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A weather-worn farmer has recently transferred a major part of the farm business to his millennial successor. He asks his spouse, “What are we going to do for the next 20 years?” She reflects with a hint of surprise in her voice, “What do you really want?” The truth about reinventing your life after farm retirement is that it can be both exciting and scary. The ideas offered in this blog post will help you start to envision what your farm retirement may look like.

Farm Retirement: Take time to dream about what you really want image

Restructuring Your Down Time

Even if you are years away from farm retirement, the ‘Great Pause’ may have given you some idea about how difficult it can be for farmers to restructure their downtime.

One of the interesting outcomes of the professional sports shut down during the pandemic is that many farm men have been forced to re-arrange their downtime. Farmers fear being bored because they are used to working long hours. They typically are not thinking of getting ready to re-design their downtime.

[Tweet “#Farmers never want to think about #retirement. Let’s reframe it as a chance to reinvent yourself! Click for tips to help you discover what will make you happiest during your later years. #farming #farm”]

The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies conducts an annual survey about how retirees spend their time. Here are some of the latest findings.

67% are spending more time with family and friends. 

My farmer spends time with his son every day since they farm together. As a coach, I find many farming men have not kept up close relationships with friends; they often tell me they do not have close friends. For women who have multiple roles and tasks, the lack of friendship may put more pressure on them to have activities for the “semi-retired” spouse. This is a potential source of conflict if the farm dad does not have a clear role on the farm or activities that he enjoys beyond the farm.

Work on your friendships intentionally and start building a new network of people you enjoy being with, for work and/or play. Reaching out by phone and texting has been one of the wins of being confined to home this spring.

44% are pursuing hobbies. 

Elaine, my hobby is farming; that is all I want to do!”

Farm Retirement: Take time for hobbies as a young farmer image

Exactly.  Independent, resilient, hard-working, creative, innovative farmers who love to make deals are not happy, just golfing. I met one recently who sells vehicles and trailers as his “side hustle” to create more cash flow.  Hobbies can also include mentoring others in the skills you possess, like welding, mechanics, trading stocks, etc.

39% are travelling.  

Farm Retirement: Wes and Elaine Froese Maui 2020 image

Heading south is a long-time option for many farmers who like to congregate in Arizona, but what happens when they reach 80 years old and still have a good 15 years or more of life to find meaning and purpose? Don’t get me started on my “strong warning for 80-year-oldswho are still holding the bulk of the farm wealth. It’s high time to let go! 

21% are volunteering. 

4-H Canada would love to hear from you and your ag society, the local curling rink, hockey arena, and local church. Many hands make light work, and perhaps you want to spend some of your farm retirement volunteering on a sporadic basis, not in a regular service club. Boomers have a strong work ethic that converts well into volunteerism. Just remember to show gratitude and appreciation. In our small town, the local recycling center has a gang of folks who really enjoy their twice-weekly antics of sorting stuff, and they proudly wear matching t-shirts. The town is intentional about recognizing their value.

15% are taking care of grandchildren. 

Farm Retirement: How much time to commit to caring for grand-children image

Childcare in rural areas is difficult, and sometimes the grandparents are the best solution. Other times, grandma has told me that she does not want to spend her farm retirement as the “daycare.”  One retired nurse in our community is fostering babies.

9% are caregiving for a loved one. 

This is a huge stress on families that needs a contingency plan. I see dementia as a large looming issue for rural farm families who want their loved ones to stay in place as long as it is workable. We need better support systems to help farm families navigate caregiving. Our church family is currently using a visitation schedule to support a person in long-term care. Have you met with your financial planner to discuss contingency plans like long-term care insurance or critical illness insurance?

4% are pursuing an encore career. 

I know a dairy farmer, age 50, who sold his cows to his successor when he realized that milking cows for 30 years was enough. The father then started a new business venture. My encore career after farm retirement is going to be speaking professionally, as my hero is 75 and still booking large audiences. Our family doctor has warned us to “Have some fun because it all falls apart at age 75!”

4% continue working in the same field. 

Ha! 70% of farmers are likely not retiring and working in the same fields, literally! The pace and the nature of the work changes, but the passion for agriculture and making independent decisions is the foundation for farmers not letting go of their roles on the farm. Have an ongoing dialogue with the millennial managers to see what a good working arrangement is for all ages and stages of life.

Farm Retirement: Ask What You Really Want

The statistics above detail how other people are spending their retirement time. What will your farm retirement look like? I suggest you start by asking what you really want. For example: 

  • More Time with Family and Friends: Who are you inviting over? Make the call.
  • Pursuing Hobbies: Is it time to build a classic car or tractor?
  • Travelling: Would doing a farm tour in Australia or Ireland be fun for you?
  • Volunteer Work: Teach the younger generation how to lead a steer or fix an engine.
  • Grandchildren Time: Use Zoom if your grandkids live far away, and find new digital ways to stay connected. Consider writing a legacy journal of your life story or printing photos.
  • Self-Care: Reach out to your emotional support network and embrace good self-care. Protect good mental health.
  • Keep Farming in the Field: Ask for feedback on what is working well and what needs to shift. As we age, our skills may change, and energy management is key.

