Some farmers never retire
Handing down the family farm from one generation to the next is one of our strongest agricultural traditions. But none of Rob Dreger’s children or their spouses plan to take over the 116-year-old farm near Lang, Sask. They have careers and interests of their own, and the 65-year-old grain and oilseed producer is fine with that. And, since the farm – which is Rob and his wife Lois’s passion – generates a comfortable income and they’re in good health, they plan to continue farming for some time.
There are thousands of Rob Dregers out there. Canadians are living longer, healthier lives than ever, says Darrell Bricker with Ipsos Global Research in Toronto. Canada’s population is aging dramatically. In 1970, the median age was 26, meaning half the population was younger and half older. Today it's 41, and the numbers are even starker in agriculture where the median is 56.
Farmers choose to retire for all kinds of reasons. Some lose interest after they’ve achieved their goals. Others want to pursue something new and still others retire after a health problem or some sort of crisis. But there are also those who are committed to the farming lifestyle and just want to keep going.
“I taught for 31 years and I’ve farmed for 44 years,” Dreger says. “I retired from teaching when I was 52. I’d put my 30 years in and I was out; I was done with it. But I can’t say that about farming right now. I haven’t made my plans for the auction sale yet – I still want to farm for the foreseeable future.”
Dreger says he can’t easily tell people why he plans to keep farming. Part of it is that it still interests him, and he also notes that recent changes to the small business tax structure make it much more attractive to actively farm his land than to rent it out.
But he wants to farm on his own terms with a nice line of equipment to make fieldwork enjoyable. Lifestyle is important to him, so Dreger doesn’t hesitate to hire a custom operator to do some spraying or haul grain to free up time to spend with the grandchildren or travel.
“I plan to remain actively involved in the management and marketing sides of the operation indefinitely,” Dreger says. “Eventually there will come a time when I'm done with it, but the land will never be sold … it continues to meet our financial needs and it’s a bonus for our children and grandchildren in the end. So we’ll let them worry about what to do with it after we’re done.”