But also of help.
It is sometimes difficult for farmers and ranchers to admit they have conditions for which they need help, said Paul Jones, manager of the National AgrAbility Project, based at Purdue University and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"When you get injured, you sometimes feel you have nowhere to turn. We want people to know there is hope."
AgrAbility was first authorized in the 1990 farm bill and has been reauthorized in every farm bill since then. Purdue Extension's Breaking New Ground Resource Center, which has been providing assistance to farmers with physical disabilities since 1979, was a model for AgrAbility.
The 20-year anniversary was marked at the annual National Training Workshop held in Indianapolis during November and included these highlights.
• The workshop featured its first veterans' "mini-track." Rural residents account for 44 percent of the military, so agriculture may be an employment option for returning veterans. Additionally, the agricultural lifestyle would be therapeutic for veterans who have sustained life-altering disabilities.
• A panel of farmers who have been with AgrAbility throughout its 20-year history discussed how it changed their lives. Brenda Besse, 52, a cattle farmer in Whiteside County, Ill., lost a leg in a combine accident when she was just 23. The former collegiate athlete is a staunch advocate. "I was injured before AgrAbility. I can't imagine not being involved with it now. I can go to bed at night knowing I've done a good thing for whatever the situation was that day."
• Ed Bell, of Hagerstown, Ind., whose 1983 spinal cord injury left him paraplegic, talked about aging with a disability. After his injury, he transitioned to operating a strawberry farm, which is now a family business. Daughter Nellie, a Purdue freshman, is among AgrAbility's youngest supporters. Like other children of disabled farmers, she's grown up with AgrAbility. "Young people can make a difference," she said. "Don't be afraid to put someone in touch with their state's AgrAbility organization."
• Attendees visited client farms, including Mark Hosier's. The Madison County farmer suffered a spinal injury when a 2,000-pound bale of hay fell on him. AgrAbility helped him obtain funding through vocational rehabilitation to refit his house, barn and equipment. Hosier is able to farm corn and soybeans, and raise show pigs on his own.
Hosier's daughter Kylie Hendress became interested in AgrAbility after her father's 2006 accident. "All a farmer wants to do is farm," said Hendress, who is now AgrAbility's engagement coordinator. "When the need arises, AgrAbility is there to help."