Volunteer digs deep — helping and farming

Keith Posselt was named Easter Seals Wisconsin’s Outstanding Volunteer last year. The Outagamie County beef producer joked that this recognition goes against everything he was taught growing up on a farm. He said it reveals that a person can, in fact, be noticed in a positive way while sitting around all day.

Like other farmers, Posselt has a strong work ethic. He works hard and puts in long hours, digging deep when the task at hand demands it. But unlike most, this Dale farmer operates his farm sitting in a wheelchair.Keith Posselt

“You go to work and do your job and you never expect to be recognized for what you do,” he said when receiving the award. “It is a privilege and an honor to be part of a program that helps people keep doing the job they love.”

Posselt volunteers his time helping fellow farmers who have physical challenges. He speaks on behalf of Easter Seals Wisconsin and its partner program, AgrAbility of Wisconsin. Both programs aim to help farmers with disabilities and chronic conditions like back or knee pain. Posselt said he

personally doesn’t see himself as disabled, but physically challenged – something he deals with every day since he fell 35 feet from a silo in 1997.

Posselt, 42, was 23 years old when he climbed that silo on the last day of January 1997 and plunged 35 feet down the chute. Never losing consciousness, he waited an hour until his neighbor found him. He had shattered vertebrae in the middle of his back and spent a week in intensive care. Despite multiple weeks in rehab, he has never been able to walk again. But never farming again was not an option, he firmly said.

Farming since he was 13 on his grandpa’s farm, Posselt today has a beef cow-calf herd and feeds Holsteins and Herefords. He also grows corn, soybeans and hay. He and a neighbor work together, and his parents also lend a hand. The AgrAbility-Easter Seals-partnership initiative has helped him with adaptations for his farmstead and equipment, such as a lift to allow him to sit in the tractor seat, hand controls in the tractor, quick hitches, a conveyor system for feeding cattle, and a John Deere Gator with hand controls that help him check and move cattle in his rotational-grazing system. A building was also redesigned to remove a heavy sliding door and the impediment of steps. There’s room to drive his Gator inside so he can be out of the weather when transferring into the all-terrain wheelchair he leaves at the farm.

With dogged determination, this northeastern Wisconsin farmer wrestles day in and day out with the physical challenge of being wheelchair-bound and with pain, not to mention frustrations like being out in the field and not being able to handle machinery issues like putting a chain back on a planter.

Posselt said he views his physical challenge as something he can find ways to overcome.

“There are so many people out there who have been given challenges in life and have gone on to

do things that would amaze us all,” Posselt said.

He said the folks are easy to work with at AgrAbility and the Easter Seals’ FARM program, such as Paul Leverenz, who works one-on-one with producers on their farms. Posselt said he can’t say enough good things about what these programs do for farmers, but also how they teach the next generation.

“They have farming backgrounds and understand what farmers’ needs are,” he said.

When asked why he was so determined to remain in farming – an occupation that’s tough even for the most able-bodied – Posselt replied, “There was nothing else.”

He said he enjoys everything about farming, from planting crops to seeing calves being born. Every day is a different job, he added.

Posselt is proud to be a farmer. It just so happens he’s a farmer in a wheelchair. It’s a job he loves and one he hopes he’ll be able to continue to do for years to come.

“No matter who you are or what you do, we all have challenges,” he said. “We are all equal, and we all need a little help from time to time.”

Visit http://farm.eastersealswisconsin.com and http://agrability.bse.wisc.edu for more information.

By Jane Fyksen, Agri-View

Original article can be found at http://www.agriview.com/news/regional/volunteer-digs-deep—-helping-and-farming/article_3d96c62c-6c2e-5325-a120-bd2ac6326c0a.html