Richard Stanley’s work revolves around his livestock.

For 50 years on his family’s farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Stanley has tended to 60-plus head of cattle and 50 acres of hay.

Eight years ago, though, Stanley’s way of life was interrupted by a rare disease. Stanley was diagnosed with Guillain Barré syndrome, a disorder that affects the muscle and nervous system and only one out of 100,000 people. He has since been confined to a wheelchair.

Unable to fulfill his farming duties, Stanley looked for help from a unique organization — AgrAbility.

“The primary objective is to assist in any way we can to help farmers with disabilities get back to farming or continue farming — in some cases, people with disabilities that want to start farming,” said Glen Rains, a co-director of the program and an entomology professor on the Tifton Campus of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Rains says helping farmers is AgrAbility’s main goal.

“We have a lot of avenues in which we do that,” he said.

Stanley’s avenue was his tractor. Unable to move his legs, Stanley needed assistance getting into his machine. AgrAbility helped obtain funding to retro-fit Stanley’s tractor with a mechanical lift that helps transport him from the ground to the cab. AgrAbility also installed special hand controls in the cab to allow Stanley to operate his tractor with relative ease.

“I’ve been grateful because (farming’s) all I’ve done all my life,” Stanley said.

AgrAbility works with Vocational Rehabilitation, an organization in all states that helps fund people with disabilities. Funding for projects also comes from grants, loans and/or the farmer.

The state-wide program is operated by two UGA departments: the Cooperative Extension in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the Institute on Human Development and Disability in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.