Farming is a dangerous occupation, accounting for more than half of work-related fatalities world-wide over the last decade. Constant exposure to large animals and heavy equipment is hazardous. Alan Kaltenberg’s story shows how perseverance can make all the difference to overcome the challenges. From an accident as a kid that left him without his left arm to a fall of 30 feet from a grain bin that took months to get back to health, Alan has truly experienced the dangers of farming. But how do you handle all of these daily challenges when your occupation requires you to be outdoors, on uneven ground, working with large animals and operating heavy machinery?
Unfortunately, the answer is never the same for any two farmers. Alan finds enjoyment farming on his 300 acres of soybeans, wheat and corn while raising cattle. For him, because he wanted to continue to farm with his difficulties, the logical thing to do when the going got tougher was to ask for help from AgrAbility. Through AgrAbilty, an assessment helped identify assistive technology and different ways of completing the farm tasks that presented the functional barriers. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) worked with Alan to implement the recommended assistive technology into the farm. Alan has been a supporter of AgrAbility for over 10 years.
Alan starts his day feeding the cattle with the helpful eye of Toto, his loyal dog that won’t let him go anywhere on the farm alone. While feeding cattle sounds like an easy task, think about having a calf, ranging in weight from 85 to 150 pounds, pushing on you for five to 10 minutes while it drinks the milk. Now, try to do that with just one arm. With optimism and quick thinking, Alan works hard to train young calves to drink from buckets, making the task a little easier for him to handle. This is just one example of so many that demonstrates the small changes that Alan has made to allow him to continue farming, which he has a definite love for.
Not only is Alan a farmer, but he is also employed by a local business, working with their computer and various programs. He said of his diverse abilities, “You know, nowadays there is no such thing as a dumb farmer. You have to be an accountant, an engineer, a mechanic, a nutritionist, and a meteorologist all in one.”
Alan’s love for his lifestyle has kept him on the farm, and he plans on staying there for many years to come. His niece and her family have started working with Alan to expand the cattle herd. It looks like there will be many more years of teaching, learning, and change in Alan’s future.