In farming as in sport, retirement is all about getting out while you are ahead
Most farmers freely discuss every aspect of their farm businesses with a sense of pride and achievement. It is common to hear stories along the lines of: "My grandfather bought this holding in the 1930s, he then transferred it to my father and now I'm proudly carrying on the family tradition - we have grown it to five time its original size and my plans are to grow it further." Succession almost happened naturally in the old days.
Farmers lived shorter lives and many were prematurely broken from hard work, forcing them to retire, often in their early 60s. They burned out as opposed to rusting out.
Today, just like the rest of the population, farmers are living longer, farm businesses are getting larger and the expectations for living after pension age have greatly increased. Add into the mix the increased rate of divorce and the expense of providing a start for the non-farming children, it is easy to see why many farmers avoid the topic of retirement.
For the farmer who absolutely loves his or her job, the most difficult decision he/she will ever make is the decision to retire from farming.
We have all experienced farmers who continue to farm way past their time. These farmers discourage successors and stunt the development of the holding.
A good farmer has an obligation to himself, his family and the farm business to recognise the right time for a change of the guard by implementing a good retirement and succession plan.
We sometimes witness top sports stars getting out at the top of their sport after a glittering career which is the perfect retirement plan.
Many farmers have no such plan and, worse again, there is no team manager to relegate them to the subs bench if they decide to 'play on' so to speak.