Once upon a time you wouldn't see anything about disabled farmers or efforts to help them in some magazines. Even a former editor here didn't think farmers with disabilities should be featured.
Fortunately, that's no longer the case. Not only journalists, but the public and even Congress now recognizes that people with disabilities can still farm, just like they can work in many industries. They just need some assistance others might not need, and the technology is there to make that happen.
A Mahindra tractor spotted at the Indiana State Fair last week equipped with a lift device to help someone with leg issues get on the tractor drove home the point. Appropriately, it was part of the Purdue University Extension exhibit in the Horticulture Building, Purdue Ag's new home at the Indiana State Fair.
Purdue, and Bill Field specifically, led the fight to push for development of equipment and for education to help disabled farmers as far back as 1979.
The first effort at Purdue was called Breaking New Ground. Field found ways to staff the program, and began to help people who didn't know help was available. In 1990, the program was renamed AgrAbility, and was recognized by Congress.
Even more recently, as in the last Farm Bill, Congress appropriated dollars to fund AgrAbility programs around the country. Purdue, Field and his staff led the way, helping other states establish programs. Today there are viable programs in more than 20 states.
One person who has benefitted from these types of efforts is Ed Bell, Hagerstown. He and his wife, Debbie, operate a strawberry farm, and were featured as one of the host families during the Year of the Farmer sponsored by Dow Agrosciences at the Indiana State Fair.
Injured at a young age and without use of his legs, Bell and his wife run a successful operation, featuring both u-pick and retail strawberry sales, plus some other enterprises.
See AgrAbility's website for all the program has to offer.