June 20, 2024

‘Farming was healing’: Ag career helps woman’s recovery

ST. JAMES, Mo. — A family car ride to an exercise class changed the life of Carey Portell forever.

When a drunken driver struck her vehicle, Portell suffered extensive injuries to her lower body. After four years of surgeries, healing and physical therapy, she was able to walk. But she still experiences limited mobility.

With assistance from Missouri AgrAbility, she has returned to a career in agriculture. She is also an author and motivational speaker.

“I went from going a mile a minute, to coming to a complete halt,” Portell said. “It had a huge impact on all of us. That does stuff to you mentally. You don’t know what to do with yourself.

“It’s so hard because your mind still works correctly, but your body just won’t cooperate.”

Her work on the family farm started small.

She would get into the wheelchair, pull herself into the truck and drive her children around to open gates and check on cows during calving season.

“I soon realized that farming was healing for me,” she said. “It was mental and emotional healing. It gave me something I was missing when all I could do was sit and heal. I needed it desperately.

“It got me out of the house. I could contribute to my family.”

After years of attending physical therapy, Portell’s therapist told her that she was ready to do small chores on the farm. Farming, itself, can be physical therapy.

It proved to be difficult. Her mind was moving fast, but her body wasn’t.

During a women’s conference, Portell sat next to an AgrAbility representative. The chance encounter changed her life for the better.

The organization gave her the skills and tools to not only farm, but thrive.

“I am a huge advocate of AgrAbility,” she said. “They have helped me get my life back. Being able to farm on my own property — they have given me that skill and knowledge.”

Portell encouraged others with disabilities to reach out to AgrAbility for resources.

“There is help out there,” she said. “They’ve given me many tools and equipment suggestions to get me farming to the level I am today.”

Learn more at www.agrability.org.

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor