A success story from Vermont AgrAbility was recently featured on the home page of Vermont Extension's website.
Kenny and Sam have a lot in common: both are young men with careers in agriculture, both grew up on family dairy farms, and both have very strong family support, which became extremely important six to eight years ago. If you were to meet them, you would never guess they were farmers.
Both Kenny and Sam have the same disability; they are both paralyzed from the waist down and use wheel chairs often to get around. Kenny was operating a snow mobile when he hit a frozen bale of hay causing severe injuries about eight years ago. Sam was injured when a large round bale of hay hit him about six years ago. They did not know each other at the time of their accidents and they live in different non-bordering states.
Vermont has been fortunate to have a USDA funded project called AgrAbility which assists farmers with injuries or illnesses, making their work easier and safer.
At a New England Extension Training meeting, a Professor from the University of Connecticut heard about the Vermont AgrAbility Project. Sam's professor called Vermont AgrAbility asking for help. Since the client was out of state and not close by, the only assistance that could be given was phone calls, encouragement and...a connection to Kenny. Kenny and his family soon became mentors to Sam and his family.
By coincidence, there was another dairy farmer in Kenny's home town who had had an accident and was in a wheel chair. He had a special tractor lift to help him get on and off his tractor. He is now deceased and so the tractor lift was given to Kenny. However, Kenny drives up to six different tractors. The lift is attached to one tractor. Kenny purchased a used utility truck with a lift on it, which he then adapted to meet his needs. Kenny gave the tractor lift to Sam as he only drives one main tractor.
The first months and years after a major accident require a lot of encouragement, physical therapy, hospital visits, doctor appointments and support. A person learns that they now have different abilities, some they never dreamed of. For instance, Kenny now teaches skiing to individuals with disabilities.
The need for support continues. Both Kenny's and Sam's parents have made their own support system. They meet once a month, half-way between their farms at a restaurant. They try to get a fairly quiet place asking for a table for six, for three or four hours. They discuss their situations and come up with solutions. As a result...both Kenny and Sam are farming today and doing things they want to do.
Note: Vermont's AgrAbility Outreach Specialist, Bill Snow who had initiated the contact, had never met Sam during the past six years until August 20, 2014, when Sam showed up at the Vermont AgrAbility Field Day hosted at Kenny's farm.
Author: Bill Snow
Submitted by George Cook