New UW-Extension Program helps farmers “shift gears” in their later farming years

Contact: Joy Kirkpatrick, 608-263-3485,

In a farm business, planning for the current owners’ later years is an important aspect of a farm succession plan. Even if the owners are not planning on fully retiring from careers as many workers do, it is important to discuss their vision with family and farming partners, and plan on shifting gears, slowing down and finding other activities to enjoy. A new program will be piloted in Clark, Richland and Winnebago Counties in January and February to help farm families explore and plan for their later farming years.

Farmers and farm businesses have some unique characteristics that may not be addressed in general financial planning or retirement planning workshops. Shifting Gears for Your Later Farming Years is a two day workshop series designed specifically for farm families. The program will introduce participants to the following topics:

  • How much “gold” do I need in my “golden” years?
  • Off farm investments and off-farm income
  • How much will I need to rely on the farm business and what will that look like?
  • What will I do if I’m not farming?
  • Communicating with farm family members about your hopes, plans and expectations
  • Estate planning
  • Choosing professionals to help you reach your goals
  • Checklists to help you assess your readiness for changes and to keep you on track as you continue to plan

In addition, all workshop participants will have access to the following services after completing this program:

  • Newsletters covering planning, saving, risk, and other retirement strategies
  • Financial coaching—individualized support to help set and reach personal financial goals
  • Farm succession planning—facilitation and planning assistance if farm succession is a part of your plan.

There is little data on the retirement patterns of farmers; however, the U.S. Agriculture Census and the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) can give some insight on patterns by analyzing the average age of farmers over several years. Farmers are considerably older than the rest of the U.S. labor force. Over 25 percent of all farmers, and about half of all agricultural landlords are 65 years or older, compared with only about 3 percent of the overall labor force.

According to Dr. Ashok Mishra, a former economic scientist at the USDA’s Economic Research Service, older farm operators and landowners operate over one-third of all farm assets and are staying on the farm longer than previous generations. The 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture noted that the fastest growing group of farm operators is those 65 years and older, with a 22 percent increase over the 2002 Ag Census data.

Recent surveys of Iowa farmers done by John Baker, at Iowa’s Beginning Farmer Center, gave farmers a choice to describe what they would be doing in their later years. The survey asked whether they were going to fully retire, semi-retire or never retire and included a definition of ‘fully retire’ as not providing any labor or management to the farming operation. The question of where income for later years was kept separate from the issue of providing labor and management to the business. In this 2006 survey, more Iowa farmers described their plans as never retiring than those describing they would fully retire.

Whether farmers describe their later years as fully retired, semi-retired or never retiring, they must answer the questions: where to live, what to do, how to fund it, and put the answers against the backdrop of the farm business continuing for the entering generation.

Shifting Gears for Your Later Farming Years will be held:
— Jan. 11 and 25 at the Abbotsford City Hall; to register, call the Clark County UW-Extension Office at 715-743-5121
— Jan. 26 and Feb. 2 at the Richland County UW-Extension Office in Richland Center; to register, call the Richland County UW-Extension Office at 608-647-6148
— Feb. 15 and 22 at the Winnebago County UW-Extension Office in Oshkosh; to register, call the Winnebago County UW-Extension Office at 920-232-1973

All workshops will be held from 9:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Registration is $60 for the first person from the farm; $90 for two people, $120 for three people and $150 for four. This registration fee covers both days in this series. Organizers encourage more than one person from the farming business to attend.

You can find workshop brochures, including registration forms at .

This program is supported by UW-Cooperative Extension, the UW Center for Dairy Profitability and by a grant funded through the North Central Region Risk Management Center ( ).


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