Success Stories

Clif Slade

Clif Slade is a 62 years old retired U.S. military veteran farmer from Surry County, Virginia. He endured a range of aliments including muscle strain in his upper shoulder and neck and nerve damage in his right leg providing him with only 75% functioning capacity. Clif has had two back surgeries and must now wear a foot-drop prosthetic. He has trouble with lifting, walking, bending, stooping, and mounting and dismounting his tractor.
◊ AgrAbility Virginia referred him to the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) who assessed Clif’s situation and recommended extending the handles on his hand tools.
◊ DARS rehab engineers modified the wooden handles and attached machined aluminum tubing that extended the tool handles without decreasing the strength or significantly increasing the weight of the handles.
◊ The aluminum tubing was provided by the Assistive Technology Fund of Easter Seals UCP.
Prior to the modifications, Clif was only able to work three beds now he can work four beds within the same timeframe. He says his modified tool handles have resulted in a 25% production increase and reduced pain.

Mojdeh and Robert

Mojdeh and Robert run a twenty-seven acre produce farm in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Mojdeh is challenged by sciatic nerve problems in her lower back and degenerative disc disease, significant arthritis in her knees, and diabetes. Robert suffers from ilioinguinal nerve entrapment causing severe pain and arthritis in his left knee. For both Mojdeh and Robert, standing, squatting, lifting, and excessive sitting and walking are often very challenging. Because they lacked a gardening irrigation system, they needed to water their crops by hand and endured additional pain.
 AgrAbility Virginia’s Service Coordinators, Joe Young, was able to assist them in connecting with Virginia State University.
 Virginia State University Small Farm Outreach program granted Robert and Mojdeh a grant for a drip irrigation system that was installed by Virginia State.
 AgrAbility Virginia also recommended that they purchase a rolling cart and hand tools to use while working their crops which will reduce the stress on their backs and knees.
Robert and Mojdeh reported the garden cart and irrigation system have increased their labor ability by 50% and their produce production by 30%

Ron Burrelson

RON, with his wife, Susie, runs a large greenhouse and potting operation raising thousands of flowers for wholesale. They also raise about 40 cows/calves. Ron had a stroke in February of 2014, the result of a fall, while attending to his cattle. He had significant impairment on his right side making walking, standing, and the use of his right arm very difficult. Click on photo to read more.

CLICK John – Ankle & Foot Injury

JOHN, and his wife Sarah, live outside McDowell in Highland County. Together, they have raised horses, cattle and hay on 105 open acres. They market Certified Humane beef and can be reached at In the fall of 2009, John had a motorcycle crash resulting in a severe injury to his left ankle and foot. After surgery, John ended up at Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center for rehab therapy. Cynthia Kelley, John’s Department for Aging and Rehabilitation Services Counselor, contacted AgrAbility, to see if we could be of service to John. The persistent pain of his injury was making it very difficult for John to perform his chores on the ranch, including riding his horse to work his cattle, and corralling and treating his cattle. The latter chore required a great deal of climbing, jumping, pushing and pulling, because his coral system was board fencing and aging chutes and gates. John was even considering abandoning ranching/farming all together. Steve Bridge and Kirk Ballin, with AgrAbility, along with DARS Staff, Cindy Kelley and DARS George Drummond, visited John’s ranch to make an assessment of what might be done to make John’s situation less difficult and more productive. It was determined that John’s problem with riding his horse was not something DARS could tackle, but addressing the inadequacies and challenges of his chutes and gates was solvable… Click to learn more.

