Rockford, AL--Nine years ago, when Barbara and Fred Muenzmay began to plan for retirement, they didn't buy a garden home on a golf course or downsize to a smaller house close to family. Instead, they bought 20 acres in the sleepy town of Rockford, Alabama, because Barbara and Fred wanted to keep working - or at least keep busy. They viewed retirement as a time for growth and fulfillment and the extra income from opening an organic herb farm was an added bonus.
Barbara and Fred didn't necessarily plan on owning a farm. Fred had majored in Agriculture at Penn State, but then spent 40 years in sales for the welding industry. Barbara took care of their children and taught piano lessons on the side. They had moved many times during Fred's career in sales and both were ready to put down some roots, literally.
"I've always loved flowers and planting. Fred grew up working in a greenhouse in Pittsburgh and I worked in a florist shop."
Barbara and Fred knew they wanted to stay in a warm climate and be "somewhere in the middle" of their three children who are scattered from British Columbia to Washington, D.C. to Florida. A friendly community and access to quality healthcare were also important factors.
(Fred) "I said to her, you pick the state and you can even pick the property."
They eventually settled on land in Alabama and kept busy planting their personal garden. But the hobby morphed into something more. Today's baby boomers are redefining what it means to grow old in the U.S. They're living longer, have lower rates of disability, higher levels of education and are less likely to live in poverty.
The Muenzmay's admit their farm - Eagles Roost - isn't a big money making venture. It's more of a passion they share. The farm was so well received by the local community, the couple has branched out and opened a small herb and gift shop in a former gas station in the heart of downtown. Barbara says she really enjoys working with the public, particularly her regulars.
"Being in the store, one of the happy times for me is when someone asks for an herb, and it's an unusual herb, and we have it and they just about jump over the counter, I'm real pleased."
Barbara and Fred have operated Eagles Roost for almost a decade now and there are no plans to retire any time soon. Each admits it takes a lot of work and responsibility. At any point, have they ever said, 'What were we thinking'?
"Daily!" Fred laughs. "No, there isn't a word of regret. We are blessed every day. You sit here on this old front porch and you look out at the cardinals and cat birds and the mockingbirds and we see that beautiful flower just opening on the magnolia. All these things are just sitting right outside your front door and it's enough to give you initiative to have a great day."
Fred's advice for others who are considering working during retirement: Start by doing things you love and forget about everything else.
-- Stacey Torch, February 19, 2007