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.