Can't keep a good farmer down

  • Back in the field

    Eric Beckman, at left, gets into the field to harvest soybeans with his father, Bob, in late September. Three years ago, Eric was left a quadriplegic after a pickup rollover accident. Today, specialized tools and technology -- and a lot of desire and help from his family -- help Eric stay an integral part of his family's farm in Cuming County, Nebraska.

  • Where he wants to be

    Bob says he'd offered Eric the chance to take a break and go on vacation last month, but Eric passed. "Eric had an opportunity through AgrAbility (the group that helped Eric get the specialized equipment to continue working on his farm) to attend a conference in West Virginia. I told him to go," Bob says. "He's in the combine today instead of on vacation. The best part of this fall's harvest is to see Eric in this machine."

  • Starting from the pickup

    Working with AgrAbility and other local and regional health care officials, Eric has specialized technology to help him do his job. It starts with his pickup, which has a specialized steering and throttle system to accomodate his range of movement. "He comes out to the farm every day to make sure I'm doing my job," Bob says.

  • Getting a lift

    A lift system helps Eric get into the cab of his 9670 combine. Though he's very self-sufficient, his father Bob says getting situated into the cab still takes a little assistance.

  • A few modifications

    Once in the cab, Eric has full control in the 9670. The main modifications were a tri-pin on the steering wheel and a toggle switch to operate the unloading auger. "He does unload on-the-go through corn and beans," Bob says. "Other than that, he can operate everything on the combine."

  • Shifting

    Eric operates both his farm's 9670 combine and 8530 and 8130 tractors, all of which are equipped with Deere's IVT "infinitely variable" transmission, which eliminates the need for a clutch and can be operated by hand only. "The tractor will brake itself when pulled into neutral," Bob says. "He is able to set the speed using a dial on the side of the IVT."

  • Other tech tools

    The Beckmans also use GPS satellite guidance for autotrack and autosteer, tools that enable Eric to operate the machinery more easily. And, so far this year, he's taken full advantage of those abilities: Bob says harvest has progressed much quicker this year and they should be wrapping it up by the middle of the month. A year ago, he says weather delayed them so much, they only put 35 hours on their combine in the month of October.

  • Big yields

    By the start of October, the Beckmans were well into soybean harvest, with high yields all around. Their dryland corn ranged between 180 and 250 bushels per acre, while their soybeans thus far yielded between 60 and 70 bushels per acre. "It's almost phenomenal for our area," Bob says. "Not long ago, we were raising 40-bushel beans."

Photos by Doug Hetherington.

Read more about