10/09/2009 02:00 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

From Disability to AgrAbility

July 4, 2005, began like most days for Minnesota dairy farmer David Glamm. But because he was planning on going to a neighbor's house to watch fireworks, he got started on his evening chores a bit earlier than normal. After he finished milking his herd, he turned his attention to the silo unloader, which wasn't working properly.

He climbed into the silo and instructed his friend Audrey to turn on the power while he gave the gas pedal a push with his left foot, just as he had done so many times before. Only this time, his foot was too close to the machinery, and his shoe and leg were pulled into the unloader. The accident claimed David's left foot and ankle -- and it nearly claimed his livelihood as well. But thanks to the support, encouragement and advice he received from a program designed to assist people with disabilities who are employed in production agriculture, he continues to operate his dairy and crop farm today.

David turned to AgrAbility, a collaborative partnership between land-grant universities and nonprofit agencies that operates in 27 states. Authorized under the 1990 Farm Bill and funded since 1991, AgrAbility has provided on-farm assessments to more than 15,000 farmers and ranchers. But because agriculture remains one of America's most dangerous professions, many more farmers could be helped. Each year, some 90,000 agricultural workers sustain some form of disabling on-the-job injury. Those who seek help from AgrAbility can receive practical education and assistance that promotes independence in agricultural production and rural living. Helping more people find out about this valuable program is where Goodwill® comes in.

Under a four-year grant from Purdue University, we at Goodwill have two main areas of focus for its AgrAbility program: educating more people about AgrAbility in 22 of the 27 states that already have the program, and expanding the project into new states. Each year, Goodwill Industries International will choose three states in which to provide training on how the project supports farmers and ranchers.

The goal is pretty simple: to help farmers with disabilities continue to support themselves and provide for their families.

For David Glamm, AgrAbility allowed for an onsite consultation to determine how his injury, and the prosthetic device he now wears, were limiting the tasks he needed to perform on his farm. From that information, recommendations were made for equipment and building modifications as well as for tools that would allow David to safely resume his duties. "I would not be able to crop and dairy farm today if it hadn't been for AgrAbility," David says.

To find your local Goodwill and get more information about AgrAbility in your area, log on to or visit the AgrAbility site at

As an Indiana boy, graduate of Purdue University and a person who is blind, the AgrAbility program has special meaning to me. We all know that agriculture and farming form the backbone of America. Farmers produce the food we eat and, in fact, American farmers feed a good portion of the world. We have to do everything we can to ensure that if farmers have disabilities, that they also have the ability to keep working and keep contributing to their own livelihoods and that of their families.