Selling the farm: why I dread my Dad’s retirement.

This past weekend, I spent an afternoon at the farm, just sitting on the deck and catching up with the neighbours that pulled in for a visit. The deck is one of my favourite places in the world; from the deck, we look over farm fields as far as the eye can see and the local highway (perfect for keeping track of the neighbours). There’s nothing like sitting out on the deck swing and watching the world go by. I was looking over my Mum’s flowerbeds, the wheat field and the barn and it reminded me how strong of a connection I feel to farm.

It’s a bittersweet connection though, because at the moment, it seems unlikely that I’ll ever be likely to buy the farm. That thought eats away at me. I absolutely dread the day my parents say they’re selling the farm.

I suppose my first realization that I am ill-suited to take over the farm came when my Dad decided he didn’t want to milk cows anymore. I loved being out in the barn and helping with the chores, but there were a lot of things I just couldn’t do. I’m small, too small to reach up to the release for the milkers, too small to move the big feed cart, or not strong enough to do a lot of the tasks required around the farm. In addition to my physical inabilities, at the time, I was in my third year of university and approximately $28,000 in debt from my student loans. I would have to get that amount in loans again just to buy the milk quota. No loan officer in his or her right mind would have lent me the money – existing debt, no collateral, and I’m just a single gal.

The cows left gradually, the milking cows went first – auctioned off at the local sales barn. The bull went next, followed by the heifers and finally the last of the calves. I’ll never forget going into the barn after the last of the cows left. It was eerily quiet and seemed so empty. It took the entire family a long time to adjust to not having cows. We still thought we had to be home by 4:30 to milk cows if we were out to town or to the city. Getting rid of the cows did allow my parents to take a well-deserved, out of country vacation without worrying about getting someone to do chores.

Without the cows, we still have 150 acres, plus equipment. Land around these parts is expensive and many farmers sell the farm and then use the proceeds from the sale to fund their retirement. My Dad is no exception. With land prices around $10,000/acre – selling the farm can make a substantial contribution to a retirement fund. I would love to be able to hand my Dad 1.5 million dollars and buy the farm when he wants to retire, but I don’t have that kind of money and I can’t handle that kind of debt (if someone would even loan me that much). I also don’t expect my Dad to just hand me the farm – he’s worked hard his entire life and I think he’s entitled to profit from it. I feel like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I want the farm to stay in the family, I want the farm for myself, but I want my Dad to be able to retire comfortably and I’d only want the farm if I could buy it at a fair price. Buying the farm is absolutely out of my reach, short of winning the lottery.

I feel like being unable to buy the farm is/will be my biggest financial failure. It hasn’t happened yet, but every year that passes is a year closer to Dad deciding to retire. Maybe my situation will change, perhaps I’ll find a partner willing to buy into the farm with me, maybe I will the lottery, but for now, it looks like the farm is out of my reach.

Categories: About Me, Family, Farming, Personal | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Selling the farm: why I dread my Dad’s retirement.

  1. Have you talked to your father about the land? My parents and I often have very candid talks about their retirement, death and inheritance. Your father is entitled to sell but does he want to? Money is money and money talks. But so does family. And if you want it, maybe you can work something out with him?

    • I haven’t talked to Dad about it. I’ve always said I want the farm, but I doubt he gets how much I want it. You’re right though, it’s something we should sit down and have a chat about sooner, rather than later.

  2. I felt the exact same way when my grandparents sold our cottage to buy out their business partner. It was my favourite place in the world. I remember searching for treasure on the property the whole last weekend because I thought then we wouldn’t have to sell it. Then again I was also 11 and had absolutely no possibility of buying them out. Maybeyour dad could sell off the majority of the outlying land and keep a couple of acres to sell to you? Then he could still get a great retirement fund and you’d still own part of the farm.

    • Unfortunately (for me), severing farm buildings from farm land is discouraged around here. I understand the reasoning behind it – so you don’t get a bunch of non-farm uses around agricultural land and prevent conflict, but I would love just to take 5-10 acres for myself. Although, maybe the rules will change in the future!

  3. Em

    This is such a common hiccup in Canada right now. I soooo want to move out to a farm than live in a medium-sized Canadian city. However, with prices and lack of skills, it’s a move that is outta reach. My boyfriend and I wouldn’t have the skills necessary to successfully operate a farm (even a hobby farm) because we decided to take careers outside of agriculture (law enforcement and business). We are in a similar (not same) position as you. We want that open-sky dream, but it will be at least ten-fifteen years before we could consider purchasing land and making the move. Makes me sad and I constantly daydream of spending my days outside on the land rather than behind a desk.

    • I hear ya. Don’t give up hope though – the skills for farming are best learned by getting your hands dirty. Hopefully one day you’ll get the farm you’re dreaming of.

  4. I completely understand! I’m sort of in the same position with my family business (that I’m working in). My Dad put all of his time and money into it, and thus has no retirement savings. It’s not valued at around $5 million and there’s just no way I could afford to buy even a portion of it. He’ll probably have to sell in a few years, which neither of us are looking forward to.

  5. belowhermeans

    This is heartbreaking. I can absolutely see where you’re coming from and it sounds so hard.

  6. Rob

    Back in the day, before you were just a glint in your dad’s eye, how did he get his start in farming? After all, when he was your age, he probably didn’t have all that much more money then than you have today? If he was able to figure out how to get his start in farming then one day so will you. It might not be your dad’s farm but it may well be “your” own farm. Don’t give up trying.

  7. This post breaks my heart a little. I hate when money holds us back from our dreams. I felt the same way when my Grandpa passed away and his house was sold. I was so upset and still am that I didn’t have the resources to buy it myself. We have recently moved across Canada to where housing is a lot cheaper than back home. At least here we can have the option of buying whereas back home I don’t know when we’d ever be able to buy.

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