Clarke – Parital Foot Amputation

CLARKE is a 29 year old male who resides in Broadnax, VA, in Brunswick County. He manages one of his father’s dairy farms of 300 dairy head. Additionally, he grows 1,200 acres of corn, 500 acres of soybeans, 500 acres of wheat and 400 acres of hay land. Clarke has been working on the family farm since he was 10 years old. In May 2010, Clarke suffered a serious injury when a soil pan mover hitch fell on his right foot. The injury resulted in the amputation of all of the toes on his right foot, except for his big toe. The loss of toes caused significant tenderness and pain to his foot. He also had a great deal of trouble maintaining his balance, particularly when walking on unleveled ground, resulting in frequent falls, thereby increasing his chances of a secondary injury. Clarke was treated for his injury by West End Orthopedics in Richmond. Part of the prescribed care was a prescription for a prosthetic foot to compensate for the lost toes. He was referred to Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics to have a prosthesis designed. Clarke also applied to Workmen’s Comp to cover the costs of the prosthesis. Click to read more.

CLICK Keith & Angela – Avascular Necrosis

KEITH is a 40+ year old male who resides on a farm with his wife Angela in rural Sussex County, Virginia. Approximately 75 to 80% of the income in Sussex County is generated from farming. At the age of 28, for undetermined reasons, Keith suffered from Avascular Necrosis in both hips. This condition, caused by impaired blood supply to the bone, resulted in Keith’s hip bones deteriorating and becoming brittle. Keith’s first surgeon tried to correct the problem by utilizing an operation procedure called core decompression, which can spur regeneration of the bone. In this procedure, the surgeon drills out the damaged section of the bone up to the head of the femur. This opens up channels for blood vessels to reach the diseased area and foster the production of new bone. Hip pain is relieved and as many as 75% of patients avoid joint replacement later on. However, the procedure did not work for Keith, so his only other option was to have a double hip replacement to correct the problem. Keith farms and raises corn, soybeans, wheat, and twenty head of beef cattle on 1800 acres of land. He has been medically advised not to climb ladders, which makes it impossible for him to climb the narrow steps on his three grain bins to check the level of grain in the bins and the moisture content and temperature. So he has to contact someone to come out to his farm to climb the grain bins for him. Keith also has three tractors with high steps that make it unsafe and uncomfortable for him to climb on and off. Keith learned about AgrAbility and the service we offer while he was attending a field demonstration gathering at which AgrAbility had an exhibit and made a presentation about AgrAbility. Keith did not make himself known at the gathering, but called AgrAbility Service Coordinator, Joe Young, a couple of weeks later, and shared that he has a double hip replacement that limits his ability to climb the ladders on his grain bins and wanted to know if AgrAbility could do something to help his situation. Click to read more

CLICK Don Padgett – Deteriorating Knees

Don Padgett’s daughter, Genny, was looking out for her father’s health and safety. In fact, Genny immediately thought of her father when she met Joe Young, a service coordinator for the AgrAbility Virginia Project, in the Greenville/Emporium cooperative extension office where she worked. Genny talked to Joe about her father’s chronic knee problems and how it was affecting his ability to work on the farm. Genny asked Joe to contact Don to see how AgrAbility could get involved. However, like any proud and independent farmer, Don’s response to Joe’s phone call was, “Well I get along, OK; I’d really rather the money go to someone who needs it much more than I do; the person who is the worst off is the one who should be given these opportunities”! But Don was finding himself unable to climb the straight-up ladders to check on the levels of his grain bins, as well as having great difficulty in mounting his tractors and being able to put the tarp on his grain transport truck! So his needs were great! Click on photo to learn more.

CLICK Alvin Blaha – Rupture of Aorta & Blood Disorder

ALVIN resides in Dinwiddie County in the Eastern part of Virginia. He is a longtime soybean and cotton farmer who suffered a serious rupture of his aorta, resulting in emergency surgery. Consequently Alvin lost enough of his upper body strength that it inhibited his ability to farm. This included his ability to pull himself up into his International Harvester combine. With his keen eye and resourcefulness he discovered the remnants of an old John Deere tractor ladder. AgrAbility Virginia worked with Alvin and the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville, Virginia to design steps that are now attached to the International. Today Alvin simply walks up the steps into his combine, and by pulling a lever he retracts the steps so he can then go about his work…. In 2015, Alvin was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (ineffective production, or dysplasia, of all blood cells) which required Alvin to be in and out of the hospital taking treatments. Click to learn more.