Farming as an Encore Career?
I was interviewed yesterday by a delightful journalist named Betsy Levine. She writes for the AARP Bulletin, the info-packed newspaper sent to its gadzillion members.
She asked lots of great questions, but the one that slowed me down was this: Many people in their 50s are retiring from their primary careers, and are looking for what’s being called an ‘encore career.’ Apparently farming is proving to be a popular encore career. “What advice do you have for these people?” Betsy asks.
Here’s the first answer that popped into my head: “Are these people insane?” Luckily I bit my tongue and managed to come up with a decent answer, and we moved on.
But I think it’d be good to start a list of tips for people who’re interested in farming as an encore career, since calling them ‘insane’ isn’t all that helpful.
So here’s the beginning of the list, and if anyone has anything to add, please do so!
1. Don’t put it off. As the saying goes, you’re not getting any younger. Find a way to get started sooner rather than later.
2. Start small. Don’t bite off so much that you risk losing your savings.
3. Join farming organizations. Research the sorts of things you’d like to do. Visit those types of farms.
4. Ask for help. Melissa’s great at this, but I won’t ask for help unless death is imminent. Hire people, get friends involved, offer to help neighbors in exchange for a little help on your place.
5. Make sure you have a market for your goods before you actually start. Know where you’ll sell and to whom. As yet, there isn’t a book called “Marketing your Farm Products for Dummies,” so you’ll need to piece it together with research and reaching out.
6. Be realistic about money. Nearly all small farmers need off-farm income, so don’t expect farming to fund your retirement.
7. Become part of the community. Listen. Don’t swoop into a farming community with all the answers. Let people give you advice, even if you know you likely won’t take it, because you might find a gem buried in there somewhere.
8. Be kind to animals, but don’t turn them into pets unless you’re interested in running a retirement home for cattle, sheep, and hogs.
That’s all I can think of for now…. feel free to add to my list!