Keeping You

Lifestyle: Is there life after work? Life after farming?

03 Jul 2018

“Why are we as dairy farmers worrying about life after farming? I intend to keep farming for ever!”

This was the first answer from the floor to my question, “Are you ready for life after farming,” at my workshop at the recent South Island Dairy Event (SIDE).

My answer was less than satisfactory in that I agreed with him. He might want to keep on farming for ever, while others seek to move on in some way.

What I should have done was prod a bit deeper. As a thought experiment let’s do it here –

“How old are you Sir? How many children do you have working with you on the farm? Is your wife working in the business with you? How old is your wife? Are you fit and well? Is your wife fit and well? Do you have a bucket list of things you want to do? Does your wife have a bucket list of what she wants to do? Is there anyone who is ready and able to take over your role if somethings happened to you? What do you run on your farm? How many staff do you have?” Etc.

You are obviously the captain of the ship with several staff. Your role is an overall managerial and governance one.

Okay, now let’s imagine that everything is going along pretty smoothly today. But at some stage in the future one or two of the following happen:

  • Your wife gets sick and she insists that you are the only to look after her. She needs constant attention. The business starts to go backwards, and you don’t know what to do.
  • One of your children has a relationship breakup, or gets sick, or has a spouse who gets sick, or has a child that gets sick. You must cover for them at short notice. You find it too physically tough to maintain for too long. It gets you down. You can’t find a replacement.
  • You get sick, really sick, but you recover fully after six months. The only difference is that you have lost the drive for the business and you want out.
  • You get sick, really sick, and never fully recover. You are at 60% of your former self and want out of the responsibility of farming.
  • Your wife is ready for a life after farming. She has given the best years of her life to your business and now she wants her turn. Do you split up, or do you go with her?
  • You are suddenly single. Life is not the same without the support of your wife of 35 years. You want out.
  • Your wife is suddenly single. She doesn’t want to do your job. Her new husband is not interested in farming.
  • You are suddenly single. Your new wife wants to do lots of things and none of them include farming.
  • You are slowly getting older. You notice that your staff are double-guessing you a lot. Sometimes they just don’t do what you’ve asked them to do. Someone who knows you well tells you that your staff and children think that you are ‘past it’. You are repeating yourself and forgetting to do things that you never neglected in the past. You reluctantly accept that it is time to move on.
  • Your most trusted adviser tells you that one of your children is ready to take over and you are just getting in the way.

I think we can all get the picture here. Life is complicated, at times, and unpredictable. You are past your use-by-date. It finally dawns.

The point I was trying to make in my SIDE workshop was that one needs to be more than a one-trick-pony if one wants to accept that one may have 10, 20 or 30 years of life to live, after farming. Our research told us that farmers should avoid the total immersion lifestyle and have interests outside work/farming so that they are not left without any interests or purpose in life, after farming. Too much of one thing makes Jack a dull boy.

As one of our research subjects said, “Life after farming takes some time to adjust to. Why not get started ahead of time?”

Keep asking great questions …


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