Project To Bind Prairie First Nations’ Farmland

AToronto investment firm plans to put up millions to consolidate farmland belonging to First Nations in Saskatchewan and Alberta as a “large-scale, fully integrated corporate farming entity.”

The farming company, to be named One Earth Farms, would use this $27.5 million investment from Sprott Resource Corp. to “establish operations, fund working capital and support its initial growth.”

“We believe that the opportunities associated with this new venture are unprecedented in the agricultural industry,” Sprott CEO Kevin Bambrough said in a release March 26.

“We intend to build a long-term, profitable agricultural business in partnership with the First Nations, which will improve the management and environmental sustainability of First Nations’ farmland as well as benefit their peoples through increased revenue and job opportunities.”

One Earth Farms’ access to large tracts of First Nations’ farmland positions the company to become “the largest, most efficient operating farm in Canada,” Sprott said.

The company’s management said it has designed a program to begin farming in a “hub-and-spoke” system, to seed crops and ranchlands in annual increments, starting with a minimum target of 50,000 acres in the first year of operations.

One Earth Farms’ executives, who Sprott named March 26 at the project’s launch in Saskatoon, come with significant pedigrees in Prairie agribusiness.

The new company’s CEO will be Larry Ruud, a farm management consultant who also operates a farm near Vermilion, Alta., works for Meyers Norris Penny and is also on Viterra’s board of directors.

“With large tracts of high-quality land, Western Canada provides significant opportunity to develop a large, efficient and profitably managed corporate farm,” Ruud said in Sprott’s release.

“We intend to build an industry-leading business based on environmentally sustainable practices, respect for the First Nations peoples and a culture of excellence which extends across the One Earth Farms organization.”

The new operation’s chief operating officer will be Fred Siemens, a former CEO of the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange and national supervisor of grain futures trading for the Canadian Grain Commission.

Siemens has also been a part owner of an Alberta-based commodity brokerage specializing in agricultural risk management and has also worked at Meyers Norris Penny.

Sprott’s chairman, Eric Sprott, will be chair of One Earth Farms, while Blaine Favel, a former grand chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, will be a director with One Earth Farms and will chair One Earth Farms GP Corp., the manager of the partnership through which First Nations’ land will be leased and farmed.

“OFF THE HOOK”

According to Sprott, One Earth Farms aims to “initiate strategic industry partnerships, either through preferred supply relationships or preferred long-term sales agreements, for its production.”

Ruud was quoted March 26 by Reuters as saying news of the project has generated interest from other First Nations, which have had One Earth’s phone “ringing off the hook.”

Not all the land for which the company has agreements can be used immediately, because it’s being farmed by other renters, but that will also allow the company to “phase in” its operations, Ruud said.

The company told Reuters it has either lease agreements or signed letters of intent to lease with 18 First Nations bands in the two provinces.

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