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Don't retire, refocus

Elaine Froese Published on 31 August 2012

For a long time now, I’ve been telling audiences that farmers don’t retire, they just re-invent themselves. Each generation wants a comfortable lifestyle.

The founders’ roles change when they work to let go of the management and ownership reins. Sometimes they are still holding on far too long and just won’t get off their high horse of “needing to be in control.”



I read an interesting book that might help give some clues on helping parents look forward to their new farm roles. Younger team members also need to keep talking about how much debt they are comfortable with in order for both generations to get what they need.
Do the Tough Things Right book

Don’t Retire, REWIRE! by Jeri Sadler and Rick Miners has these tips:

Retiring is going from; rewiring is going to. We all need something to look forward to.

Holidays are a driver for getting the work done, so the time away can be relished and enjoyed.

If folks have new projects and ideas of what is fun beyond the farm, I think more people would re-invent themselves graciously.


I recently met with a farm couple where the wife had many interests she wanted to pursue off the farm – but the husband just wasn’t interested in making any new projects.

His idea of fun was working in the shop. When does your wife get her needs met? When is it her turn for hobbies and interests she has put on hold until your role on the farm has changed?

Identify your drivers. Sadler and Miners list 85 different drivers of what makes people move forward to embrace new changes.

Ego is the one that I think stops many farmers from letting go; they really don’t know what their identity is if they can’t call themselves farmers anymore.

When you transfer the dairy management, you can still call yourself a farmer, a re-invented kind of guy who has new roles and new things to use your farm skills on.

Enjoyment is a key driver for older farmers. What types of activities would you enjoy close to home? Personally, I would love to be an adopted grandma for kids and just enjoy the delight of supporting busy young moms. My house in town would have an open-door policy and lots of space for play, art and fun visits.


Link your drivers to your activities. Let go. Do what you choose with your free time. If your driver is travel, then you might like to be a volunteer with an agency that invites you to see different parts of the country.

I know some local farm folks who have found themselves working with the Mennonite Disaster Service in the U.S. and another couple working in Maui. Start exploring the Internet and look at the possibilities.

If you want to test out living somewhere exotic, click here to see homes you can rent around the world.

Create a rewired vision … dreams, interests, discoveries. As a coach, I want to help folks discover the possibilities that lie before them.

You are only limited by your attitude and imagination. Finances are a common crutch but many agencies will take people on and supply their needs for shelter and food.

What do you really need as basic resources for your next adventure? You might be surprised how little it takes to re-locate or re-work your latest project. I bet you could spend a whole season re-organizing your shop, building amazing junk steel sculptures or re-doing an old car. What is your idea of fun?

Own your accomplishments. Celebrate small changes in what you succeed in. My relatives are happy to still be square dancing. Art is a new delight for a friend who has discovered art camps in France. Do you really care what the neighbours think of your new hobbies?

Rethink the world of work. We all need meaning and purpose for each day. What does work look like to you when you are 70? Do you want to help out as much as possible on the farm and work only when you feel like it? Do you only want to work in daylight in the air-conditioned cab? Feed calves? Do you assume you are interfering if you ask for what you now need?

Put your action plan into motion … imagine the possibilities; make it happen. Take a trip to your local library for some intellectual stimulation. Surf the Internet and check out all the elder learning sites.

Talk to your friends who return from their adventures energized. Volunteer to breathe new life into your local 4-H or service club.

There are many options for having many activities and relationships to look forward to. You might think life in your small town is boring, but have you asked your grandkids and friends what they appreciate about you? You might be very surprised that your ability to be available to them to do ordinary things is just very extraordinarily special!

Set some time aside to talk and listen with your spouse about what you both need in order to look forward to the next chapter of your life. Don’t assume things will just fall into place; you really need to identify what drives you and then put some plans into action. Take small baby steps, feel accomplishment and then follow your passion.

Life is either an adventure or nothing at all. What do you think?  PD

Elaine Froese’s book Do the Tough Things Right can help you plan for transition.