Woman With Disabilities Grateful For Farm Modifications
Release Date: 05-20-2009
Author: Tom Younkman
Bambi Freeman's Morrisville farm may not have gotten an extreme makeover, but it did recently undergo some modifications that have made her life easier.
The modifications include retractable barn stairs with a railing that give Freeman safer, easier access to her haymow than the homemade wall ladder she formerly used.
Freeman said the stairs are lovely, "just a piece of art."
"Every time I go up and down the stairs, I think of the people who donated the money to make it possible," she said, referring to the Stowe Rotary Club and St. John's in the Mountains Episcopal Church.
Facilitating the project was the Vermont AgrAbility program, which provides education and assistance to farmers with disabilities. It is a collaborative partnership with the Vermont Center for Independent Living, University of Vermont Extension, and Rural and Agricultural VocRehab.
Alexandra Garven of UVM Extension determined that Freeman's ladder was unsafe, and Gail Lapierre, also of UVM Extension, was instrumental in formulating a specific plan on ways to improve the farm.
"Gail had a list as long as my arm," said Freeman, noting that while AgrAbility is great at providing advice and technical assistance, financial assistance has to come from other sources.
Freeman, who has been farming for about 45 years, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1985. She recently celebrated her 70th birthday and over the years, has made some changes to her property that have made it easier to farm with a disability. However, she said she never even thought of replacing the ladder to the haymow.
The stair project was completed on April 10 - Good Friday. "It was a good Friday for her," quipped Tom Younkman, VCIL's AgrAbility specialist.
The contractor for the stair project was Mike Cotroneo of Morrisville. He also installed two fire extinguishers on the walls of the barn.
Another modification recently completed on Freeman's property solved a drainage problem that was causing water and ice to build up at the main entrance to the house and barn. Steve Manosh Excavating made a swale to divert water before it gets to her driveway.
Freeman was effusive about her gratitude toward the Stowe Rotary Club, St. John's in the Mountains Episcopal Church and the AgrAbility program.
"They have made it possible for me to farm a lot longer than I would have been able to otherwise."
While Freeman has long been a mentor for many farmers, she is now a peer support person for AgrAbility. So if you are a farmer with disabilities looking for peer support, Bambi welcomes phone calls at 802-888-3735.