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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Would you if you could?

Maybe it's the end of the year, perhaps knowing we will turn the Big 6-0 together in 2014 ...Mike and I have been having this conversation on sort of an ongoing basis in the last few days.  Not that all the infrastructure is still there to support it, but it is so tempting to think about turning back t he hands of time.

 

We started with 25 sows and a handful of beef cows, essentially a hundred open acres to crop and plenty of woodlands to harvest for heating and firewood sales.  Lots more land and trees now, and with everything paid for and a few bucks saved...it  isn't like we would have to worry about making payments anymore.  A thing or two we might need to buy for some of our "New Old Operation" would only cost so much. 

 

The kids are grown and on their own...one daughter works managing this farm, with two small spinoffs of her own.  We are in decent shape, all things considered.  Not as tough as we once were, but maybe somewhat smarter.   

 

There are some new niches we might have sense enough to know how to fill.  It might just be idle chatter, but I have been daydreaming about being one less rat in the race.  

 

Are we the only ones to think this way?  If you could step back - in our case, forty years or so - in your farming career, would you do it if you could?

 

 

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33 Replies
Shaggy98
Senior Advisor

Re: Would you if you could?

Kay that is a loaded question.  If I could turn the calendar back but take today's knowledge with me, I'd probably be aggressive in purchasing land more than what I have been.  Also, I would have chosen away to return to the farm full time directly out of college so as I wouldn't have been drawn into the trap of working off the farm.  Lastly I would have been involved with livestock from the onset.

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: Would you if you could?

Shaggy...that is an interesting coulda/ woulda/shoulda thought process.  I think anyone who is over thirty sort entertains ideas of what if an opportunity had been pursued that had not.

 

What I am speaking if is a lot different in focus, though.  I am talking about actually reliving an actual earlier era in recuperation you have built.  There is all this angst over corporate ag/BTO/the lost soul of farming.  What would it be like to simply go back to a diversified small farm, sell locally, etc.

 

Like I said, a lot of the suppliers and selling points that served us way back when are gone, so it would take going to the locavore niche to pull it off.  I am not talking about the agritainment conversion to agritourism.  I am talking about the farm most of us of a certain vintage grew up on.

 

Yes, with our cash crops of tobacco and peanuts gone, at least as commodity sales, we would find livestock our best cash income option.  That was what started driving us into commercial hog farming in the first place.

 

We all wax nostalgic about this lifestyle, this pace and the socioeconomic of subsistence, plus just enough to pay a few bills.  With several rental houses paying now, and Railroad Retirement within a stone's throw, it is very tempting dream to think we could return to that rhythm, instead of the dead run we have been in the last twenty years.  

 

C'mon gang, who would really be willing to walk this walk?

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farm160
Veteran Contributor

Re: Would you if you could?

I am just a couple years your junior.  From my perspective, I would not turn back the hands of time as farming has been good to us and allowed us to live a very good life.  We have such good memories from it.  And it has set us up well for retiring if or when we choose to do so.  Our adult children take pride in their farming roots; however they have all moved away and not looked back except one son returning to the farm and that's where I am struggling.  I've lost optimism in the future. 

 

Farming is different now and much of it is no longer a labor of love.  Instead of looking back I find myself looking through the eyes of the next generation (our son) stepping into farming.  The regulatory bureaucracy and red tape, increased reporting, increased taxation, and constant barrage of  salespeople and direct marketers calling to pitch their product or service is overwhelming.  We work even longer hours now than when we were young and I'm tired.   The new employees and applicants have so much baggage that they are in such a deep hole I don't see how they'll get out.   Instead of enjoying my lot in life I take on their burden and it's weighing me down.   Our small community has lost businesses and entertainment opportunities (unless you love alcohol), and our social connections are minimal as people have moved away.  It's so isolating.  Even our church, which was once a source of refuge is depressing as we look over the sea of gray and the even older patriarchs and matriarchs are unwilling to make any changes that would attract any  younger people.   We could retire and move elsewhere and be very well situated financially.   But our son loves farming and recognizes it is a great opportunity and has asked us to stay.  He needs our mentoring. We forewarned him about the isolation and declining rural communities and that seems to be his biggest concern.  When he has a free weekend he leaves for the city and comes back on Monday.  But what happens when a family and children are involved?  What about educational opportunities?  We all verbally express that we wish we could pick up the operation and move it.    My husband and I are still an integral part yet we see few qualified replacements to fill our shoes and our son can't do it all.  Looking back on things, I'm grateful.  Looking forward, I'm......empty.    I need a renewed attitude or perspective.

 

Ironically,  according to recent research by the American Psychological Association, older people who have low expectations for a satisfying future may be more likely to live longer, healthier lives than those who see brighter days ahead.

Maybe it's the time of year, or the weather that's causing the reflection. 

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Shaggy98
Senior Advisor

Re: Would you if you could?

Not sure if I truly understand what you are asking Kay.  If it means anything, my operation is almost back to where it was in the 50's/60's as far as size is concerned.  We've got about 3 fold the acres, but approximately 2/3 of those acres are in pasture and/or CRP.  Cultivated acres are within about 100 acres of what my grandparent's lived from back in the mid 20th century.  Granted my equipment is larger and it doesn't take as long to get across these acres any more.

 

FWIW, I still deal with the same local coop that has been in the area for years.  In fact, they just celebrated their 100 year anniversary of being in business last month. 

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: Would you if you could?

So well said!  

 

I think isolation is part of this sense.  Thankfully, forums like this one and social media like Facebook allow us at least an abstract outlet.  

