Dairy producers realize dreams can come true with hard work and help


PATTON, Pa. — Ten years ago, Mike and Reta Doty, Warren County, purchased their dream farm — a dilapidated farmstead with collapsing buildings and weed-encroached fields. They weren’t naive about the state of the farm, but where others saw despair, they saw hope.

Dream born

The Dotys thought they’d raise beef cows and Jersey bulls, but when a neighbor needed six cows milked by hand, the Dotys stepped in. Before too long, Mike was envisioning pastures filled with a healthy dairy herd and the facilities to care for them.

This hard-working and industrious couple began the laborious transformation of the farmstead, doing a vast majority of the work on their own, and primarily using the existing physical resources of the farm.

The Dotys were open to whatever resources were available to them, and decided early-on to work closely with the local conservation district in the improvement of their farmstead.

Many improvements

Since 2002, improvements have included: clearing brush, creating tree windbreaks, and building fencing for intensive grazing; installing running water in a 1,200-gallon in-ground holding tank in the pasture; a hard-packed surface holding area and laneway to decrease hoof problems; and two diversion ditches to keep water from pooling at the barn. Their efforts earned them the 2008 Conservation Farm of the Year.

Injury occurs

For Mike, all the physical work involved in the farm’s transformation has come at a steep price. A few years ago, he took a pretty hard fall onto his back and backside.

The effects of the fall continued to linger, and a few months later, while they were digging out their proposed milking parlor by hand, Mike found himself flat on his back in bed for more than three weeks.


The diagnosis was a herniated disk and severe arthritis in the upper back, and surgery wasn’t a viable option. Since then, Mike has continued his efforts to transform the farmstead, working around his condition and accepting the support of his family and friends.

Help sought. However, when he noticed an advertisement about the AgrAbility program, he thought it may be of some help.

He contacted Project Coordinator Linda Fetzer, and David Troutman, AgrAbility case manager, completed an on-farm evaluation of Mike and his needs on the farm, and provided that information to the local Office for Vocational Rehabilitation, or OVR, at their request.

“Our OVR agent, Sara James, had never worked with farmers,” explains Mike. “However, she went out of her way to help us, and was willing to learn all she could about farming, and the challenges of farming with a bad back.”

With the financial support of OVR, the Dotys completed the work in the milking parlor, as well as, procured additional mirrors and ‘quick hitches’ for the tractor to reduce the need to get on and off as frequently.

Help is found

The hitches and mirrors were installed on the Doty’s ‘new’ International 1586 that they purchased from a neighbor with additional assistance from AgrAbility.

In Pennsylvania, the AgrAbility partners include Penn State Cooperative Extension, Easter Seals Central PA, and the Pa. Assistive Technology Foundation, or PATF.

Help is out there. PATF is an under-used resource by producers who are farming with a disability or health condition.

The organization provides low-interest loans for the purchase of assistive technology, or equipment that helps people cope with a disability. The Dotys were able to receive a $5,000 loan at 4 percent interest.

AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians helps individuals who are coping with many different kinds of physical challenges, including arthritis, stroke, knee and back problems, amputations, vision and hearing disabilities, and many others.

Get the details

AgrAbility: 800-416-6061 or visit http://AgExtEd.cas.psu.edu/agrab/.

PATF may also be reached by calling 888-744-1938.


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  1. Good for them this is what farming used to be all about before Farm Bureau went down the road of industrial dairy operations. Many more small and medium sized dairies would be welcome in Ohio as the industrial dairies continue down the road of bankruptcy.


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