Getting ready to “retire” is not my choice of words; I like to call it getting ready to “reinvent your role on the farm.” If farm retirement sounds like it may be difficult for you, perhaps you would like to “test-drive” the experience? If so: 

  • Try renting an Airbnb in a new location. 
  • Stay at home on the farm and engage more in your local town. 
  • Invite visitors to live with you for an extended stay (we have an intern from France). 
  • Block out time on your calendar for volunteering and set up a new weekly routine. 

You can also get ready for your farm retirement by setting a living allowance for your “reinvention” stage and practicing living on that income stream for six months. Your expenses may stay similar to what they are now, just being replaced by new items.

Farm retirement is about reinventing yourself and discovering what will make you happiest during your later years. The sooner you start thinking about it, the easier it will be when the time comes…in fact, you may even start to look forward to it.

Fixing Your Time Stress Mess

60 minutes

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.

$15

Rave reviews

“A joy to work with, heard loud and clear. When the farmers laughed or asked a great question, I knew they were listening and really wanted to learn from her. Her tips were easy to understand. It was just about understanding that conflict happens, and to have the confidence in yourself to ask for what you want. In the glowing review from farmers after her presentation, I knew they had heard that loud and clear.”
Maddy Berner, Event Planner & Communications Coordinator, National Milk Producers Federation National Milk Producers Federation
“I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your virtual kitchen table chat with Arlan Academy. My wife and I signed up as it was exceptionally relevant to our current journey with potentially transitioning to her parents’ farm. The session was able to cover so many aspects of these crucial conversations and hearing you speak to both sides of the conversation was eye opening for my own perspective on this topic. It seemed to be very well attended and sounded like there were many other people who would echo my thoughts and feelings on it.”
N. Oakley, Farmer, Ontario
“Elaine helped me allocate $1 Million of assets the night I listened to her. Elaine’s presentation brings value to the use of my services in my office.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealth Management
“I recently joined in and listened to your Healthy Farmer Agriwebinar for FMC. I truly enjoyed hearing your perspective and even went and grabbed my Mom, away from her work, to come and listen in on some of your main points as well! One area that really stood out for me, both personally with our own succession plans and with our clients, was your discussion involving "Instant Influence" and how ready are you to change? I loved this concept!”
Annessa Good, FCC Transition Specialist, Alberta
“Elaine Froese truly is the Farm Whisperer. With her big heart and stern resolve, she guides families through uncharted waters and helps them arrive safely at their desired destination. She has been there, done that, and has helped hundreds of families come out on the other side. With your family and your farm legacy on the line, you owe it to yourself to start this conversation. You do not need to do it alone. Let Elaine Froese guide you through. Your legacy is being written day by day. How will you be remembered?”
Tracy Brunet, Host of The Impact Farming Show & CEO of Farm Marketer
“You speak like you’ve been sitting at our kitchen table! You know our family issues well. I am feeling more comfortable understanding what we now need to do. Elaine Froese is real.”
Audience Member,
“I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. We held an emergency family/farm meeting today because of issues that I had enough of. We used a 'talking stick' like you recommended and wrote a chart of rules. The rest of the family thought the idea that we needed a meeting was worth rolling their eyes over, until we got started. The younger ones were quick to clue in that they now have an opportunity to be bluntly honest. The older ones took a bit longer to believe they could truly say what they think. In the end, the meeting needed two sessions because there was so much to talk about… and so many things people didn't realize were a big deal to the others. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business. Truly thankful.”
Kim Martin, Dairy Farmer, Ontario
“Helped me develop my framework to start having constructive and meaningful conversations around the farm.”
Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
“Some great lessons, Elaine! You continue to do some remarkable and potentially life-changing work.”
James Mitchell, Principal, Conversations Consulting
“Our family had a good farm meeting yesterday afternoon. Your Fairness video was a great topic of discussion. One of the action items after the meeting was to have my two non-farming siblings watch the video before the next big meeting they are involved with on the farm. It will be a great conversation starter as we catch them up on our current plan. As they are younger, we also hope it will help them to ask new questions that may not have been on their mind.”
G.G., Farm Family Legacy Coach, Alberta
“Elaine gives me excellent tools that help me work with my clients!”
Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
“She has a sense of “knowing” quickly what is happening in the family dynamic. Her messages to her audiences drive home what needs to be done next to solve the complex issues of farm transition and conflict resolution.”
Audience Member,
“Eye-opening. Excited to open the door of communication with my spouse and farm family.”
Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
Nancy Atkinson, Nobleford Ag Society, Alberta
“Elaine’s real-life scenarios help her audiences know they are not alone, knowing there are creative solutions to help them get the life on the farm they have always wanted.”
Audience Member,
“A long time female client who had refined the art of procrastination was so moved by the end of your presentation that she accepted your permission to “drop the bananas.” She contacted me soon after for an appointment to do some planning which included the selling of the family “Century Farm.” A very, very emotional decision on her part that was not likely to have occurred without your presentation.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“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
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
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.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

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