Homesteading After Retirement: Part 1
Enjoying a Happy Retirement Life on the Homestead
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Is it your dream to retire from your career or day job and begin homesteading after retirement? The romantic idea of retiring business casual clothes for a daily wardrobe of muck boots and Carhartt overalls can appear to be a dream come true. It can also turn into a living nightmare if you don’t do your homework before the lifestyle switch.
What makes it work? Having a clear vision is one factor. Knowing what you want life on the farm to look like and researching beforehand how to get to that point. Gathering an educated and clear view of what homesteading and small-scale farming entails is the first step.
Before we get started down this road, I want to assure you that my goal is to encourage you to homestead. I want you to end up in a good situation. As my husband and I approach the traditional age of retirement, there are steps we have taken to make sure we can continue to lead this life we love. I may make some statements that might seem discouraging, however, they are only made to cause you to pause a moment, not make you stop.
Last year I spoke at the annual Homesteaders of America conference in rural Virginia. My topic was “Raising Livestock on Small Farms.” Little did I know, while planning my presentation, that it would inspire a grassroots swelling of people nearing retirement. Many of the audience members had already retired to farm life or were planning the course of the next few years.
They asked amazing questions. They asked about stocking rates, time requirements, finding a farm caretaker, and how to work smarter
not harder. In turn, they inspired me to reach out even more to folks looking to make the lifestyle change from suburban and urban life to a modern-day Green Acres.
Our family did not come from a farming background either, although we did have some homesteading genetics in the mix. We moved into farming as our children grew up, gradually building barns and enclosures and adding animals to the barnyard. We grew garden produce and learned to preserve food for the winter. We found we loved farming on a small scale.
I began blogging and writing to share our story and hopefully help others who were looking for a more agronomy-centered life. Eventually, social media entered the picture and I was able to reach even more people daily and offer answers to their questions. People without family support for farm living, but with a desire to live as their grandparents did, are reaching out to a variety of educational and mentorship support options. It is up to those of us, living this life, to reach back and provide any assistance we can to answer their questions.
Statistics show that one-third of the people over 55 years, who are currently farming, are new to farm life. While many folks retire to a daily schedule that permits unrestricted travel, return to academics, relaxation, part-
time employment, or caring for grandchildren, some know that
is not the right choice for them. A large percentage have been looking forward to rural settings, livestock, farmers markets, and purchasing farm equipment. Some are happy to be leaving behind a career that turned out to be less-than-fulfilling but paid the bills. Others are seeking more time outdoors after a career that required an office setting and dealing with the public.
Farming offers the opportunity to combine a meaningful life with a possible part-time income (although the hours are frequently longer than full time!). This income is often inconsistent and elusive, which is why many retiree farmers are financing their second careers with pension funds and retirement savings.
Buying and designing your ideal homesteading land is the biggest decision to be made. Buying a few acres to hundreds requires due diligence, especially if income from the farm is necessary to cover expenses. In some areas, land is sought after and therefore more costly. The closer you choose to be to health services, schools, and shopping, the higher the land value. Moving further out from urban life has different price tags. How far do you feel comfortable living from emergency health services and a hired labor force?
Raising livestock might be your dream when homesteading after retirement. Caring for cattle, sheep, goats, rabbits, and chickens takes time every day. Nothing ties you to the farm like raising animals. Dairy animals add even more time to the care with regular milking, cleaning, and processing the milk or learning how to make cheese. Regulations are strict on selling dairy products, which can lead to more hurdles that must be navigated.
Other pursuits could include market gardening, growing flowers for florists, or raising a breed of animal for sale. Perhaps you want to raise enough food for just your household. Are you ready to commit to the time requirement from early spring through fall? Do you know the basics of
canning and food preservation?
Finally, what thoughts have you given to the future? Will you sell the homestead or pass it on to a family member? Solid estate planning is part of the long-term process. Building an amazing off-grid homestead will not do you much good in the future if the buyer pool is non-existent when you need to move closer to civilization.
I hope I have raised some points for you to consider. If I have piqued your interest in retiring to farming life, or homesteading for your own needs, stay tuned for more in-depth discussions of homesteading after retirement.
Do you have other things to consider when homesteading after retirement? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Originally published in the January/February 2021 issue of Countryside & Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.