90-year-old P.E.I. farmer still working the land after all these years

If there's ever a list of P.E.I.'s most independent seniors, 90-year-old John Lister would certainly be near the top. He lives alone, cooks his own meals, and runs a 40-head beef cattle operation.

'I don't believe in retirement,' says John Lister

Still farming at 90

6 years ago
Duration 2:26
John Lister is 90 years old, lives on his own and runs a 40-head beef cattle operation

If there's ever a list of P.E.I.'s most independent seniors, 90-year-old John Lister would certainly be near the top. 

Lister lives alone at home in Dromore. He also cooks his own meals and even bakes his own bread.

If that wasn't enough, Lister also runs a 40-head beef cattle operation and grows beans on his 300-acre farm.

I never see anybody week to week. I like it that way. I've got lots to do.— John Lister

And if you ask how he manages to do it all, he'll tell you he's doing just fine.

"I don't believe in retirement," he said. "That's people's problem. They retire and do nothing, until they get a box to put them in."

Lister was born in England and served in the British merchant navy. He moved to P.E.I. after his wife died 40 years ago, and started a dairy and beef cattle operation.

He decided to give up the dairy cows about eight years ago, figuring he "was getting a little too old to milk."

But he said taking care of 40 beef cattle on his own isn't all that hard. He feeds them once a day, using a tractor to lift the heavy bales of hay, and uses a walking stick to check on them because his balance isn't what it used to be.

"Oh I fall all the time. I'm used to falling."

He does, however, get some help with the planting and harvesting of his bean crop.

John Lister 'doesn't eat garbage,' preferring to stick to simple things like meat and potatoes. (Pat Martel/CBC)

'I don't eat garbage'

Lister said he's healthy and rarely gets sick, something he attributes to avoiding processed foods.

"I haven't had a meal [out] — except with relatives — in 30 years," he said. "I don't eat garbage. I don't smoke. I don't drink. I only eat basic food: meat, potatoes, vegetables and that sort of thing."

He doesn't have much company, because the neighbours he knew when he first moved to P.E.I. have all moved away, but it doesn't seem to bother him.

When asked what he likes about living alone, his answer was simple.

"Well, just living alone. I never see anybody week to week. I like it that way. I've got lots to do," he said. "If I wasn't happy, I'd do something about it."

John Lister says running a cattle operation on his own isn't all that hard. (Pat Martel/CBC)

And the idea of remarrying has never crossed his mind.

"That's the last thing I thought of," he said. "At my age, that would have been disastrous, because they would never fit into the way I wanted to live."

Besides, Lister said he doesn't go anywhere so he doesn't meet anyone. He gave up driving last year, but he doesn't miss it.

Lister bristles at the idea of living in a nursing home, saying he's not afraid of dying alone.

"That's not my life, living in a nursing home. I'm quite happy. Life just comes along. And one day, I will go. And that's that," he said.

"It don't worry me. I firmly believe that when you look on the calendar, there's a day on it, and that's it. And when you get to that day, you're gonna die."

John Lister says he doesn't mind living alone. (Pat Martel/CBC)


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