AgrAbility helps farmers ply their trade - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

AgrAbility helps farmers ply their trade

October 16, 2008

MOULTRIE, GA  - WALB - Everyone from experienced farmers to youngsters enjoyed the 31st annual Sunbelt Ag Expo that wrapped up Thursday in Moultrie.  But one group came to the Expo with a specific goal in mind, to reach out to farmers with disabilities.      

WALB news 10's Christian Jennings spoke with one successful farmer today, who decided a long time ago he wasn't going to let his disability control his life.

AgrAbility is a free service that reaches out to people with disabilities and their families, to lend a helping hand, and let them know that they can continue to do what they love, and do it well.

Andy Byrd and his wife Hilda work on their farm in Covington. They are certified organic growers, and sell to top farmer's markets and restaurants in Atlanta. But you may notice one thing that stands out about Andy. He's a quadriplegic.

Two days before his 24th birthday, he broke his neck. "I dove off the dock, and some of the kids that were down there with us had pulled a rope from the boathouse to our stationary dock. And I hit the rope," he said.

The injury paralyzed his ability to walk, but didn't paralyze his love for food and the outdoors. "My granddaddy and my dad had grocery stores, so I grew up in a grocery store there."

But even though Andy and his wife saw success on their farm in the beginning, his disability made things difficult. That's where Agribility stepped in.

"When there is a farmer who has an injury, illness, health condition, disability, the first thing they are thinking is how can I continue farming. How do I make this work, and that's where we come in," said AgrAbility Project Coordinator Jessica Forbes. 

They work with people as part of a team. Providing direct assistance to agricultural families, showing them the latest assistant technology and modifying their farm plan to fit their needs. "We just love our farm and sharing it with other people and sharing our story and helping people with disabilities that our goal. To make our farm completely handicap accessible. A goal that's being made possible by AgrAbility, and the vision of one special man.      The Georgia AgrAbility program is part of a national program administered through the US Department of Agriculture, it's a free service.      Those eligible for their services may be an owner or employee in a production agriculture setting with disabilities including back injuries, cancer, amputations, brain injuries, even diabetes.      The program has been around for just 3 years so their still trying to get the word out to farmers, and they feel pretty confident they did a good job of that this week. If you are a disabled farmer and think you may want AgrAbility services, or even just a free visit from them, call them at 1-877-524-6264

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