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Retired farmers: The new face in farming

Jaye Knight Published on 29 August 2014
Retired farmers

I’ve been reading all about the “new” face of farming, which is usually an article accompanied by pictures of youthful farmers and their families. But I’d like you to meet Don and Willie, another face of farming.

Don Albert and Willie Mastin are two "retired" farmers who have been working for us in Honeoye, New York, for the past 15 years. I don't think they'd mind my telling you that they are both pushing 80.

Each spring, the boys (as we refer to them) check in with us to see if they are once again needed on the farm. We tell them that as long as they can back their pickup trucks into their parking spots, then they can still drive the tractors. Willie and Don faithfully show up each raking day a little before their scheduled start time. They somehow manage to pull into the farm at about the same time even though they live in opposite directions.

Retired farmers

Their role on the farm has changed over the years. When the boys started working on the farm, we were making small bales, so they raked in the morning and ran the small balers in the afternoon. It made a long day for them. It became apparent that the number of workers needed to handle small bales was fast becoming non-existent. So we switched over to large, square 3x3 bales. The boys’ jobs switched with us, and they were the baling crew, each again raking in the morning and running the big balers in the afternoon.

Years went by, and the boys’ raking duties now take up most of their days. This year they once again each drove a tractor and single rotary rake. They typically go to the fields together and rake as a team.

We were due to upgrade our rakes this year. I guess some would say that we should have invested in one twin-rotary rake along with a young guy to drive it. Instead, we bought the boys new single rakes. When the day's raking is done, they fill other capacities – driving carts, strapping down loads of hay or as drivers to move people and equipment around.

So while the new face of farming might be young, ambitious families, we wouldn't trade these two dedicated, conscientious men for anything. Sometimes the new face of farming is a timeworn one. We wouldn’t have it any other way.  FG

Jaye Knight and her husband are hay producers in Honeoye, New York.

TOP: Raking as a team, Don Albert and Willie Mastin run single rotary rakes during haying season.

BOTTOM: ‘The boys,’ Don and Willie, actively help their neighbors in haying season even though they’re both pushing 80. Photos provided by Jaye Knight.