Agrability Helps Nebraska Farmer Regain His Independence
Kyle Lammers was only 13 years old when a farming accident took his left arm. However, the loss of a limb didn’t keep Lammers from returning to the family farm, thanks to the Nebraska AgrAbility Project.
Growing up on a dairy and row-crop farm outside of Hartington, Nebraska, Lammers was an ordinary farm kid doing chores and helping run equipment when needed. In November 1998, while feeding cattle, he failed to turn off the PTO of the feeder wagon and his arm became entangled.
“I had to go through numerous surgeries and at that time in my life, I really just let things happen,” says Lammers, “I really wasn’t too hard on myself and tried to uphold a good attitude even though I lost an entire part of my body.”
Lammers continued to live a positive, normal life attending college, getting married, and starting a family. In June 2015, he decided to follow his dreams and return to the farm full-time.
Returning to the Farm
Overwhelmingly, Lammers noticed things that became harder to do with the mobility of just one arm. From climbing grain bins to tagging calves, many of the daily chores were difficult and dangerous. He heavily relied on his dad’s physical help when working with cattle and never really had a sense of his own independence on the farm. That’s when the Nebraska AgrAbility Program became valuable.
“My first year back to the farm I would try to do things myself before asking for help and was always hesitant to ask,” says Lammers. “But after that year and getting acclimated to being back, I realized things had to change if I was going to be successful and safe on the farm.”
Rural Rehabilitation Specialist Emily Freudenburg with Nebraska Agrability visited Lammers on his farm, asking about his challenges and other chores he found difficulty doing on a daily basis.
“We really get to know the farmer and their family personally,” says Freudenburg. “We want to hear from them what exactly their biggest limitations and problems are. We walk around the farm and I have them show me their challenges, just like we did with Kyle.”
Lammers is a left-upper-extremity amputation at the shoulder, which means he really only has one shoulder to use for everything. With physical labor, he was causing severe injury to his back and developing arthritis in his arm and shoulder by lifting items 50 pounds or more.
From running the manual cattle chute, climbing bins, running gates, and driving the four-wheeler, Freudenburg found Lammers had dangerous chores to tackle each and every day.
Freudenburg recommended Lammers install a silencer working chute and tub system for an easier way to tag and vaccinate cattle, install grain bin stairs so he didn’t have to worry about climbing, and invest in a side-by-side utility vehicle as well as other useful products that would take some stress off his body and be safer overall.
“These minor additions to the farm have changed my life,” says Lammers. “I would always have this weird knot and tingle from overuse in my shoulder blade that’s disappeared. I can feel my overall health and posture improving because of the things Agrability has done for my operation.”
Don’t Go at The Expenses Alone
Lammers didn’t have to pay the full cost for the safer equipment and operation changes, either. Nebraska AgrAbility works closely with its funding source of Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation to help farmers with these expenses, similiar to other National AgrAbility Projects.
“There is no expense for the farmer to just reach out to AgrAbility,” says Lammers. “The cost share for the equipment was extremely beneficial for saving me money and also enabling the changes on the farm.”
The AgrAbility project goes beyond assisting farmers with accident disabilities.
“Don’t be afraid to call and ask us about the program,” says Freudenburg. “From back injuries, arthritis, to farming with mental disabilities, we serve much more than just physical disabilities. Even if you think you don’t qualify, there is a good chance you do.”
Let Down Your Guard
Lammers admits he didn’t want to ask for assistance but once he noticed the successes farmers were having with AgrAbility, he decided to let down that guard and reach out for help.
“You have to let go of the mentality of I can do everything myself,” says Lammers. “It might be possible for you to do it alone, but it’s going to be a lot harder. AgrAbility wants to help you and they give you tools to be better and that’s what is going to prolong or even expand your operation. One of the biggest things I have, thanks to AgrAbility, is my independence back.”
The AgrAbility Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is made up of national projects and state/regional projects encompassed by partnerships with land grant universities and various nonprofit disability service organizations. Since its establishment in 1991, the program has provided assistance and services to agricultural workers and farmers across the country. Currently, there are 21 regional programs providing services in 22 states.
For more information on the AgrAbility Project and how they can assist you and your farm, visit www.agrability.org.