Breaking the Communication Barrier
Harry Jascor of Withee, Wisconsin is a farmer who wants to improve his dairy herd, increase his milk production, grow better crops and improve his way of life for himself and his family. This is a common desire for many farm families throughout Wisconsin. However, because Harry and his family are hearing impaired, they have not been able to get the information they need to make those necessary changes.
Farming information, such as cropping strategies and cattle breeding, traditionally travels by word of mouth from farmer to farmer. Other information can come through the local county extension agent and farmer-member organizations. Harry and his family had difficulties tapping into this realm of information and knowledge because they could not easily communicate with the people around them. In the past, Harry has tried to learn new techniques from agricultural experts by writing notes back and forth.
“Notes are very difficult,” said Harry, “Sometimes I don’t understand everything.”
Written information, while it could have been helpful, was often too general or too technical to be understood and actively applied to the Jascors’ farming situation. For many years, Harry worked in a wood factory to support his family. Several years ago, however, he was laid off. He turned to farming as a way to support his family. When Harry realized he could not get all of the information he needed, he turned to the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). DVR was unable to assist Harry because his disability was not a barrier to employment; he had worked and held a job for years. Harry’s heart, however, was in farming. It was then that DVR referred Harry to AgrAbility of Wisconsin.
AgrAbility’s field representative, Paul Leverenz, visited the Jascor farm in early October of last year. Through Paul’s efforts, AgrAbility was able to help Harry to access a sign language interpreter through the Southeastern Wisconsin Center for Independent Living (SEWCIL). The local University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension (UWEX) office also got involved. With the help of the interpreter, the local UWEX agricultural agent from Taylor County, Andy Hagar, worked with the Jascors to design a dairy operation that would better fit their needs.
“It is so slow to learn things in the deaf world, especially about cows and things,” said Harry. “Everything is by word of mouth and I can’t get that information.”
“But now,” Harry explained, “with the interpreter, I can understand more.”
Harry is setting up a rotational grazing system for his dairy cows and is currently in the process of setting up padlocks and learning the management techniques for this system. He is also working with Andy Hagar to learn more about improving his pastureland to increase his milk production, as well as learning more about feeding and health programs for his cattle. Eventually, Harry and his family would like to set up a beef herd on a separate farm site, in addition to expanding their dairy herd.
“Andy’s involvement was crucial (in getting the agricultural information for Harry),” said Paul Leverenz, AgrAbility field representative. “We were able to bring the interpreter in to help break down the (communication) barriers.”
In the near future, Harry may receive a small grant from the Kraft Dairy Trust Fund through the Resources Center for Farmers with Disabilities, a parent program of AgrAbility, to help set up the paddocks for rotational grazing. He would also like to attend Grazure Days workshops and other educational events to learn more about rotational grazing management and techniques.
“Easter Seals (and AgrAbility) helped us and I’m very happy,” Harry said. “I didn’t know what I would do, I’d be really poor.”