EDITOR’S NOTE: The columns of Bill Duncan are being reprinted in The News-Review. Duncan, who died in November 2011, wrote a weekly column for The News-Review and The Capital Press of Salem from 1981 to 2011. Duncan wrote the following column in August 1995. His thoughts are still pertinent to today.

That’s a serious question. I don’t know the answer because I retired so I could farm. Of course, my only cash crop this year is a bumper harvest of wild blackberries which I process into jam for Christmas gifts. The rest of my effort to plow, plant and pick went to feed the hungry — the whitetail deer that are on the endangered species list.

They are endangered, I discovered, because they live up in the hills behind my place in Garden Valley and must cross busy Garden Valley Road to reach the river for water. That’s vehicular homicide in broad daylight, not to mention under the protection of darkness.

I’m serious about my question. Do farmers retire?

I am often asked when I plan to retire.

My answer is that I am retired, I just haven’t stopped working.

I discovered a long time ago that as long as I was working for a living, I couldn’t earn any money. So I read this book that said you could successfully raise food and fiber on an acre. I like to do things big, so I bought five acres.

Good thing I learned to write before I became a farmer. If I couldn’t harvest a few words on paper, I might have proven wrong that guy who wrote about how you could do self-sufficient farming on an acre. But what does he know, he’s probably just a writer who failed at farming.

But then it is not good to retire. At least that’s what Lydia Bronte found when she did a five-year study on long careers and how they increased longevity. Bronte’s book, “The Longevity Factor,” said her research uncovered a remarkable new phenomenon of American life which she calls a “second middle age.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 85% of the 31 million Americans over the age of 65 are vital and active, Bronte found, and many have reached their career peaks, made major career changes or started on their lifelong ambition after the age of 50. Some damn fools even bought a farm.

She also found many still working into their 80s, 90s and 100s, without doing anything special to achieve longevity.

Here’s some interesting facts about those people she interviewed, which may be a hint to their longevity factor:

  • Sixty percent never retired.
  • Thirty-three percent returned to work shortly after retirement, either at paid jobs or at volunteer jobs.
  • Forty-seven percent made a major career change after age 50.
  • Forty-four percent reached the peak of their career after age 50.
  • Six percent reached the peak of their career after age 65.

While she emphasized that retiring at 65 is a good and valid option for many, her study presents strong evidence why the option to continue working should be available to everyone.

Copies of Bill Duncan’s book are still available from his wife, Ada Duncan, at 541-673-1073 as well as at While Away Books in Roseburg.

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