Many farm operators are approaching an age when they might retire.
The most recent Census of Agriculture found that farms, where the oldest operator was 55 years or older, represented more than half of all farms, compared to 37.7% in 1991. That means that 100,000 family farms in Canada will likely change ownership in the next 10 years as farmers pass on the farm or sell because there are no sons or daughters willing to take over.
What will retired farm folks do when they move off the farm? Will they travel some? What are their interests besides work? Do they have hobbies? A hobby is an activity, interest, enthusiasm, or pastime that is undertaken for pleasure or relaxation, typically done during one’s own time.
In 2002, I put that hobby question to 60 farm folks — 30 men and 30 women. And for an update to see what farm folks do in the winter months of 2016, I again quizzed 60 farm folks — men and women — mostly over age 60.
First, we’ll look at the results from 14 years ago.
Now you’re probably wondering how I managed to get all those farmers to answer a nosy question about their private life? No problem. They were as curious as I was about the results.
Women have hobbies. Men don’t. Women read, knit, sew, paint, scrap book, skate and cross-country ski, visit, walk, watch TV, do puzzles, crafts and make jewelry. Others are hockey moms or they re-furbish antiques. One woman says she catches up on sex with her husband.
For men, work was still a big deal as 11 farmers escaped work for a hobby or pastime that included other work. Four farmers say they use the winter months to catch up on work. Three tinker. Two do repairs and two like to do bushwork or cut firewood.
Others watch TV, spend time on the Internet, or go to meetings. One guy reads. One sleeps. One goes square dancing with his wife. Two play hockey, two snowmobile, one ice fishes. Five have no hobby. Two farmers are building an aircraft in their workshop. The day I stop by they are busy doing rivets, content spending the winter afternoons building their aircraft rivet by rivet.
Now to the 2016 poll of mostly farmers over age 60. Very few have a hobby. As for a relaxing favourite, here are the results:
Women who have raised a family enjoy doing relaxing things in the house such as cuddling with their man while watching television. They also enjoy decorating, visiting, going to a movie, being with grandkids, and going on tours and cruises.
Busy young farmers enjoy playing hockey, watching sports, family things with wife and kids, and going to farm shows.
Farmers (and retirees) over 60 have some expensive habits. Can you believe many go to town daily for breakfast and go for coffee? And no late breakfasts either. Bright and early, between 6 and 8 a.m. Some go to a coffee shop a few times a day. One guy never drinks coffee at home. His wife doesn’t drink coffee. He gets in his pickup truck and drives to get a coffee. It’s a social thing.
Another favourite pastime with the older farmer is playing cards — euchre. Curling is another activity. Working in the bush or cutting and splitting firewood is also popular. Keeping the wood stove or furnace fired up is a full-time occupation that numerous guys enjoy immensely.
Other interests include volunteering, going to farm events, working in their shop. One farmer enjoys snowplowing, another collects vintage snowmobiles. One enjoys cuddling up with his significant other (girlfriend) by the fireplace and Jacuzzi.
I’m sure there are many more men cuddling with their spouse and taking afternoon naps in bed with her, but men are hesitant to admit to that.
I’ve realized that whatever it is that farmers and their wives do with extra time on their hands, it keeps them close to their work and close to their families. They know what’s important.