Doug VerHoeven: Paying It Forward

Doug sits in wheelchair with farm equipment and barn behind himDoug VerHoeven’s life changed overnight 44 years ago when he was injured in a vehicle accident as a high school student. But it didn’t end his dream of farming the family operation near Holland, Michigan. Through his years of farming from the seat of a wheelchair, he built an inventory of tools, ideas, and methods that helped him persevere. He also benefitted from being an AgrAbility client and from serving as a member of AgrAbility’s farmer advisory panel. In 2019, he teamed up with Michigan AgrAbility to create the Michigan AgrAbility Demonstration Farm to share his knowledge of assistive technology tools and equipment.

“My heart has always been to give back,” he says. Ned Stoller, an assistive technology professional and Michigan AgrAbility ag engineer, has worked with VerHoeven to make the demonstration farm a reality. “It gives farmers a chance to try assistive technology before they buy it and gain ideas by seeing what other farmers have built,” he says.

The demonstration farm includes lifts, ramps, outdoor mobility vehicles, hitch attachments, and basic overhead-door-handling equipment. It also offers smaller tools: pruners, anti-vibration gloves, easy attachments for hydraulic hoses, and more.

“Over the years, other people who are paralyzed or injured have come to the farm,” VerHoeven says. “They think that when they’re in the wheelchair, that’s what they’re confined to and they don’t really know they can do other things until you show them.”