When Army Command Sergeant Major Iteago Felton was stationed at Fort Gordon in 2008, he began thinking about how his post-military life would look. Having been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other physical ailments related to his service, he decided he wanted to become self-employed after serving 32 years in the Army.
While at Fort Gordon, Felton purchased 25 acres of land in Lincolnton, Georgia. His goal was to become a livestock farmer despite his physical limitations. To jumpstart his new career, Felton contacted the AgrAbility program, a unit of the Institute on Human Development and Disability at the University of Georgia, which provides assistive technology coordination and implementation to members of the agricultural community who have disabilities.
“The folks at AgrAbility linked me up with GVRA’s Assistive Work Technology (AWT) Services,” said Felton. “GVRA performed a worksite assessment and determined what modifications I would need to be a successful livestock farmer,” he stated. Mark Ficocelli, an AWT Rehabilitation Technologist in the Augusta Vocational Rehabilitation office, was instrumental in helping Felton get his farming operation up and running.
“Mark was hands-on when it came to equipment modifications and helping me streamline operations. Thanks to Mark, GVRA staff, and the folks at AgrAbility, tasks that used to take two hours (such as feeding livestock) have been reduced to 45 minutes,” said Felton. “I’m a one-man operation, so I can’t thank Mark enough for his guidance and hands-on approach. He checks in frequently to ensure the worksite modifications are functioning properly. He always asks if there’s anything else GVRA can do to enhance my farming success,” Felton continued.
Felton currently raises hogs, goats, turkeys, chickens, guinea hens, and rabbits. “At 64, I don’t let my physical limitations hold me back,” Felton says “I tell young people if you’re interested in farming, don’t talk yourself out of it. Thanks to the assistance I received from AgrAbility and GVRA, I’ve made my farming dreams come true,” he stated.