Last week I told about the difficulty a farmer can have in leaving the farm. This subject was prompted after receiving a letter from a reader whose wife had tired of his reluctance to move from the farm to town after retirement. She was moving to town, he was staying on the farm and it was ending their marriage.
With the average age of farmers being around 60, if I remember correctly, this would be the subject many couples are having now. What happens when we retire? There are some farmers who seem to leave without too much of a problem, and there are some who just cannot leave at all. I would fall in the latter category.
In 1982, I became “demarried” and knew then that, married or single, on this farm I was where I belonged. Whatever the future held, this place was my future. I remarried in 1993 and now at age 62, my wife and I had a discussion last week about our future. My strong attachment to this place is something she is very aware of.
I could live in town if I absolutely had to, but it would be as a last resort when all other choices have been eliminated. The farmer who wrote to me told of missing the constellations in the night sky, watching the corn crop develop and feeding two old pets, a cat and dog.
My strongest attachment of living on a farm is seeing the horizon. It is what I would miss the most in moving to town. Looking into my neighbor’s doors, windows and lawn would remind me of what I lost.
Last week we made our annual pilgrimage to the Clay County Fair, a ride of two hours each way. We rode straight west on one highway and coming home back east on a different one, another tradition. Along the way, I was looking left and right taking everything in from the crop progress to landmarks along the way.
Farming is both business and a lifestyle. I can give up the business and at my age, it can be done. I have a son who wants to farm and he is very good at it. I know the place will be in good hands.
But to give up the lifestyle is a problem. I have been doing these columns for about 10 years and regular readers have read everything from grain markets to family events to the collection of this spring’s kittens. Old tractors, new machinery, ethanol, planting, spraying, harvesting, the weather, neighbors and friends are all subjects to be described and honored. For me, it is more than a lifestyle it’s life.
Last week my wife expressed her wishes and, for her, life in town would have some improvements. The grocery store would not be 10 miles away like it is now. Access to more conveniences would be easy because it would be a drive of a few minutes instead of planning a trip, which is what we do now. But for me, those conveniences come with a price. It is a price I am not willing to pay.
And when I hear my wife’s voice describe a field she has seen, tell her family about going to any of the several fairs we attended this summer, watch our grown up kids, their children and dogs run and play freely when visiting, or we enjoy a meal outside on a pleasant sunny day, I know she has taken to farm life almost as much as I have.
Yes, farming is a business, a lifestyle, and it is life.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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