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Returning to the Field

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POSTED: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 - 9:15pm

UPDATED: Thursday, May 8, 2014 - 12:59pm

The cost of farming is up, and production is down. However, that is not the only struggle many East Texans are facing.

Meet Walter Potts, who has been farming since he was a child. Potts said, “I was raised on a farm, the farm taught me to work". For him, farming is a way of life. This became complicated when Potts was diagnosed with a vicious strain of Gangrene. He survived, but lost both of his legs. Potts said, 'The infection team they had working with me at Tyler swore up and down we weren't going to lose them. But we did".

With more than 90 acres to maintain, he needed a way to plow his land in a wheelchair. Potts shared, "My wife would have to come help me get out of the garden, I'd get stuck". So his daughter found the solution through the Texas A&M "Agrability program". KETK spoke with Dr. Rick Peterson, an Associate Professor at Texas A&M, who explained, "Agrability is a USDA funded project intended to help producers with a chronic health condition or a disability, remain in production agriculture" . The group is helping Potts by adding a lift to his tractor. Doug Kingman, the Assessment Coordinator for Agrability, said, "It's a 3-dimensional lift that attaches permanently to the tractor. He will transfer from the sitting position into a chair that he will control with a remote" .

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, one in every five residents has a mental or physical disability. Fortunately, with valuable resources available there are easier ways to overcome these challenges. Kingman said, "Our job is to connect producers that are unable to engage in agricultural activities with resources, so that they can get back to producing food for the rest of that like to eat".  

For ranchers like 23-year-old Maya Chavanne, Agrability helped her bucking bull business, "No bull". Her mother Fredna, said, "There were some naysayers that said, 'Why don't you just start a little business walking dogs?' and Maya said, 'No, this is what I really want to do". So Maya saved her own money and bought her first cow and bull.

Fredna shared, "Maya has been a great inspiration to a lot of people whether they have challenges or not, because they see her and her persistence to achieve her goals".  Maya has a rare syndrome known as Niikawa. This creates difficulties like heart defects, hearing loss, and muscular skeletal issues. Fredna said, "I think one of her biggest challenges is definitely strength in upper body and fine motor skills". So Agrability provided her with an automatic squeeze shoot. Kingman explained, "We're talking about a 1,200 lb or 1,500 lb bull. We need to have them in a restraint to be able to work on them and make sure that we're taking care of the animal". Now Maya can continue inspiring others through her rodeo bucking bulls. Maya reminds others to, "Follow your dreams and just do whatever you want".  

So the goal is simple-- to help those helping Texas, more easily help themselves. Potts shared, "Don't give up. I mean just because you have a setback, it's not the end of the world, you just have to change".

If you or a loved one would like to contact Agrability, you can visit: http://txagrability.tamu.edu/ .
 

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