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January 2018


Finis Stribling at stakeholder meetingTN AgrAbility stakeholder meetingTN AgrAbility had a booth at the first stakeholders meeting of the Tennessee Beginning Farmers Development Program hosted by UT/TSU Extension. There were 35 small-scale producers and veterans in attendance and they were informed of programs available to help them on their farming venture. One participant stated, "I never knew so many programs were available to help veterans and those interested in beginning farming."

TNAP visited with two older, aging farmers who definitely would welcome extra help on the farm and who are open to mentoring beginning farmers. One of TNAP's goals for 2018 is to build a mentor program in TN to connect new AgrAbility farmers with existing profitable farmers. Please share any suggestions from other SRAPs that have successful mentor programs.

TNAP has had several recent referrals who are veterans with disabilities who want to farm. Working together and joining resources with two Extension programs- AgrAbility and TN Beginning Farmer Development Program- staff are planning workshops for 2018 and helping farmers with disabilities who want to farm, stressing farm health and safety.

The Tennessee Beginning Farmer Development Program's purpose is to provide a coordinated, systematic, and holistic educational program to deliver the information and skills needed to realize a successful new farming operation and increase success rates of new farm start-ups among those participating in the program. To read more, please click here.

One of TN AgrAbility's partners, "AgNurse", wrote on Facebook: "We have noted the epidemic of farmer suicide before. It seems there is no end to it and the rates continue to rise. Dr. Deborah Reed and a colleague are now delving into the aftermath of these events by interviewing adult family members who have suffered the loss of a farmer to this unneeded outcome. We assure you we are compassionate nurses and hope to help others through this research. If you know of someone who may be willing to talk with Dr. Reed, please contact her directly at This study has been approved by Western Kentucky University. Sometimes just talking is therapeutic. We care."

Spotlight on TNAP staff member Joetta White: A year in the life of a caregiver-patient-caregiver!

Thanksgiving 2016 my daddy gathered his four children in the living room at Thanksgiving to discuss his funeral arrangements. For several months, Daddy had not been feeling well and was to the point of just sitting in his chair at home. This was something my siblings and I were not accustomed to. My daddy is a farmer veteran and has been very active all his life. He is not someone to sit in the house.

I am the baby of four. My oldest brother owns our family farm and my older sisters live in IL and GA. I live 45 minutes from our family farm. With my sisters away and my brother doing the farm chores, it fell to me to take my daddy for doctor's visits, etc. He was finally able to see a cardiologist from Vanderbilt who was supposed to have been the best. He informed us that Daddy had heart failure. I knew this was going to be a long process and I had to report to my siblings, so I began a medical notebook and began to take notes at all doctor's visits.

Long story short, the medicine the Vanderbilt doctor put Daddy on caused his conditions to worsen, and his organs began to shut down. With the urgent request of a physician's assistant at the gastroenterology clinic, Daddy was admitted to the hospital where a team of doctors, including a cardiologist from Memphis and a pulmonary specialist from Jackson, put Daddy on the road to recovery. With lots of prayer and searching for the right doctors, Daddy is back to working on the farm at a slower pace, but he is out of his chair.

2017 brought continued doctor's visits for Daddy and my husband, who has diabetes. Infections in his feet, his toes being amputated, and not being willing to stay off his feet until healed were the issues with my husband. Diabetes is a deadly disease and affects every organ in one's body.

Ramp and gravel driveway put in by Baptist church membersMarch 1, 2017: never thought I would have to use my professional resources for my personal use. My husband had three toes amputated and had continued infection in his feet. We were told he was not to be on his feet AT ALL in order for him to heal. He would be going home in a wheelchair and was to use it at all times. Wheelchair! How was I going to get him from the driveway into our house with the use of a wheelchair? Our house was truly not wheelchair-accessible. In two days, the local Baptist ramp builders had a ramp built, and a gravel driveway, with the help of my daughter's FFA advisor, was put in from our existing driveway to the ramp.

How do you keep someone from walking inside/outside that has been used to being active all his life? I am still trying to figure that one out. From March until the end of August, I dealt with that problem. Finally, after the third graft on August 25 and the doctor reassuring my husband for the umpteenth time that if he so much as put one foot on the floor, he would amputate his foot next time, it finally sank in.

Meanwhile, I had already scheduled my knee replacement for September 6, 2017. My husband was supposed to have been healed by then, my daughter's show hog season was over (so I thought), and I would have someone to care for me.

WRONG! My husband was still under doctor's orders to stay off his feet, and my 16-year-old daughter and her FFA advisors decided she needed to show her grand champion hog in another county show (on the day of my surgery). I wouldn't have had the latter any other way.

My surgery was a success (stayed an extra day in hospital to take advantage of someone waiting on me). Prayed hard that my surgery and recovery would be successful because I needed to be back on my feet to care for my family. I could not be down for long. My daddy drove my husband to his doctor's appointments and me to physical therapy. Have I mentioned my daddy has had two knee and shoulder replacements and he was lifting a wheelchair in the back end of his truck? Talk about a COMPLETE turnaround. My church family brought food and carried me to physical therapy on days my daddy could not. My daughter looked after herself and took care of feeding the horses and dogs.

I am not one to ask for help, but for three weeks I had to give in, and it was very hard. (How many of our clients have told us that!) I began driving three weeks post-op, so then I was driving myself to physical therapy and my husband to his doctor visits. A month-and-a-half post op I was disking and riding the cotton picker. I was able to see firsthand what my customers had to experience after knee replacement. Tractor steps and cotton picker ladders are pretty high. Learned I needed to take several breaks and walk around as well.

In October, my husband's feet finally healed, and he was able to say goodbye to the wheelchair. If he had ONLY listened to the doctor in March.

What does 2018 bring? LOVE my new knee! My husband continues to deal with the medical conditions of diabetes (toes missing; will not wear shoes with insoles to help him with balance; affecting his teeth now; and has missed deer and duck hunting season) and after months of medical problems, depression has set in.

My medical notes for my daddy have continued from weeks into months in-between doctor's visits. His funeral arrangements have been tucked sweetly away for now. I have now been in a caregiver's shoes and a customer's shoes. I do not wish this on anyone, but life happens, and we have to make lemonade out of lemons and put on our big girl panties and continue on. I could not have done it without prayer and support from my family and friends. It is going to be a better year!

Joetta T. White

Submitted by Tennessee AgrAbility Project