Farmers tend to work long past typical retirement age, survey finds

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Did you hear the one about the retired farmer? If you did, you probably didn't hear it in Illinois. Retirement is rarely practiced, according to a University of Illinois survey. Farmers just keep on farming. The survey of 13 counties found that farmers are twice as likely to continue working beyond age 65 as are people of similar age doing other jobs. "These farmers are not about to get off the tractor seat and relax in the rocking chair," said Andrew Sofranko, a professor in the department of human and community development. "About 1,700 farmers responded to the survey, and 25 percent were 65 or older. Nationally, only 13 to 14 percent of workers 65 and over are still on the job."

Of the 25 percent of farmers 65 or older, the average age was 73. A third of the 25 percent were 75 years or older and have been farming an average of 46 years. Sofranko and Mohamed Samy, a postdoctoral fellow, conducted the survey for the Increasing Farmer Income Through Use of Value-Added Commodities project, funded by the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research. So why do farmers keep working? "We don't have specific data on this question because most farmers can't provide a good answer themselves," Sofranko said. "They are prone to say that they will just one day retire, or that it 'all depends' on their health or whether a son takes over the farm."

Twenty three percent of the respondents were less than 45 years of age, 52 percent were 46 to 64, and 25 percent were 65 and over. The average age was 52. The counties surveyed were Adams, Brown, Cass, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, McDonough, Menard, Mercer, Pike, Sangamon, Schuyler and Warren.

Farmers have been one of the older occupation groups in the country, Sofranko said. For the past 40 years, at least, the average age of Illinois' farmers has exceeded 50. The most recent figures place the average age of all Illinois farmers at 53.4.

"Young people aren't entering farming to th

Contact: Jim Barlow, Life Sciences Editor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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