It’s time for My Farm Roots, a series from Harvest Public Media in which we hear Americans’ stories and memories of rural life. Because when you hail from farm country, roots run deep. Today, reporter Grant Gerlock tells us about Nebraska farmer Steve Quandt. Despite having a debilitating disease, Quandt runs a 100-acre farm near Grand Island.
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This is the twelfth installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.
One sign that you have strong farm roots is when your rural road is named for your family.
I met Steve Quandt on Quandt Road, north of Grand Island, Neb., on the farm that used to belong to his grandfather. It’s the place he remembers spending days as a kid, from morning to night, helping milk cows, work the fields and repair machinery.
He followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, building his own farming operation. But that path was suddenly interrupted nearly six years ago.
It started with a splitting headache. Quandt went to see his doctor in Grand Island, who initially sent him home. The next day it was worse. When Quandt returned to the hospital he was admitted immediately. He fell unconscious - for eight weeks.
“I woke up in Omaha and the first thing I thought of was I wasn’t done chopping silage,” Quandt said.
Quandt woke up on a respirator with no feeling or body control from the neck down. He had suffered an attack of Guillain-Barre, a disorder in which the immune system turns against the nervous system. The effects can vary. In Quandt’s case it was devastating.
“At first you have no feeling or nothing in your body,” he said. “No touch. Didn’t know where anything was.”
No one knew what Quandt would be able to do. But when he began to regain feeling in his limbs through physical therapy, there was only one thing he wanted to do, “I just always have liked to farm,” he said. “You get out there and you’re by yourself and you do what you want to do. It’s good therapy.”
Nebraska Agrability, part of a national program that helps farmers overcome disabilities to stay on the land, helped Quandt acquire a truck fitted with a lift to give him access to his tractors and semi-trucks. When Agrability delivered the truck to his house, Quandt greeted them wearing a John Deere green t-shirt that said “Born to Farm.”
And that’s the impression you get talking to Steve Quandt. Despite his disability and the struggle to regain his strength, he just doesn’t seem to have considered that he could do something other than farm.
The reality remains that Quandt can’t do as much as he used to. He’s currently farming around 100 acres of land, rather than the 700 he farmed before Guillain-Barre. But he’s still getting stronger and he still wakes up at 6 in the morning, ready to work.
“I like the work out here,” he said. “To me, it’s almost like a vacation getting out in the tractor and going.”