Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Former Farmer Gives Advice: A Good Life After Farming

August 1, 2005

I received this letter from a former farmer who wanted to share his experiences as a farmer and his new life after farming.

It has taken me some time to get my thoughts in order to write to you. I have experienced a variety of the topics you write about such as divorce, depression, suicide, and new lifestyle adjustments.

First off, I was married to a good woman with two children who wanted to move out of the city and live on a farm. She had grown up on a farm and always wanted to return to that life. The first couple years we bumped along getting by but it always seemed the money just couldn't stretch far enough.

Survival mode. I underestimated the township mentality of my neighbors in aggressively acquiring land. By the time I got around to adding land, my land base was limited. In the mid 90's I expanded by doing custom work and this started to create a distance between my wife and myself. I was gone away from home and putting in more hours just to try and make ends meet.

About that time she also returned to the workforce to help provide the health insurance and family living. We also started a trucking business to create income in the winter months.

It seemed life was meant to be lived away from home and nothing else much mattered. Our bank even suggested she get an apartment in the town she worked to save on the driving expenses. Does that sound like a good way to keep a family together?

Wanted out. Well after 11 years in farming we had finally had enough and told the bank we wanted out and their response was we could refinance your land and keep you in business. For what?? They had no mortgage on the land and I had no intention of giving them one.

My only regret was trying to work on a settlement with the bank. Bankruptcy at that point would have saved my marriage and many thousands of dollars.

Advice to others: Your lenders are predatory people and do not have your best interests in mind when they say that they do. Seek legal counsel early on when finances become squeezed.

We continued our trucking business and were harassed by competitors in that area also. Although we had a settlement in full with the previous bank they continued to report it as open accounts on our credit reports.

Advice to others: Do not trust the so called state sponsored credit counselors to help with your finances. They are just working undercover for the banks.

This same bank has a pile of money in a golf course and I understand it is not being paid back as quickly as promised. I wouldn't be surprise to see some of that swept under the rug either.

Divorce. The scars of the past do not heal when constantly picked open and two years later my wife asked for a divorce. This was not easy to handle and I felt I had nothing left to live for and just wanted to die. I spent a month in a hospital deciding what life had to offer for the future.

That in itself was quite a time of introspection and I realized I was not missing the farming life near as much as missing the companionship of another human being.

Advice to others: Put your relationships first in your lives and your farms somewhere down the list. And when you feel pressured for the demands of the farm ask yourself, "Am I running the farm or is it running me?" I'm sure the answer will become quite clear to you.

A new life. On to the present. Today I have a good life. I met a new person who has helped me to feel alive again. I have a job which brings home the bacon and gives me meaning in life.

My new employer is a workaholic and 24/7 just doesn't leave time to get it all done. Gee, could this be "deja vu" all over? Not for me. I don't work weekends or holidays and now enjoy a much more balanced life than farming ever could supply and am only sorry it took half a life time to find this.

I'll do another letter on workaholic employers another day.

One of the reasons I stayed in farming as long as I did was because I had an unrealistic fear of what it would be like to work for someone else. I had been my own boss for so many years that I had doubts about my ability to fit in to the work force.

Advice to others: There is a good life after farming. Adjusting to a new job and lifestyle is a whole lot easier than I imagined. Don’t let your fears of the unknown keep you from facing grim reality. You do have a choice. I wished I had made mine sooner. In the words of Larry the Cable Guy, "Git er done!!!!!"