People who are visually challenged or blind are sometimes deprived of agricultural opportunities due to the risks that it entails and the requirements it demands.
But in Canada, Rebecca Blaevoet, who was born blind, created her own way towards farming. Getting up close with nature and the farm animals is something that she finds life-changing.
Blaevoet and her husband Emmanuel, owners of a print-to-braille company, left city life to start a farm in the countryside in 2018. In a property that is as big as an Olympic swimming pool, they raise rabbits, chickens, turkeys, sheep, goats, cows, pigs, ducks, and a donkey. They also grow 25 crops on it.
Blaevoet never imagined her life would revolve around agriculture, but moving to the province allowed the couple to find ways in making farming work for her.
As she immersed herself in farming, she had to do arduous farm tasks, and she had to deal with challenges along the way. The struggle to find materials is one thing. But by being organized and by following a routine with initial solutions to problems she had anticipated, she was able to make her farm tasks feasible.
For example, Blaevoet wears gloves when cleaning animal houses or when picking poultry eggs to protect her hands. She uses tools with short handles so she can follow her progress easier since her hands are closer to the ground.
Farm animals wear bells on their necks so Blaevoet can keep track of them. She also mapped out areas using twine and stakes so she can identify the spaces for each crop or farm element.
When roaming the garden, she’s always with her guide dog, Karrie, or with a cane at hand. This keeps her from stumbling over things like branches.
According to Blaevoet, one does not learn by observing, especially when blind or visually impaired. She had to learn it gradually by discovering things in her own innovative way.
The couple was able to sell some animals and earn from butter and dairy. They aim to make their farm a safe environment that can be a learning venue for everyone, especially for visually challenged persons. Blaevoet notes that exposing blind individuals to real farm settings is important to create awareness of the opportunities that they, too, can take in agriculture.