Why would a guy who is 59 years old sign a mortgage, especially when it is the third mortgage for a third farm? There are several reasons.
The first one is because it is the farm I was raised on and of course, has a strong emotional tie for me. I have known this farm for everyday of my life. Even though they are gone, I can easily recall the cattle, pigs, and chickens along with fields of oats and hay that were grown every year. I remember when my dad had the drainage tile dug in the ground.
In the late 1950s, my dad and I made a trip to the tile plant about 20 miles away in the 1948 REO truck to load it with clay tile. I remember my sister, about age 9 or 10, and me, about age 11 or 12, helping unload the clay tile carrying two tiles in each hand using a metal tile carrier. The clay tile was brittle and handling them was similar to handling eggs as they would crack or break easily.
The second reason is that I owned one-third of the farm already having been passed on to my sisters and myself from our parents' estate. Those are the two main reasons.
But there are other reasons to go deeper in debt when people my age are thinking of retirement. There always has been competition for farmland and with the recent price increases in corn and soybeans, land values are increasing and so is the competition for good farmland. As farms are increasing in size, less and less land is available, either for sale or for rent.
It seems there is a past, present, and future reasons for signing another mortgage. I have covered the past because it is where I was raised, the present because farmland is increasingly difficult to acquire, and what about the future?
The future reason is I have a son who is nearly 30 years old and wants to be a fulltime farmer someday. Farming is changing fast enough that he will still need more land before he can quit his day job, but with his grandpaâ€™s home farm and now his dad's home farm with a second farm bought several years ago that connects the two farms, he is on his way.
To help himself, he recently bought 13 head of yearling cattle and cattle are back here after an absence of over sixteen years. His goal is to have the feedlots as full as they were almost 20 years ago. I told him to start small to learn the business. He can expand his cattle feeding as his skills sharpen.
When my wife and I went to the bank a few days ago to sign the mortgage, as we pulled up to the door, she asked how long the mortgage would be. I told her I was not sure. She said, "It doesn't matter, we probably won't live that long anyway." She may have a point.
So here we are at the beginning of 2007 with more debt than a year ago despite having made the past year's mortgage payments. On the plus side, if grain prices can keep their present levels for the next years we will pay down our debt so we can look for more ways to borrow money in coming years.
You have to hand it to my wife, my son, and me. We are doing our best to maintain the old adage that "Farmers live poor and die rich." But you know, it worked out very well for my dad and mom, along with my sisters and me. Now it is our generationâ€™s turn to do the same.