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The last season, and no regrets

Agriculture.com Staff 05/19/2006 @ 9:55am

Your column last week on quitting farming was most interesting. Two years ago I was in much the same situation. My case was slightly different in that I was 63 years old, so I could call it retirement. I did not completely quit. I cut my farming operation down by a factor of 80 percent. I continue to farm the few acres that Sharon and I own or have interest in. Like you, I was too busy. Like you, my body was telling me quit abusing it with long hours in the tractor and combine.

Reaction of my friends and neighbors varied from envy to predicting that I had made a bad mistake and would regret giving up farming. What others think does not matter. My attitude was that I farmed for 34 years.  I do not need to do it again. That is still the way I feel.

Not that you need them, but I will give you some of my observations after two years. Get rid of your machinery in an orderly fashion. My plan called for selling the grain in 2004 and the machinery in 2005. I had two real nice, low-hour John Deere tractors and a New Holland TR87 combine with less than 2,000 hours. The rest of my stuff was old, obsolete or both.

Friends said I would miss my tractors. I discovered that keeping them in mint condition was a drag. Even though I seldom used them, service was a hassle. I worried I would do something that would make them less valuable. When the auctioneer cried "Sold" and the new owners drove them down my driveway, it was as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I still enjoy looking at the pictures, but I have no desire to own them again.

Do your homework on tax planning. I did a thorough job of planning to reduce the tax liability. Nevertheless, Uncle Sam took a big bite. There is a limit to how much you can cut taxes. Do your best, but be prepared to pay a big bill.

Take some time to enjoy life. I thought I had everything planned to ease the transition so Sharon and I would have a great summer after she retired last year. Unfortunately, almost to the day when her obligations to the school ended, I got sick. It was totally unexpected. I had been a picture of good health all my life. Still, I got a life-threatening condition that required considerable hospital time and most of the fall recuperating at home. I was able to drive a truck at harvest, but the big vacation that we hoped for is still ahead. Don't wait too long to enjoy yourself.

If you have grandchildren, spend a lot of time with them. From the day they are born they pick up traits from you. You may think that an infant is too young to remember, but that is not the case. I took care of my grandson for three weeks when he weighed less than 4 pounds. He was on a heart monitor and had a feeding tube. It was the scariest time of my life. He is now five years old. I know from the way he responds to me that he remembers those early, stressful days subconsciously. He lives close by, so we have a lot of quality time together. My other grand children are less than an hour away so we see them every week. I feel sorry for grandparents who do not have that opportunity.

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