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

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

NOVEMBER TO REMEMBER
First poppy of a very different campaign leading up to Remembrance Day is pinned on Howard Valleau by Chemainus Legion 191 president Len Lavender alongside Mike Beggs. (Photo by Colin Murphy)
Start of COVID poppy campaign

Remembrance Day service limited to a few but it’s still important to raise funds

The DeFrane/Young household on Chemainus Road is always appropriately decked out for Halloween with all sorts on inflatable creatures roaming the yard. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Halloween not dead yet

Chemainus and Crofton residents keep the spirit alive

Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor has consistently shown incredible support for the Canadian fresh fruit and vegetable industry. (Photo submitted)
Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP MacGregor named CPMA Produce Champion for 2020

MP ‘has consistently shown incredible support for the industry’

Rob Kernachan’s take on life in and around Ladysmith and Chemainus and the Central Vancouver Island area.
Rob Kernachan’s cartoon flashback 2015

A take on life in and around Ladysmith and Chemainus and the Central Vancouver Island area

Sooke’s Paul Larouche enjoys gold panning along the Sooke River, looking for small treasures. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Search and Rescue Technicians carry a stretcher to the CH149 Cormorant during a 442 Squadron Search and Rescue Exercise in Tofino on February 28. (Photo by: Cpl Joey Beaudin, 19 Wing Imaging, Comox)
Father and son found dead after weeklong search near Pemberton

The father and son had set out for a day of mushroom picking last Thursday

A full moon rises over Mt. Cheam on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Rare full moon, Daylight Saving makes for a uniquely spooky Halloween – despite COVID-19

We can’t host costume parties but this weekend is still one for the history books

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Most Read