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November 2014


Vermont Agrability Project Helps Westfield Farmer Keep Farming

Vermont AgrAbility client feeding goatsWestfield--The large tires on the power chair easily navigated the rough terrain around the farmhouse as Robert Smith skillfully piloted the chair through several doors through the milk house into the feeding pens. He picked a pitch fork off the wall, plucked a fork-full of hay from a pile in the middle of the barn and drove to a pen of goats who received their first feeding from the smiling farmer in a new wheelchair.

Smith, 49, operates a goat dairy farm with his parents, Linda and Richard Smith, in Westfield. Although he has managed almost every aspect of the operation, his difficulty walking due to his cerebral palsy has made it challenging for him to get from his home to his barn to tend to his goats.

Thanks to the Vermont AgrAbility Project, he recently received the assistive equipment he needs to maneuver around his farm more easily.

Vermont AgrA client Robert Smith with new motorized wheelchairGeoff Whitchurch, an outreach specialist with University of Vermont Extension's Vermont AgrAbility Project, was able to obtain a motorized wheelchair at no cost through GetATStuff (Get Accessible Technology Stuff), an online database ( of used and new assistive devices that people donate or sell to help others in need.

The power wheelchair that Whitchurch found came from Charlene Flinn of Barre whose husband, Sheldon, had received the wheelchair from a woman whose husband no longer needed it. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to use the chair, so she posted it on the GetATStuff web site for free to someone who could use it. When Whitchurch contacted Flinn, who comes from a farming family, she was excited to be able to donate the chair to a Vermont farmer.

Robert Smith, VT AgrA client, in new motorized wheelchair"The joy and excitement of receiving a power wheelchair was evident in Robert's eyes," says Whitchurch, who recently delivered the chair to the long-time goat farmer. "The pain and frustration that was evident before when Robert walked into and out of his house was replaced with relaxed confidence as I watched him smoothly transition from his house to his tractor and his barn in his new power wheelchair."

Submitted by Geoff Whitchurch