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Local program gives farmers tools to continue work despite disabilities

A partnership between Opportunities for Ohioians with Disabilities and the Department of Agriculture helps farmers keep their jobs despite disabilities.

Seventy-eight-year-old Buddy Myers is no stranger to farming life.

“I was born right up there in that house just about 350 feet up the field there. That's where I was born and raised,” said Buddy, who lives and works in Zanesville.

For the last 15 years, the Myers family has custom raised dairy heifers for Vander Made Dairy. Buddy played a large role in the work, until his health slowed him down.

“Had a heart attack on our 50th wedding anniversary,” Buddy explained. “I've had other complications, actually from the top of my head to my ankles.”

Buddy and a friend designed a ramp that helped him to get into his tractor, but it only helped so much.

“That would get me in the tractor, but I couldn't get out,” he said. “So, I couldn't get out and unhook wagons or if I have to go to the bathroom, or something I'd have to come back {home}.”

Thankfully, a local partnership saw Buddy’s need and was able to offer him a resource.

“He talked about the difficulty he had with getting in and out of his tractor, and the problems he was having with standing and being on his feet for a long time,” said Jennifer May, a vocational rehabilitation counselor for Opportunities for Ohioians with Disabilities.

OOD partners with Ohio AgrAbility, part of a national program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program promotes independence for people working in agriculture, who want to continue to farm after experiencing a disability.

The program then uses staff members with local non-profits like Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati to perform farm assessments and offer farmers education, resources, and technical assistance.

“I work with individuals with all types of disabilities. So, it can be physical disabilities, emotional disabilities, intellectual disabilities... all different ages,” May explained.

Together, the organizations were able to provide a hydraulic lift for Buddy’s tractor, fully outfitted with cameras to help him safely see behind him while driving. The lift and cameras are worth $14.000.

“Oh, so thankful,” Buddy said. “There’s probably farmers that can use this and maybe too proud to ask. And, that would be my message: just think of your family and how it’s going to help you and your family!”

If you or someone you know could benefit from this program, click here for more information.