The Back to Ag Program is a funding project focused on supporting the cost of adaptive technology for farmers that have experienced a traumatic injury. The Back to Ag Program is the result of a partnership between the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, Farm Credit Canada and the Rick Hansen Foundation.
Barry Cloutier, a farmer from near Ponteix, Saskatchewan, is one farmer that Back to Ag has helped.
In October of 2014, Cloutier was running a round baler when trouble struck. “The twine yanked out,” he explains. “To see where the problem was, I had to leave the baler running.” That’s when he saw the buildup of chaff and straw. “I’ve had two baler fires, so I’m pretty wary of extra chaff and straw. I reached out to remove the blockage — I wasn’t thinking at that point, and that’s when my fingers found the roller chain,” Cloutier says. “I knew better, but it was close to supper time, and I wanted to be done my work in 15 minutes.”
Cloutier had lost portions of his index and middle finger on his right hand. Cloutier immediately called 911 and was rushed to the hospital in Swift Current.
After a night in Swift Current and day surgery in Regina, Cloutier was back on the farm. “I had to have my hand bandaged and cleaned daily at the local hospital. I also had to drive to Regina for a time for a hand therapy program,” he says.
Even with his injury, Cloutier hasn’t slowed down on the farm. “I don’t want to do anything else,” he explains. “This is where my heart is. This is me; this is who I am, and this is what I do.”
However, Cloutier’s injury has affected his ability to do his job on the farm. “It’s a good thing I’m stubborn,” he says. “Things are more difficult. I have to think and plan very carefully what I’m going to do. My hand is always very sensitive, always cold. If I’m climbing a ladder or working around machinery, I have to be very thoughtful about how to use my hand; the strength isn’t there anymore.” Cloutier has looked into other programs and personal insurance, but no program or insurance existed that would be able to help him deal with his injury on the farm.
That’s when he saw an article about Back to Ag.
“I was waiting for my wife and happened across a newspaper article about Back to Ag,” he explains. “I thought, wow, that’s interesting!” Cloutier explains that he started thinking about applying and what type of technical solution would best accommodate his injury. Cloutier faces many challenges in having only two fingers on his dominant hand and hauling five-gallon pails is one of them.
With over 200 head of livestock, Cloutier was dependent on a shovel and pail to feed his animals. “I put out pails six months of the year,” he explains. “I needed something that would help ease the pressure and pain on my hand.”
Through the Back to Ag Program, Cloutier was able to purchase a cattle-feed cart. This grain handling system means that Cloutier is able to feed his livestock more efficiently and safely, without the risk of injuring his hand further.
When talking about the grain handling system, he is enthusiastic. “I like the way it looks; it’s a great idea. I like the idea of not having to haul those doggone pails.” He does have one problem with the new grain handling system, “It might make me want to farm that much longer,” he laughs.
Cloutier encourages other traumatically-injured farmers to find out more about the Back to Ag Program. “Definitely apply,” he says. “Find out more and use it for something that’s going to help you and be useful on your farm.”
CASA is currently accepting applications for the Back to Ag program for the 2016–17 funding period. Applications are being received on a first come, first served basis. Applicants must be farmers who have experienced a life-altering incident resulting in a disability. They must demonstrate that the purchase of specialized equipment or adaptation of existing equipment will help them get back to work on the farm safely. For more information about program criteria or to submit an application, please visit casa-acsa.ca/BacktoAg or call 1 (877) 452-2272.
Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, casa-acsa.ca.