Penn State University Agricultural Greek organizations recently raised over $700 to help a Somerset County dairy farmer. Members of Delta Theta Sigma, Alpha Zeta, and Alpha Gamma Rho fraternities, and Sigma Alpha sorority, gathered the funds through a Penny War campaign sponsored by AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians. The donation was presented to AgrAbility client Timothy Murray.
“I am the 4th generation to farm here,” explains the soft-spoken Murray regarding the lovely dairy farm tucked into the hills of southern Somerset County. “I can’t imagine being anywhere else or doing anything differently, no matter how challenging farming becomes.”
In addition to the challenges all dairy farmers face, such as wildly fluctuating milk prices and high input costs, Murray copes with the additional hardship of a nearly 10-year-old hip replacement. For the 54-year-old Murray, that has meant difficulty in walking extensively around the farm; managing steps and ladders on tractors and silo; and the repetitive bending required in his tie-stall milking barn.
Murray’s grown sons, Eric and Jared, help out as much as possible, though both also have full time jobs off the farm. So when Murray’s fellow farm neighbors mentioned the help they had received from AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians, he decided to contact the program, as well.
AgrAbility project coordinator Linda Fetzer responded to Murray’s inquiry by doing an on-farm visit and site assessment. Fetzer discussed the specific tasks that had become most difficult for Murray, and created a list of recommended equipment and modifications that she felt would be most helpful to the dairyman.
Fetzer linked Mr. Murray with the PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) and completed the eligibility process. “AgrAbility, OVR, and Mr. Murray worked together to make a list of priority modifications for the farm operation that will enable Mr. Murray to complete his farm tasks” explains Fetzer.
Through OVR, Murray was eligible to receive assistance to purchase step kits for the farm’s tractors; speed hitches to accommodate less trips on and off tractors; a tractor seat that provided greater comfort and suspension; and a feed cart and bins to decrease the amount of lifting required for daily feeding chores.
“The funds that he received from OVR were a huge help but it did require a cost share of 20% that Mr. Murray needed to pay for the modifications.” says Fetzer. “Mr. Murray was working to meet the required match, however, with seriously low milk prices and some other set-backs, it was a challenge. The funds raised by the Penn State students will help his situation significantly.”
Penn State’s ag fraternities have been participating in this AgrAbility fundraiser for several years. ”Service in an important component of our fraternity experience,” says Cory Chelko, Chairman of Philanthropy at Delta Theta Sigma, the lead fundraising fraternity of the organizations. “Many of us were raised on farms ourselves, and most of us plan to work in either agricultural production or business. We are glad to help farm families with our fundraising efforts.”
AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians helps individuals who are coping with many
different kinds of physical challenges, including arthritis, stroke, knee and back problems, amputations, vision and hearing disabilities, and many others. The project is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and is a partnership of Penn State Cooperative Extension, Easter Seals Central Pennsylvania, and the PA Assistive Technology Foundation. For more information about the project, or to find out how AgrAbility can help you or someone you know, call toll free in PA to 800-416-6061. The project may also be found on the web at http://AgExtEd.cas.psu.edu/agrab/.
Submitted by: Crystal Smithmyer