Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Flying out of the empty nest

May 6, 2006

Can you believe it? I have resigned my position at MeritCare in Fargo effective Oct. 19.

I will be starting a new chapter of my life — relocating to Wildwood, Missouri near St. Louis.


How do you say goodbye to the Dakotas after 31 years?

Our children loved their childhoods in Mitchell, Huron, Rapid City and Fargo. Their education was top-notch. They had quality friendships and good memories.

I have had wonderful opportunities to learn and to make a difference in people’s lives.

I’ve enjoyed the landscape and the openness of country. I have enjoyed the friendly, honest, down-to-earth, hard-working people who populate this sparse land.

I have enjoyed my professional and church friendships. When we told others of our plans to move to Fargo, we were told we would love it here. We have. It is the people that make this place special. If our family connections were here, we would stay.

Family considerations

Our seventh and last child, Trace, graduated a year ago. He is now is Buenos Aires, Argentina, serving a two year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Our other six children are married and live a long way from Fargo.

Tara, the oldest, is in Hillsborough, N.C. and is expecting her fourth child this September. Trista lives in Providence, Utah, and has three children. Tassa lives in Turlock, Calif., and has four children. Tally lives in Japan and is expecting her second daughter this August. Tawny lives in Redwood City, Calif., and has two children. Tyler lives in Baldwin, Mo. and is expecting his first child this June.

If you are keeping score, that adds up to 13 grandchildren and three more to be born this year. They all are at least 900 miles or more away from Fargo.

Job considerations

I consider myself too young to retire. I do want a somewhat lighter load and a chance to fulfill a lifelong professional dream of having a national consulting and mediation service for farm families.

I expect that the majority of my work will be onsite wherever I am invited.

I have been involved in helping mediate conflict, resentments and thorny money/estate issues in inter-generational and multi-family farming operations for years.

I haven’t aggressively marketed my skills in this area even though I enjoy the work and have achieved success in my efforts.

My column has been in most statewide agricultural publications in the Midwest for many years. I have name recognition already and feel I will have a wider receptive audience for what I will be offering.

I will continue to write my column, and you probably won’t even notice the different location of my computer.

Our empty nest

Instead of sitting in Fargo contemplating our now empty nest and wishing there were more attractions to tempt our far-flung children and grandchildren, we can be living nearby to our son and daughter-in-law in St. Louis.

Instead of being lonely in Fargo and paying for premium plane tickets and wondering why our children don’t visit, we will be able to fly out of St. Louis at good rates to visit the rest of the tribe.

We have found the empty nest is really empty. Parenting is such a huge role. The hole left by Trace’s departure is huge.

We can position ourselves to be in our children’s and grandchildren’s lives by moving to a central location.

On to new things

“You only grow by coming to the end of something and by beginning something new.”— John Irving

I expect the rural folks in the Midwest will be as friendly as the upper Midwest.

Our lives will be different. We will be entering a new stage of our lives.

Grandparenting will be important. My wife, Darlene, is looking forward to teaching piano again after nine years of studying with Jay Hershberger at Concordia College. She is ready to give back what she has gained.

She will be doing more genealogy work. We will continue to serve in our church.

Someday, Darlene will find a way to use her Russian language skills that were developed with great persistence and special friendships in Fargo. We will have many more adventures and make new memories.

Surveys of my readers in the past have shown they are my age plus or minus 15 years.

As I age, my topics change but my readers are changing right with me.

I no longer write about toddlers or teenagers or parenting topics with the same urgency or freshness I once enjoyed.

But, other topics like retirement, grandparenting, relationship problems with older couples seem more relevant. I’ll keep on my life’s journey and continue share what I am learning.

I will also be publishing booklets this year with my thoughts on marriage and parenting. These will be the first in a series that will bring my collected writings to the public. Keep your eye on this column for availability.

My friends in Mitchell, Huron, Rapid City and Fargo, I won’t be deserting you entirely. I will be with you on a weekly basis. But, come October, I will be saying goodbye and good luck to Fargo.