RICHMOND, Va. — Mike Cullipher used to juggle his farm chores and a full-time job, working 275 acres on nights and weekends. Now he’s trying to make a go of it as a full-time farmer, and he’s wondering about his father’s plans for the property.
But when he asks 73-year-old Louis Cullipher, who is still active on the Virginia Beach farm, how he will divide the business among his three children, “He just puts his hands up and says, ‘We’ll talk another day, ”’ the younger Cullipher says.
“ It’s not a pleasant thing for anyone to talk about, when you sit down and face your own mortality,” Mike Cullipher said.
Farm transition — the shift to the next generation of farmers and ranchers — has become a huge issue with the graying of the American farmer, whose average age is in the mid-50 s.
Many farmers, like Louis Cullipher, love what they do and don’t want to give it up. Some can’t afford to retire. Still others have sons or daughters who aren’t sure if they are interested in committing to a career that is full of rewards but also uncertainty.