Once, at a farm family meeting of siblings, we were trying to analyze why the parents were so reluctant to let go of farm asset ownership. I suspect one of the key factors keeping transition planning stuck is that many farm men do not have an identity, role, or purpose beyond their decades old role of “farmer.” Maybe your dad is looking for permission to continue owning a pick-up that he can fuel with farm gas or diesel, and he still wants a few cows to keep “busy.” 

But the truth is, there are other ways to keep busy. It might take a while to find the right fit, but eventually the best hobbies for farmers can fill a void you might not even know was there.

Keeping busy.

“Retirement is an artificial construct, stop thinking about it. Think about reinvention instead. I know too many people in their sixties who have “retired” from their occupations and are, basically, sitting around waiting to die. There is no moral or religious code calling for the excitement of life to end before life ends.” — Alan Weiss (A consultant I highly respect!)

One summer, my farmer and I bought an Ocean Kayak that we have to fuel ourselves with our arm power. We have explored many of the local lakes and plan to have more adventures each spring and summer. We’ve made sure the craft can support young children who would delight in using it as a floating dock. We also enjoyed the power boats that our cousins own, but decided a kayak suited our current needs better. Perhaps our son will foot the bill for a fishing or ski boat for fun.

In coaching terms, people let go of old habits and ways when they have something new to look forward to and do. What is it that you need to unlearn? (Maybe you need to unlearn being a workaholic. Here’s how.) What new things can you learn this year that would excite you enough to spend less time managing the farm as you transfer decision making to your successors?

This is where hobbies come in. 

The way you spend all of your time changes when you begin the process of handing off certain duties on the farm, or passing it entirely to your successor. 

The best hobbies for farmers.

Farmers have a certain set of skills and interests best suited for certain hobbies. But don’t worry, I’ve created a master list of the best hobbies for farmers so you can pick and choose what might be right for you. 

  • kayaking
  • golf
  • hunting
  • tinkering
  • volunteering to drive cancer care folks
  • leadership institute work
  • camping in Russia and training new leaders (Kingdom Ventures International)
  • building new homes for MDS (Mennonite Disaster Service)
  • politics…local or provincial
  • AG policy leadership
  • entrepreneur mentoring or new deal making
  • starting a completely new business
  • selling farm machinery
  • helping at auction sales
  • reviving a trade such as electrician or welding
  • art…creating art from “junk”
  • Oxbow historian clipping from the Producer
  • flying remote planes or real life size planes.
  • working with the poor in Haiti
  • house parent in a teenage group home
  • fishing in winter and summer
  • teaching kids 4-H projects
  • emcee for community events
  • writing your life story
  • photo journaling, making memory books of photos of the farm
  • playing in a band that entertains many groups
  • driving seeders and combines
  • literacy classes at local school
  • recycling volunteer
  • flower planter and landscaper to keep town beautiful
  • teaching English in a foreign country or in Brandon
  • cutting rags at the local thrift store
  • refinishing furniture or repairing things for sale at the thrift store
  • baking to do random acts of kindness, and helping single moms
  • cross country skiing
  • working in the food bank
  • feeding the birds, and building amazing feeders

Other ideas.

One of the great things about the internet is that you can google “how to do…anything…” and come up with amazing ideas. You might also want to check out vocation vacations, elder volunteering, and chat with your local librarian. There are many workable ideas for all types of farmers.

Remember that you will have more excitement about getting out of bed in the morning when you feel that your life has purpose. Find out what “flow” is for you, the thing that you do when you lose all track of time because you are enjoying the activity to the max. I am in flow when I write, and paint watercolours. I also enjoy visiting.

February is a great time to declutter your house and shop, to donate the things that you don’t use or need anymore. That will create a new space and energy for a new hobby, or a latent hobby to be re-born.

I sure would like to visit the farmer who told me he is restoring three older cars as a gift for each of his adult children.

Let me know what hobby is keeping you alive with delight for a full and purposeful life.

Remember you have a choice. Act now.

Would you like more help with farm succession planning and handling farm transitions? Contact me today to learn about my farm succession planning and farm family coaching!

If you enjoyed this article and you’d like to dive deeper, don’t miss these posts:

The 5 Ways of Dealing With Conflict on the Farm

How to Communicate To the Different Generations on the Farm

10 Things Millennial Farmers Want

This article was originally published on March 28, 2014, and has been updated. 


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Workaholics will discover helpful strategies for managing their time stress. Gain understanding for the tensions of your age and stage on the farm. Learn why some problems are not solvable, but just need to be managed as polarities. Self-renewing people are joyful and productive producers.


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“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
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Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
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