 

Education will be a real issue for our grandchild in three more years.  There are numerous small academies, but they are expensive and still struggling...the future of that alternative system is doubtful.  The  public system is in total freefall.  I hold teaching credentials, but feel homeschooling an only child would be grossly unfair to him.  

 

The bleakness of the future outlook is part of it, too.  Yes, farming has essentially built us 1000-1500 times the net worth we had twenty years ago, if not more.  Still, the nature of economic changes has altered the rules as we knew them.  Regulation and the pain of documentation for it are a huge piece in the bigger question.  

 

Example: The woodlands we are patiently watching grow have actually bypassed the best market we have today...grown to almost grade lumber size, when construction has ground to a halt.  Trees half their age are being literally mowed down for Chinese diaper fluff and  European renewable electricity. 

 

Our best market for them now just might be as local sales of firewood.  Back where we started, but for a whole new set of reasons.  In ten more years, perhaps our nation's reversals of the present may have corrected themselves.  Our trees will be sort of a rarity and more valuable than ever,  if so.  

 

This does all tie in with expectations.  The rules we grew up with are pretty much out the window. Coincidentally, that is a topic we have really been giving thoughtful discussion to on the Women in Ag board this week.  Having expectations that are too high creates a perception of deficit, which can feel like failure, and lead to depression. 

 

Like you say...a hard situation to fully quantify and qualify.  One time when having a farming heir might make us stick it out, even though it is harder and might be smarter to step out while we are ahead...  

 

Thanks for such a thoughtful reply.  Hope we get some more input on this one.  Everyone loves the kind of farms we used to farm.  Let's see how many of  us would actually want to work on one....

 

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: Would you if you could?

Wow!  Well, then...you are already there! 

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ECIN
Senior Advisor

Re: Would you if you could?

Kay ---- Please type slower SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSOOOOOOOOOOOOOO ( copyright jabber1 )  Shaggy will understand  what you put 'N' down Smiley Very HappySmiley Very Happy

 

Here maybe I can help Shag - I am pretty sure Kay is asking IF you could go back in time - 40 years i think she asked - would you jumpat the chance - Is that right Kay ?

 

Why thats how old ECI is going to answer it anyway - lol   

 

 

Yes i would  !  I loved them days in my life - I was a senior in 74 at 17 years old ( I'm a lot younger than Kay ?  But at that time we had a 50 head herd of Angus cows - they were more like pets than cows - I would walk out to check them and they would just lay ther and I would sit down on them and pet them -  That was also about the yime we had a yearling bull we name Eltoro - he chase me out of the field behind mom and dads place - Mom  could talk for about for laughing so hard - said my feet clears the top to the fence by 2 feet - i really didn't think it was that funny - lol - now -

 

Dad had this own construction crew and built homes and toolsheds - you name it - I helped him a lot but also was my job to take care of the cows and field work in the summer - so I was really on my own - so to speak .

 

But mot of all -- for going back would to see Henry and Eve - the neighbors across the field - Iwould walk over and see them every day - Eve was the music teacher at school and Henry -- well he looked just like the Marlboro man -- No kidding  !  they had a big Hereford herd - and i would help them with the  cows - dam I miss them two .

 

Then there was ole Johnnie and Skinny  also a neighbor's - Johnnie was my Hack driver - Funny story - One night Johnnie called and wanted to know if i wanted to go Coon hunting with him and Skinny - they were both older and I knew i would be the pack mule - Skinny couldn't walk to well so he would drop Johnnie and me off and then pick us up by Keatons hill - well we did pretty good - got 2 coons - Which I was carrying and the rifle and the lattarn and a flashlight - Got to the pick up point and Skinny jumped out of johnnies pickup to see how we did - only one problem here - Skinny forgot to put the truck in park - it was in reverse , as soon as Skinny's feet hit the ground - the truck started to back up and the  door knocked Skinny down on the road -- Johnnie was yelling -- Ken --  get my truck - remember what I was packing AND on the wrong side of the fence ! -Well I gave it the old college try BUT was a fender away from the save - the truck went down in the ditch and ripped the door all the back to the front fender- lol But poor old Johnnie wasn't  lol

 

But like the poster above - it was to me - a more relaxing time as well - we worked hard - But there was not the hustle and busell as there is today , no dang cell phoness -no dam texting - I hate that crap - lol 

 

Enjoyed plowing in the night with the 656 gas and watching the fire shoot out the piper when i hit some hard stop -  Dad let me put a radio on the fender !  i couldn't hear it to well but  the neighbors a mile couldhear it pretty good they would tell me --

 

Oh and then there was Ellen !  Better stop right there !  Smiley SurprisedSmiley Very Happy

 

Yes Kay - i would jump at a chance to go back for a week or so But as I have got older - i sure do love that A/C cab and a radio I can hear -- Smiley Happy

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buckfarmer
Senior Contributor

Re: Would you if you could?

"Trap" That's a good way to describe the off the farm job shaggy. I got out a little over a year ago. Feel like I had to chew my leg off to make it happen. Maybe because my kids are still young and most of the childcare has fallen on my shoulders. I would defiantly do some things different. And plan to be changing my operation continually in the future.
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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: Would you if you could?

You are only two years younger, dammit!

 

Thanks for a wonderful trip down Memory Lane.  Those WERE the days!

 

Let's say you can keep your tractor with the cab and radio, but not have to push it over so many acres.  Would you be happier with the fifty cows and a fourth as many acres? 

 

 

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