Farm politics help keep retired poultry producer active

A retired poultry producer estimates the time he spends on various boards still takes up three-quarters of his work week

Even though Harold Froese has moved off his family farm and wrapped up his poultry and poultry broiler operation, he still considers himself only semi-retired.

Originally from Oak Bluff, Man., Harold and his wife, Jocelyn, now live in Winnipeg and his involvement in agriculture lobbying and provincial and federal agriculture organizations has been beneficial to his health during his retirement.

The broad list, which started while he was still farming, has included Froese being the current chair of Manitoba Egg Farmers, serving with Egg Farmers of Canada, being an executive for the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and representing egg farmers in trade agreements, including the first North American Free Trade Agreement and others that followed.

He has also given lectures at the University of Manitoba, has been a panellist for student presentations for farm business plans, been an adviser to various provincial ministers in Manitoba, and continues to be on local charity boards.

Even though most of his work is volunteer, it takes time to prepare for meetings and to travel to attend them. Froese estimates he is still working about three-quarters of the week in terms of hours he dedicates to his board work, but it comes in bunches, instead of regular weekly hours.

After Froese and his brother took over his parent’s poultry and seed farm in 1983, boards and lobbying groups were not things that Froese thought about joining as he worked to expand the farm. He did catch the bug early, he says, and learned quickly how important it was for farmers to become part of the bigger picture.

Whether it has been developing policy at different levels of government or representing farmers, he has loved it all, he says.

“I basically can’t wait to get on the next plane to go to Ottawa and get into a debate about something and yes, it involves scraps when you get into that between provinces or between provinces and the federal government, etc.”

Farmers need to do better when promoting all agricultural groups, he says, and he enjoyed doing that in his many different board roles.

With the retirement process complete and everything sold, with the exceptions of some shares in a laying hen operation in southern Manitoba, Froese says he has more freedom to decide what to focus on and what he wants to stay involved in. While many people hate to admit this, says Froese, the reality is that he doesn’t have the same energy levels he did at 30 now that he is in his late 60s, so prioritizing is important.

No matter how much he loves his work with agricultural organizations, Froese’s children and grandchildren are more of a priority compared to when he was farming, he says. Being so busy with his farm and lobbying when his kids were small, he missed out on a lot. He does not want to make the same mistakes when it comes to his grandchildren, he says.

Parenting has changed and retirement has given him and his wife an opportunity to become more involved in the lives of their children and grandchildren.

Being a part of your grandchildren’s lives, you cannot put a value on that, he says.

“I’ve actually walked out of the meeting early or missed one because a grandkid had something. Now’s the time.”

While planning for retirement, Froese encourages everyone to be generous with their children. He worked hard on his farm, but his children worked right alongside him. He wasn’t the only one selling his home back in 2010 — it was his children’s home as well. The sale fell heavily on one of his children in particular, he says, because while one of his sons wanted to take it over, his son found that he couldn’t. He felt like a failure for not continuing the family legacy that was started in 1946 but Froese knows that is not the case.

They were on the emotional roller coaster together and his kids deserved to have a slice of that pie, says Froese, not only after he dies and they inherit what is left but also before he dies when he can see the benefits of it and enjoy it with them. They need money now, not 20 years from now, he says.

“Make sure that you have enough so that you’re comfortable, but at the same time help kids where you can. Setting up funds for grandkids, education, paying for hockey, there are so many things.”

Life after retirement is all about balance, he says, not only in terms of time between his work and his family but also balancing the physical and emotional energy required to dedicate to both successfully.

Men especially, says Froese, have to be very deliberate about what they are going to do when entering retirement. Without the boards and volunteer work, Froese says he would have had to find other social activities that people need to remain healthy.

However, even with social outlets and work he enjoyed, there are other mindsets that he has to change as he deals with this different life he is now living.

When Froese sold a farm that he had lived on for 50 years of his life, psychologically he had to get used to not calling the shots. He had to see the different ways his farm was run. He had to learn different ways of keeping himself active and eating properly. With farming being a seasonal job, he says, farmers are not always the best at taking care of themselves and having a healthy diet and exercise.

“The mental side of retirement can be way tougher than the financial. You can have tons of money in the bank but if you’re not at peace about your situation or where you’re at, it’s not a lot of fun.”

Push a vacuum or a shopping cart. Open the penalty box for hometown hockey games. Mentor a young farmer. Choose to do something, says Froese, because you get to choose how to spend your retirement.

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