Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station [Later Life Farming]

Module 5d: Unique Sources of Income for Farm Families

One of the most obvious observations gathered from focus group sessions with New Jersey farmers was that farmers do not retire. Quotes such as, "I'll still farm some," "I'll do something to keep busy," and "I'll retire when I'm dead" were very common among participants. This should not be very surprising to any farmer planning retirement. Farming is a career choice unlike any other occupation, and people who choose this career path are hard working people who typically do not pick a date and stop working.

But as farmers get older, the physical demands of running a traditional farming operation can become more difficult, leaving some to seek new sources of revenue from their biggest asset – their farm. In addition, while the land portion of your farming enterprise offers many potential revenue sources, your experience can also be a source of income after retirement.

Below are just a few potential sources of income that are unique for farm families:

Income from Your Land

  • Land Rental – Land is in short supply, making it very difficult for new producers to start a farming enterprise. Renting your farmland to a new farmer can provide you with a steady source of income and tax benefits and keep you involved with the farm on your own terms.
  • Hunting Leases and Agritourism – Your farmland is a valuable resource for more than just farming. Many recreational users of farmland are willing to rent your property for a variety of uses including hunting, camping, or just sightseeing. Another use, which is gaining in popularity, is agritourism or ecotourism. The basic idea behind agritourism is to make your farm a destination. Many consumers enjoy spending a day in the country learning about the farming lifestyle and are willing to pay for the opportunity. Other agritourism activities include corn mazes, pick-your-own operations, and hay rides. These activities may allow you to scale back your commercial operation while providing a seasonal source of income.
  • Other – There are many other potential sources of income from your farmland (e.g., opening a farm-themed bed and breakfast). Again, it is important to consider your passions, skill set, and resources when considering income generating options.

Using Your Experience as a Source of Income

Let's face it, as a farmer you wear many hats! Not only are you an agricultural producer, you are a banker, an accountant, a manager, a mechanic, and an inventor. All of the skills that you have developed during your career as a farmer make you a valuable asset to many companies both inside and outside of the agricultural community. For example, you may decide to serve as a paid consultant to new farmers or on the board of directors of a local bank or corporation.

Before you make any business decision, it is important to assess your financial goals and time constraints, and develop a business plan.

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