You’re leaving the farm, you’ve sold, so how is it going to feel?

The farming industry has a large number of financial transactions going on at present, all leading to the 1st June, "The Day" or what was once referred to as "Gypsy Day". You may be a farmer who has sold the shares and cows but will be retaining the land; or you may be one of those who has also sold the land and made the big decision to move to town. So, have you got the big plan all sorted? Is it all going to be a piece of cake? How could it not be, after all, you've been farming for 30 odd years, this has all got to be pretty easy stuff? Yeah right! For some of you, these changes may not be so easy. (I often wonder whether the word retirement should be banned from the English language, but that's a story for another day…)

We only need to look at the Workplace Support Paper, presented to the NZ Institute of Primary Industries Management. Ranking stressful situations on a scale of 1 to 100, with death of a spouse being ranked highest at 100, retirement was listed as 45. A major business adjustment was listed lower at 39 and changing to a different line of work was listed at 36. This just goes to show how significant retirement can be to a great number of our population.

With change comes a whole new lifestyle. You may find you miss getting up each morning to the yap of your ever faithful dog, the clatter of the pulsators and the warm feeling the cows bring. Believe it or not, you may even miss the smell of fresh cow dung. Let's not forget about the rumble of the vat stands roller door as the tanker driver relieves our bulging vat of its contents – your treasured, hard earned commodity. A client of mine, who had sold his cows and gone into maize, passed comment to me saying he actually felt ill each time he watched the tanker drive into his neighbour's gate – he really missed that part of his life.

As you all know, the mind is an extremely powerful tool. It allows us to store up images and thoughts which can be a constant companion. Think of your mind as a "chatterbox", never ceasing and always reminding us of our successes and failures; "If only I had done this and that… or, I should have said this…." One of the things about our chatterbox is that we all have the ability to control it. We need to feed it positive thoughts and even try to shut it down occasionally. This can be a real challenge, especially once retired.

You need to keep busy, get involved in things that are of interest and most importantly, keep talking. The body may want to slow down but the mind will not. Read the paper from cover to cover, put it down and then come back and read it again later. Get together with some good friends and go on outings. There are so many support groups in existence, why not give some of them a go, who knows, you may enjoy them. We all need to find something to do that makes us feel happy and involved.

Once you make the decision to leave the land, don't look back and keep wishing you had not. I know a plumber that changed his profession and became a realtor. He still kept his wet boots and trade tools in the boot of his car just to remind himself why he changed his occupation. Maybe we could throw a drenching gun, a set of cups and a foot rot knife into the boot just to remind us why we have left. Another idea to help make the transition easier could be that you assist somebody you know on their farm; this could be beneficial to you both.

In summary, leaving the farm may be an exciting time for you and you may never look back, however for others it could be a very unhappy and even depressing time of your life. The important thing is for everyone to have a plan and stick to it. You need to realise that "you cannot stop a big ship in a few miles" – it takes time. Remember retirement is terminal so keep active and mentally occupied to avoid a possible dose of the blues or even an early demise. Our whole existence is about survival so don't get this far in your life and miss the point; just because you've sold the farm doesn't mean you should stop striving!


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