Able2Do Anything: Achievements

Meet the UK’s only disabled farmer

Mike Duxbury holding a piglet

Mike Duxbury could be the only blind farmer in Britain, it wasn’t his first choice but when hundreds of businesses turned him down, which he believes was because of his vision loss, the 54-year-old decided to take matters into his own hands.

Farming had been grilled into Duxbury ever since he can remember, growing up on a farm from the age of six he was only metres away from a cow giving birth or a chicken laying an egg.

He studied at agricultural college in 1986 to be an animal nutritionist, but despite applying for over 500 jobs, Duxbury was not offered a single interview.

Taking the bull by the horns - well, not literally! - he launched Inclusive Farm on an acre of scrubland situated in Steppingley, near Flitwick, Bedfordshire.

Plans for the new farm were created by Lego, which Duxbury shared with his partner, Ness.

Charlie the goose was the first animal to step foot in the farmyard, "she sits on my knee and has cuddles", Duxbury told BBC News in a recent interview.

The hand-reared goose now has quite a bit of company; she shares the farm with 32 pigs, 30 chickens , six ducks and three other geese.

Inclusive Farm gives back to the local community by producing sausages, eggs and meat sold to a butcher who supplies them to nearby restaurants and pubs.

"My hands are my eyes", Duxbury said, "the shape, the size, the weight of an animal".

"Over years of experience when you touch an animal you can usually get a feel of when it is ready for market”.

Using experience working on various farms throughout the years Duxbury took the initiative to launch his own fully accessible farm for people with disabilities.

"Farming for me has just been a passion", he said.

"I've always had a desire that everybody in this world deserves a chance and too many people who have disabilities are being left behind."

Duxbury invites students from the inclusive learning department at Milton Keynes College studying animal and horticulture to spend a day at Inclusive Farm once a week.

The students are taught daily tasks such as worming sheep, weighing pigs ready for market and mucking out.

"It's not just about disability, it's about thinking, it's about education, it's about how we accept other people", Duxbury said.

"I can give my time and my knowledge as a farmer to help other people go through agriculture and learn what a wonderful life it can be.”

Becca Partridge, head of Inclusive Learning at MK College, says the students "love their placements at the Inclusive Farm.

"It's a crucial part of their course and it helps our learners to not only develop their knowledge of animal care and agriculture, but they also grow in confidence and learn about working as a team.”

Inclusive Farm has drawn interest from people across the globe including Canada, Mexico, Argentina and the US.

"The whole demand for what we're doing has just taken off," Duxbury said. "We've had a lot of interest from all over the world."

Looking to the future Duxbury and his partner are hoping to reach out to more people with disabilities in the coming years.

"We are a social enterprise that means business," he said.

"Everybody should be dealt with on an equal footing, everybody should be given opportunity, everybody should be given the chance to have hope."

As mentioned, running his own farm was never on Duxbury’s agenda, he says there was only one reason he was turned down by hundreds of firms.

"These companies state equal opportunities on their website and they don't stand by it," Duxbury said.

"I thought, you know something, I'll do it myself."

Research by the Annual Population Survey found "disabled workers are least likely to be employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing, as were non-disabled workers (each less than 1%)".

Louise Rubin, head of policy at Scope, has heard thousands of similar stories from disabled people trying to find employment.

"Others can only find a handful of jobs that are truly disability friendly", she said.

"The disability employment gap - the difference between the rate of employment for disabled people compared to non-disabled people - has hardly improved in over a decade.

"When employers make their workplaces accessible and inclusive, more disabled employees can thrive and progress.

"Introducing measures such as remote working, flexible hours and tailored disability support can make all the difference for disabled employees."

Over 70 billion animals are farmed for food worldwide every year.

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