One of the tricks of a great farm succession is the ability of the founder to let go of management and, ultimately, ownership. There are many 60-something and 70-something farm dads on the bald prairie that just don’t know how to change from being the main manager to “the hired man.” I know hired man is not the politically correct term, I should say “employee.” Employees make a wage, and I don’t know if dad is getting a paycheque!
When you started farming for your dad you were labour, then you gained skill to manage, and then you took over the operation by buying shares or land, maybe quota or assets.
Now at age 67 or 72, you want to step back and only work when you feel like it. You are again the labour component.
Do you take instruction well?
Can you be self-motivating?
Will you have a learner mindset, instead of a judger mindset if your son does things differently than you would?
Do you have interests outside of your role on the farm?
Are you paying attention to what your wife needs now?
Some farmers don’t have a clue how to see something from another’s perspective. They are strong-minded talented entrepreneurs who are used to calling the shots.
Now may be the time to do some thinking on the back deck about what you really want your life on the farm to look like. Are there plans for travel and recreation?
Do you have your personal finances in order? Are you cherishing your marriage? Do the far away grandkids get many chances to see you?
Everyone wants to be loved and be needed. Lack of appreciation is a big stumbling block to successful farm transfers. Don’t wait until Father’s Day to be appreciated.
Let the folks on your farm team know the struggles and fears you are having about being useful in your old age. If you are a “grumpy old man” they will know by your behaviour that something isn’t right and you are obviously not happy.
By the way, you are not old – you are “young-old,” if you are still active. You really need to create fun things and purpose for the next two decades of your life.
Don’t put off having fun, as health may change, and you have the time and finances now to explore creative ventures.
Find some great causes to volunteer for. Mentor a younger farmer if you have sold your farm. Adopt grandkids who need grandparent influence in their lives.
Ask your local town if they need a talented re-invented farmer to fix, maintain and go for coffee.
Let your farming adult children make mistakes and grow the business the way they want to. You can be a source of wisdom and experience, as you make sure you are perceived as helpful and not interfering.
Ask if you can partake in the family business meetings, so that you feel in the loop of communication.
Ask yourself what you want your legacy to be. I hope that when I am 65 I can be encouraging the next generation, help do yard work, play with grandchildren, volunteer fully in my town, and enjoy some short term mission work with MEDA, Mennonite Economic Development Associates, where they use economic development to alleviate poverty.
Can you be the hired man again? Test it out. Talk about what is working and what isn’t. Teach the next generation with courtesy and respect for their talents.
I know you really love your cows, and that’s okay, too. Your role just needs to shift a bit.
I would be deeply honoured to hear your story. We all need role models to look up to and encourage us to succeed in new, creative ways. Elderhood is not a highly respected role in our society, but one by one, we can change that perception.
All the best as you labour in love. PD