RETIREMENT is an invention of the industrial world that does not seem to apply to agriculture.
It can also be something that appears impossible even if you want it, if you don’t have enough money or if you are a farmer.
Based on the 2016 Census, 26 per cent of farmers and farm managers across Australia were aged 65 and over and 15.3 per cent were aged 70 and over.
In Horsham Rural City, 27.1 per cent of farmers were over 65, and 15.6 per cent were over 70. Both percentages were above the Australian average.
While the number of people in all jobs continuing to work past 65 is increasing, the most commonly reported occupation for people over 65 is livestock farming.
Comments in the Australian Bureau of Statistics report said farmers were more likely to continue living and working on their property than people in other occupations, prolonging their careers.
Succession planning is seen as vital for farmers wanting to pass on farms to families. But for those who don’t have anyone interested taking over, it can be difficult to move away from the home and life they have made.
Marshall Rodda, 69, owns 6800 acres of mixed cropping and sheep land at Tarranyurk and has worked on farms since he was 17.
With his two adult daughters not interested in the farming business, Mr Rodda said he had to find other options for the future of his farm.
“Both my daughters are in businesses away from the farm and have husbands who aren’t farmers. So at some stage when my health declines, I guess I’ll have to do something else,” he said.
“I’m lucky because I have two young staff who are much more fit than me. I’m pretty active on the farm still, but my staff do the harder jobs now.
“Succession planning will be a challenge for many farmers. Especially getting enough equity in farms so that when the older person steps aside, at least they will still have enough money to survive on, and the younger person taking over has enough to continue with.”
Mr Rodda said retiring from farming was a big lifestyle change.
“All the sudden, after being use to having a regular income, their lifestyle goes back to a pension. There’s also nowhere written that you have to leave your children one million dollars – it’s nice if you can,” he said.
“It’s a tricky thing, especially in businesses where the income is blended. Getting the right staff is hard work – it takes a while to find the good ones. Then you’ve got to look after them.
“I still enjoy my job – I’ve been here since I was 17 so that’s 52 years. Somedays it can be a lot of hard work because I am getting older, but I still enjoy it.”
Cannum father and son farmers Ken and Brendon Bibby have decided to semi-retire and share farm their land because they do not have a family member to pass the enterprise onto.
“We’ve got people who come in to share farm the land; so we’ll still be farmers and get a share of the profits – but they will do all the work,” Brendon said.
“I’m heading on to 60 and everything is just getting too hard. I’ve got two children, but they’re not interested in farming, and work in Horsham.”
He said his situation would be different if his children were interested in the business.
“If my children had been interested in farming, then I would have kept on farming for another 20 years and eased my way out,” he said.
“It’s just too hard on my body – farming is a seven day a week job. A lot of the farms are getting bigger and employing people, so they are able to jump out of it. But because they size of ours, I could just never get away.”
Shine at Business manager Dianna Jacobsen works with farmers on succession planning. She said farmers saw farming as their identity.
“They are connected to the land, culture and community. It’s such a big decision, and they think they either have to stay or have to sell,” she said.
She urged farmers looking at retirement to look at the resources available including rural financial counsellors and accountants. She said she was pleased by the number of young people contacting her in the past couple of months wanting help to get into farming.
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