Programs are helping farmers with disabilities to keep producing

Posted at 12:42 PM, Sep 07, 2022

The farming industry can be very difficult, especially with spikes in needed materials for the fields to the decline in people joining the profession overall.

However, there are other challenges that many farmers face: being injured or facing a disability.

About 19% of the country’s farmers have some type of disability, according to Economic Research Development. Because of these high numbers, programs are trying to help farmers with disability in any way they can to keep producing.

In Arlington, Wisconsin, Alan Kaltenberg runs a farm that his family started, and his farm is like ran just like many others like himself.

“I'm one of the child statistics because I lost my arm when I was 4 years old in a farm accident,” Kaltenberg said. “I grew up with one arm all my life and I did everything like my classmates did; I just did it a little differently.”

Despite all that, it doesn’t stop him from farming. But Kaltenberg also suffers from other injuries from years on the job.

"Twelve years ago, I fell off the top of a grain bin and shattered my legs from my ankles all the way up to my knees,” Kaltenberg said. “It made a whole difference in my life; I can't walk like I used to. The doctors said I wouldn't be able to walk at all, the way that my legs were shattered. That spring I planted with two casts on and stayed farming all the way through."

Kaltenberg isn’t alone. Farmers all over the country operate with physical disabilities.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 19% of farmers live with a disability, which is nearly 400,000.

Farmers like Kaltenberg often face barriers, including a lack of financial resources to pay for accommodations, a shortage of professionally-trained people to help farmers living with disabilities, and stigma from other farmers.

"We have an aging population in agriculture,” said Andrea Klahn with the nonprofit group AgrAbility. “There are a lot of hurdles to getting started. So, keeping farmers farming healthy and safely is a great goal for us."

AgrAbility is providing resources, education, and partnerships with other programs to help those just like Kaltenberg.

"About 20% of our clients are from a farm accident,” Klahn said. “Another 20% are from off-farm accidents, like a car accident. And then, 60% are from a chronic injury.”

AgrAbility is a resource that many farmers with disabilities may not have heard of, according to Kaltenberg. That is why they are making it known they are accessible around the country, to keep farmers farming.

"Every time you get a key operator on the farm injured, if they can't come back, the chances of that farm surviving go down,” Kaltenberg said. “So, we look at that, and you want to be able to keep that person there in the best capacity they can and safest capacity they can."