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Program Gave Farmer More Independence
WAYNESBORO -- The success of a relatively new program in the state aimed at increasing the independence of agricultural workers with disabilities has made a Waynesboro man's job easier.
Kenneth Stennett now has a hoist, installed by AgrAbility, that helps him get from his wheelchair on to his tractor without assistance. Mississippi State University Extension agricultural engineer Herb Wilcutt and Wayne County Extension agent Allen McReynolds installed the power hoist April 7. Before that day, Stennett's wife Jean helped him get on the tractor to work around their farm with two broiler houses and 30 head of cattle.
"The hoist picks me up and I use some ropes hanging down from the ceiling to pull myself into the seat of the tractor," Stennett said. "This makes it a lot easier way for me to get on and off the tractor, and I can now do it totally by myself."
AgrAbility, a partnership between MSU's Extension Service and the Mississippi Easter Seal Society, started in Mississippi in April 1997 to promote success in agriculture for people with disabilities, and their families.
The Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services has also been instrumental in increasing Stennett's independence. They have made several modifications to his home and have worked with AgrAbility on workplace modifications, providing funding for the projects.
In early March, local members of the Mississippi Cattlemen's Association lowered a workbench in a utility shed. This allows Stennett to work at the workbench from his wheelchair. A workday is planned in late April when members of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity at Mississippi State will remove three gates leading to pastures and the barn, and install cattle gaps in their place.
Having gates leading to the pastures prevents Stennett from working alone. With cattle gaps installed, Stennett will be able to care for his cattle without anyone's help.
Emily Knight, AgrAbility coordinator for the MSU Extension Service, said AgrAbility works to prevent disabilities from taking farming away from farmers and their families. It does this by helping farmers, farm families or farm workers with disabilities function more easily in agriculture.
"AgrAbility works to give disabled farmers the tools they need to operate on their farms without being dependent on others," Knight said.