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In Pictures: Enchanted with the Prairies, Chinese entrepreneur invests in Sask. farmland

The Zous are part of a new wave of immigrant investors who are changing the face of Saskatchewan’s countryside. These investors, who come mainly from China, South Korea and India, are buying up farmland, by the hectare, often in cash, and frequently becoming landlords to dozens of local farmers.

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Sheldon Zou, 41, is a newcomer – to farming, to Ogema, Sask. and to Canada. He immigrated from China in 2008, an entrepreneur with a background in engineering and a brief history of running a broadband company in the U.S. During a drive across Saskatchewan, he became enchanted with the Prairies, and the investment possibilities of farmland.

MARK TAYLOR/The Globe and Mail

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He took the plunge a year ago, putting down $1.5-million to buy 4,000 acres near Ogema, roughly 115 kilometres south of Regina. Soon he moved to Ogema with his wife Linda, daughters Jennifer and Angela.

MARK TAYLOR/The Globe and Mail

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“I am still trying to buy more land,” said Mr. Zou, a landed immigrant, who has rented out most of his property and farms the rest with local farmers who are teaching him the ropes. He hopes to one day manage all the land himself and to recruit more immigrants to Ogema. “I think that if I can teach basic farming to new immigrants, I see an opportunity,” he said. “It’s very easy for Chinese to accept this idea to buy farmland. It just makes sense.”

MARK TAYLOR/The Globe and Mail

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The Zous are part of a new wave of immigrant investors who are changing the face of Saskatchewan’s countryside. These investors, who come mainly from China, South Korea and India, are buying up farmland, by the hectare, often in cash, and frequently becoming landlords to dozens of local farmers.

MARK TAYLOR/The Globe and Mail

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Mr. Zou watches the action after placing a bid on 160 acres of land at a farm auction near Ceylon, Sask.

MARK TAYLOR/The Globe and Mail

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Most immigrants are motivated by the province’s booming agriculture sector and a sense that Saskatchewan farmland, while soaring in price, is still remarkably cheap. Many are also convinced that the demise of the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly over the sale of wheat and barley will open opportunities to sell grain directly to buyers in Asia.

MARK TAYLOR/The Globe and Mail

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For these investors, the plan is simple: Buy up acres of land, partner with a local farmer to grow the crops, and then ship the produce directly to customers in China. The lure is simple too: The possibility of profits from those sales to Asia, and the hope that land prices will continue to rise and drive up the value of their land assets.

MARK TAYLOR/The Globe and Mail

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