t afford to fence our field and become sheep farmers,” said Pennel.

All because lumber prices “just tripled” since they began building the barn.

Lumber prices in North America are at a record high thanks to the pandemic.

The latest price as of Sept. 18, released by B.C. Forest Product Prices shows SPF (spruce, pine, fir) 2×4 lumber at a record level of $1,288 per thousand board feet. The prices have tripled since 2019 when the average annual was at $499.

A supply chain disruption due to constrained lumber supply and surging demand led to a very big price appreciation. The high lumber prices increased the average cost of building homes by $10,000 to $20,000.

READ MORE: Lumber hitting record high prices due to low supply and high demand

Pennel and Underwood weighed numerous options, including speaking to local sawmills that would mill their logs for them in exchange for half.

“So I would end up losing half the wood, and plus I would have to pay for the trucks – about $150 an hour – making it an expensive option. It’s a catch-22 situation.”

Story continues below picture…

Turkeys roam around the farm that the couple plan to develop as a completely solar powered farm. Photo courtesy, Danielle Pennel.

If prices don’t drop, the couple is also considering buying a portable lumber mill and logging trees from their property.

“But it will be a very labour intensive process considering it’s just the two of us.”

Pennel and Underwood were able to build the barn and fence almost three-quarters of an acre.

They’ve put off building their house until lumber is more affordable. The couple is living in a trailer on their property.

“We’re going to wait six more months to see if the prices come down – if not we will have to apply for a farm loan,” said Pennel.

They were also in talks with a university in Nanaimo to welcome students from agricultural programs for co-operative education on their farm.

“We were looking forward to providing the students with the unique experience of working at a 100 per cent off-grid farm,” said Penne.

“That’s going to be put on hold as well.”

forestrySaywardsolar farm construction

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jenna Forster moderated the Virtual All Candidates Forum between Duck Paterson (top left); Chris Istace (top right); and Doug Routley (Youtube/Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce)
Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidates state their case in virtual debate

Duck Paterson, Chris Istace, and Doug Routley are on the ballot for October 24

Dinner shows in the Playbill Dining Room are keeping the Chemainus Theatre going during the pandemic. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Dinner events satisfying for the Chemainus Theatre and patrons

Small groups enjoy entertainment and the food in the Playbill Dining Room

The cover of the 2021 RASTA calendar. (Photo submitted)
Smashed pumpkins provide a royal Thanksgiving feast for RASTA Sanctuary animals

Substantial community donations to purchase pumpkins surpasses the initial goal

Advance polling begins on Oct. 15, 2020, across B.C. in the 2020 snap election. (Black Press files)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Advance voting begins today in Nanaimo-North Cowichan

Advance voting runs from Oct. 15 to Oct. 21 in B.C.’s election

The Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidates will take part in a virtual candidates forum hosted by the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce and VIREB (Submitted photo)
Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidates to participate in virtual candidates forum

The forum will be hosted by the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce and VIREB on October 19

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance in locating Michael Leighton, who is wanted on 11 warrants on Vancouver Island and is a suspect in a recent break, enter and theft in Nanaimo. (Photos submitted)
RCMP looking for break-and-enter suspect with 11 warrants on the Island

Nanaimo RCMP say Michael Leighton a suspect in theft of pistol and $40,000 worth of coins

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

Most Read