Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Farm until I'm 80
A farmer friend of mine, who just turned 65, told me recently that he was going to farm until he was 80. In fact, he had just decided to buy a new planter, a used 8-row machine, and was in the market for a combine, an item he hadn't owned for a while.
I was getting a tour of his farm shop where he was overhauling the planter--replacing fertilizer coulters, roller chains, disk openers, and seed tube protectors, while adding new spiked closing wheels. Whew, it looked like a job for a man half his age. Next to the planter was a chore tractor that he was getting ready to drop a new engine into.
The man is in good health, it would seem, and he's still supporting at least one of his daughters. Still, the news surprised me. He has a couple part-time jobs, knows how to entertain himself off the farm, and otherwise seems pretty well set to cruise comfortably into his twilight years, at least as much as anyone can these days.
It strikes me that there are three intriguing demographic trends in agriculture right now: the full-blown emergence of young and beginning farmers, the rise in the number of female farmers since the last ag census, and now this growing set of retirement age farmers--who appear ready to bop until they drop.
A recent discussion on senior farmers in Agriculture Online's Farm Business Talk, garnered a huge response--some 140 postings.
The idea of farming forever is not without controversy. The topic elicted an outpouring of emotion, including a fair amount of grumpy argument. How do I get to farm if dad (or mom) keeps going? How do we change with the times if the old folks stay on the place? Is it safe for old-timers to be running that equipment? Is it fair to the spouse to stay trapped on the farm for another decade?
One of the enablers of old-age farming, of course, is modern technology.
One respondent makes the point that the "continued advance of technology in farm equipment has been a principal driver in allowing farmers to continue their chosen profession well into their advanced age." He believes machinery manufacturers and others serving ag will have to look at elderly farmers as a new trend.
Posted by John Walter at 7:21 AM