For the Love of Farming
A trip through the scenic country roads surrounding Auburndale, Wisconsin showcases many of the state’s fine family-owned dairy farms. Cute red barns, silos, and cattle grazing in the pastures line the landscape. Darrel and Kathy’s farm fits this profile, but it has a much greater story to tell.
Darrel was in an ATV accident in 1983 leaving him with a T-5 and a T-6 spinal cord injury. Darrel was paralyzed from the waist down.
For Darrel, that just meant that he had to learn how to do things a little bit differently, because he knew he belonged on the farm. “Driving to an office job everyday isn’t for me,” he said. “I like to be outside”
Darrel made a lot of modifications on his farm by himself so that he could continue farming. Him and his wife would park the tractors just right so that Darrel could pull himself up a rope to get on and off the tractors. Darrel and some of his friends also made adjustments to pedals so that he could still drive the tractors.
While these modifications allowed him to get his chores done, they were causing Darrel other injuries. Constantly pulling himself up onto all the machinery caused both bicep tendons to snap, and lots of shoulder pain. Darrel knew something different had to happen in order to keep farming.
Darrel learned about AgrAbility from a friend. Working with Easter Seals and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), Darrel now uses a side entry skid steer that allows him to access the operator’s station, a powered lift, a rock bucket, and automatic hitches on his machinery to help him with the difficulties he was facing while farming.
The lift is new to Darrel, but works so much better than scooting up the tractor steps using a rope. “I feel like I’m on a ride at the fair,” Darrel remarks when talking about riding the lift up to the tractor.
The lift sits on a trailer hitched to the back of his Ranger and can be pulled up to any of his tractors very easily. The lift is controlled with a remote that hangs around Darrel’s neck. It moves the seat left, right, up and down so that he can get into the tractors. The chair on the lift also has seat belts to make sure that he doesn’t fall. The lift also helps Darrel to complete tractor repairs more efficiently.
The automatic hitches have been a great asset to Darrel and his wife, Kathy. Darrel is able to go work in the fields without having to come back to the house for Kathy to hitch and unhitch machinery for him.
Darrel and Kathy are very grateful for all the help they received. “Without the help I don’t know where we’d be,” Darrel says. They both look forward to continue farming for as long as possible!
Greetings From Retirement!
I want to take this opportunity to bid all of the farmers that I have worked with in the last thirteen years a fond farewell. Give or take several, I have worked with about 509 farmers spread across most of Wisconsin. You are the friendliest people that anyone could meet. You invited me into your homes, barns and farm fields with a spirit of welcome. These are your castles, businesses and lifestyle. Sometimes the farm income is not what it should be, but you have persevered and trudge on. Many times have I heard you say, “The good Lord has blessed us.” You have invited me to, “Stop in any time you are in the area.” I am honored and blessed to think that you asked me to return.
At this point, I do not have definite plans for the future. Community service projects are always searching for help. I will continue my service to my local fire department which is about as much hobby as I have at this time. My grandchildren live about two hours away and are getting into school activities and sports. It will be nice to take off “whenever” and see them more. Maybe, I’ll knock on your door and ask for permission to invade your trout stream!
I leave you farmers in the good hands of my Easter Seals Wisconsin FARM team and AgrAbility colleagues. I am positive that they will continue their dedication to serve you. I sign off now telling you that God has also truly blessed me with family, friends and the opportunity to help you stay on your wonderful farms. Several of you also like the old western movies and shows. To you and all of the other farmers, “Happy Trails to You until We Meet Again.”
Resources on our Website
Are you looking for more information about assistive technology? Or just wondering what is going on in the agriculture industry? On our website you can find information about farm safety tips, advancements in agriculture technology, AgrAbility events and newsletters, and more. To find out more, visit http://agrability.bse.wisc.edu/.
Anna is the daughter of Greg Gries and Lori Edwards and is currently a junior at UW-Madison majoring in nursing. On campus she is involved in Colleges Against Cancer and the Aspiring Nurses Association. She also brings social media marketing and public relations experience from her reign as the 2014 Manitowoc County Fairest of the Fair. Growing up on her family’s dairy farm in rural Manitowoc, her passion for agriculture started at a young age. She is excited to join the AgrAbility staff and use her passion to help farmers continue farming.
Promoting Success in Agriculture for People with Disabilities for 25 Years
Will Your Farm Out-live You?
According to the US Census of Agriculture, the average farmer is 56.5 years old. The number of farmers is projected to decrease by 8 to 15 percent between 2008 and 2018. Many farms do not have successors identified to take over the operation when the current generation can no longer keep up with it. Starting in October 2015, the Farm Assessment and Rehabilitation Methods (FARM) program at Easter Seals, and AgrAbility of Wisconsin will be offering succession planning services through the Wisconsin Farm Center, for Wisconsin farmers and their families. Succession planning helps to start the process for the next generation to take over, and puts less pressure on everyone because a plan is in place. The primary goal of Securing Beginning Farmers Through Succession Planning, is to help farmers, family members, and farm workers who do not currently have a plan in place develop a plan that will work for their situation.
For information about how you and your family can begin the succession planning process, contact Easter Seals Wisconsin at 608-227-8288, or the Farm Center at 1-800-942-2474.