When he decided to get back into farming five years ago, Tony Andrejczuk faced more challenges than most farmers. Andrejczuk lost the use of his legs after a work accident in 1997, and being able to access his family’s entire farm is one of his biggest obstacles.
Andrejczuk grew up farming with his father and brother on their orchard and field crop farm near Lawrence, Mich. He studied crops and soil science at Michigan State University and planned to return to the family farm to work—but a tough economy forced him to choose a different career. He joined the military and later started a tree business; the accident ended that career.
About five years ago, Andrejczuk helped one of his sons plant a few acres of corn on the farm; they did it for fun, and planned to leave the corn for wildlife. Instead, a neighbor offered to harvest it for them and even paid them for the crop.
That initial success was enough to get Andrejczuk back into farming, together with his brother, Ed. Everything Andrejczuk does on the farm is from a vehicle, whether it’s a tractor or a utility vehicle, so accessibility is very important. He built a lift to get on and off the tractor and can plant and do other fieldwork—but has difficulty getting to some areas of the farm because of erosion.
To help address this problem, Andrejczuk has been working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to stabilize areas of the farm where ruts have developed, reducing erosion and making them passable for farm equipment.
NRCS has also helped Andrejczuk install an agrichemical handling facility, which was designed so that he has room to maneuver a wheel chair around pallets stored in the building and can mix chemicals at floor level.
With additional NRCS assistance, Andrejczuk plans to install windbreaks and incorporate additional nutrient and pest management practices.
In the short time Andrejczuk has been back at farming, yields have increased, and he believes he has improved soil quality on the farm.
“I see the farm as where I’m going to retire,” he says. “Whatever Eddie and I build, we’ll leave as a viable entity for someone else in the family to take over.”