Wheelchair doesn’t stop Nebraska man from ranching, auctioneering — or teaching youth about farm safety | TSLN.com

Wheelchair doesn’t stop Nebraska man from ranching, auctioneering — or teaching youth about farm safety

Amy G. Hadachek
Cuba, Kan.

There are numerous reasons why Hebron, Neb. rancher and farm activist Clayton Hergott wants to instill in the next generation intensive farm safety knowledge.

Propelled with a passion for safety on the farm, Hergott, who overcame his own emotional obstacles of being disabled, had a goal to offer an agriculture safety camp for kids … and didn't stop thinking about it until he acted on his dream.

On April 10, the Thayer County Farm Safety Day Camp was held for Thayer County third-grade classes at the Hebron Sale Barn in Hebron, sponsored by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension's Thayer County office, as well as the Nebraska Farm Bureau and Dupont Pioneer.

"This is the first year to offer this camp for the kids, but I hope to be able to secure funds to make it an annual event, because if we can keep kids involved in rural agriculture and keep them safe, then rural America will be a better place," Hergott said.

Although he was born disabled and previously used crutches to get around, before being confined to a wheelchair, Hergott still maintains a cow herd, and bought the sale barn in Hebron, where he enjoys checking on his cows when they're calving.

"Purchasing the sale barn in Hebron a couple years ago is perfect because it is only two blocks from my house and allows me to ride my wheelchair down to do chores and check cows when they are calving. I love my cows and they are what give me a reason to get up each morning," Hergott said.

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Hergott owns about 40 head of registered Simmental and Red Angus cows, which he raised. He also sells bulls and occasionally replacement heifers.

On top of that, this energetic rancher thrives on being an auctioneer at the Belleville 81 Livestock in Belleville, Kan., just a half-hour south of his home across the border.

"As you can see, I can't sit still very well, which is ironic because all I can do is sit," said Hergott, good-naturedly. "But in all seriousness, these factors all combined to give me the passion for staying safe on the farm. Being exposed to agriculture all of my life, and knowing the challenges that I go through on a daily basis, makes me want to encourage the youth to stay safe and be all that they can be," Hergott added.

Despite being wheelchair-bound, Hergott has also been a cost accountant for Reinke Manufacturing Company, Inc. for the past 10 years.

Hergott became active with the Farm Bureau three years ago, and is a member of the Thayer County Farm Bureau Board.

Speaking of this spring's safety camp, he said, "This allows me to have a say in the future of agriculture, and has also given me a platform to tell my story, and make lives better for others. I brought my safety day idea to my board and some state level Nebraska Farm Bureau employees, and everybody was immediately on board."

Hergott's zest and heartfelt concern for the next generation was the push behind a pivotal, successful step in the process.

"I wrote a grant with the help of Kerry Hoffschneider, director of membership marketing for the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation. She did a ton of work behind the scenes, and she is the unsung hero here. Before she moved to the Farm Bureau, she worked for DuPont Pioneer and was instrumental in helping me with writing the grant," said Hergott.

After setting up a meeting with Crystal Fangmeier, who's an associate at the UNL Thayer County Extension office, the plan for the safety camp gained momentum.

"We decided that our target age group would be third grade, so Crystal sent out the emails to the school administrators and got their commitments for the safety camp. We decided to have it at my sale barn, as it would be a central location with plenty of room for both the kids and stations for the activities," said Hergott.

Then, Hergott and Fangmeier established the type of sessions and stations to offer the children.

He emphasized it's important to teach kids where their food and fabric comes from, because it gives them a greater appreciation of all the hard work that goes into products without taking it for granted.F

For information about the Farm Safety Camp, e-mail Clayton Hergott, at cj_hergott@hotmail.com.