Alta. couple not retired from life — just farming

Peter and Lori Sereda harvested their last crop this fall and on Oct. 2 they left their grain farm, southeast of Bow Island, Alta.

They moved into their new home and a new life in the town of Coaldale, Alta., near Lethbridge, about 90 km from Bow Island.

For a period of their farming career they had an irrigated farm. At the time of their retirement, they were on a dryland farm.

“We owned 1,600 acres and rented another 1,000 acres and we grew cereals, mostly durum, and wheat and peas,” says Peter. “We did try canola, but didn’t seem to fare well with canola.”

Do they miss their previous life?

“I miss the quietness of being out on the farm,” says Lori and wonders if she might miss it more when the farming season starts up in the spring.

“I don’t know if I’m going to miss the actual farming part or not,” Peter says, “but I’m pretty sure I won’t miss the administrative end of it.”

At this point in his life, after more than 30 years in agriculture, he was expecting to be in a much less precarious position, he says.

“I was looking for some stability and I just don’t see that stability. The whole grain marketplace can change in just about an instant. We saw this last fall with India putting extra duties on imports of pulses, which absolutely dropped the prices of our product, if you could even get somebody to quote you a price.”

Those kinds of stresses were beginning to wear on him.

“I got to the point where I said, ‘you know, I’m just not comfortable playing this game anymore.’ I wasn’t having any fun any more.”

Also, the 2,600 acre operation was becoming almost too big for one person but not big enough to justify hiring outside help.

At about that time, someone approached him about renting his land and the Seredas eventually accepted an offer.

Looking back, they say they had mostly very good years on the farm. One year a hailstorm wiped out all 10 quarter sections, but that was the first and last time they experienced any kind of hail event.

Peter grew up on his parents’ farm, obtained a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and has farmed all his life.

Lori was a “town kid.” She lived in Saskatchewan till about age eight, then in Summerland B.C., and finally in Lethbridge where she and Peter met through mutual friends. The couple celebrated their 32nd anniversary in November.

Of their four sons, only the oldest has expressed “a very small passing interest” in a career in farming.

“My feeling was that I was living my dream and we encouraged them to live theirs. If their dreams happened to coincide with ours, that’s great; if they didn’t, it wasn’t a problem,” Peter says.

That same son now lives in the farmyard with his young family — a very satisfactory arrangement for all concerned. And because Peter and Lori have chosen to rent rather sell the farmland, the door is open for him or their other sons if they change their mind about farming.

All four of their sons live within easy driving distance and there are three grandchildren. They’re the main reason why Peter and Lori will never become snowbirds.

“We’re too attached to our children, and our grandchildren, to be away for that long,” says Lori. “We like to spend lots of time together.”

Another is that the lifestyle doesn’t appeal to them.

“My idea of a holiday,” she says, “is to go away and not take our house with us, and to have somebody else cook and clean.”

Peter agrees.

“We both feel the same way. We’ve had that in common from day one.”

For now, both have found full-time jobs in Lethbridge: Peter at a John Deere dealership and Lori at a school.

“For the moment, we’re just riding things out,” says Peter. “We still have to wind down the farming operation. The bins are full out on the farm. And we’ve got the auction coming up in March.”

Though they won’t be planning any prolonged trips, the couple would like to do a family trip and also some short trips to catch up with extended family and friends.

Lori, who loves to sew and quilt, is getting her crafts room set up in the new house. Peter has his eye on some vintage vehicles he might restore. They’re happy and healthy and looking forward to the future.

Lori sums up their feelings.

“We retired from farming but we haven’t retired from life,” she says. “We still have a lot of living that we’d like to do.”

“Right now both our jobs are full-time. Hopefully we can get into some kind of part-time or seasonal jobs. That will allow us to do some travelling and some of the other things we like to do.

“More than anything, travel and get around to see friends and relatives we haven’t seen for quite a while,” said Lori.

Lori sews and quilts and does other crafts. She has a room designated in the house for her projects.

“Later on Peter will express regret that he didn’t cultivate hobbies and interest while he was still farming,” she said.

They are planning at least one family vacation for the entire family to go with them.

In their former life, Lori had two months vacation in summer because she worked at school but that was Peter‘s busy time and in the winter she was committed to her 9-to-5 job. It was hard to plan any kind of getaways when our schedules were opposite, Lori says.

“We still have a lot of living that we’d like to do,” she said.

Peter said his new employers are concerned “that maybe I’m trying to tackle something that might be a little too strenuous for somebody my age, but so far I haven’t had any issues.

“I think specifically they were looking for somebody with experience that I’ve got and that experience comes with age.

“They did express concern that I was way overqualified for the job with my experience as well as my education.

“It didn’t matter to me. What I was looking for was to have a reason to get up in the morning and a job that I could do and enjoy.”

Both volunteer at their church and hope to do even more of that in the future.

Peter says that between farming and custom grain hauling there was no time to cultivate any hobbies or outside interests and suggests that other producers consider planning for that as he feels it would have helped him transition to retirement.

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