Cancer, Leg Amputation Not Enough to End One Man’s Dream to Farm

For the past 25 years, Glen Weaver has played a key role in the 2700 acre grain and corn operation owned by Elvin Stoltzfus in Union County.
Cancer, Leg Amputation Not Enough to End One Man’s Dream to Farm - Articles

Early this year, Glen's resolve to farm was tested when a painful growth on his knee revealed Clear Cell Sarcoma - a rare and potentially deadly disease if not treated aggressively. On February 20, Glen's left leg was amputated 4" above the knee at John Hopkins.

"I never seriously considered doing anything but farming," acknowledges Glen. "I've always been handy with machinery, and done all the repairs here at the farm, but I really didn't want to be a mechanic full time. I couldn't see myself at an 8-5 job; and being inside so much of the time. I love the variety of farming, and I love being outdoors. This time of year is the best, just before the business of harvest, when the crops are almost ready, and it's turning cooler. This is what I've always wanted to do."

The 40-year-old producer is a married father of two who enjoys hunting, skiing, and time with his family. Prior to the surgery, Glen was responsible for planting all of the corn; as well as spraying and harvesting all crops; and machinery maintenance.

While Glen was still reeling from the surgery and recovery from the operation, his longtime friend and employer Elvin Stoltzfus was worried about how to support Glen through this ordeal and also how he was going to manage the farm, with planting just a few weeks away.

"It wasn't more than a month after Glen's surgery when a local equipment dealer told me about the Pennsylvania Office for Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) and AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians," explains Elvin. "Dennis Hess works at Rovendale Ag & Barn Equipment in Watsontown, PA, and he mentioned that there is program that is in place to help people like Glen to remain actively farming. Then within the same week I also spoke with Norm Conrad, the Union County Extension Agent, and he suggested we contact AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians."

On March 17, Glen contacted the Williamsport Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and began working with Don Fornwalt. Don realized that he first heard Glen's name when it appeared on his church prayer list, and was pleased to have the opportunity to get to know and work with Glen and his family.

"I have been doing this work for more than16 years," explains Don, "however, I believe that this has been one of my most positive experiences for several reasons. First, Glen, Elvin, and their families have been an absolute delight to work with. Glen's positive attitude and determination make him a joy to help. And Elvin has been understanding and supportive at every step. He has made a true effort to make as many 'low tech' accommodations as we could identify, as well as being highly cooperative as we work through the paperwork necessary to provide assistance to Glen. And finally, it's deeply gratifying to be a part of this next chapter in Glen's life."

Following OVR's initial meeting with the Weaver and Stoltzfus families, AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians was brought in to provide the on-farm assessment of Glen's current challenges. AgrAbility staff members Linda Fetzer and David Troutman were able to help Glen and Elvin create a priority list of modifications that would allow Glen maximum farm involvement with less physical stress and more independence.

Since spring planting was already upon them, Elvin decided to lease an automatic Case-IH MX255. With this tractor, Glen was able to plant over 800 acres of corn on his own this spring. In the meantime, the Williamsport Office of OVR was busy putting together a support package for Glen and Elvin that would provide financial assistance for more permanent modifications, including the purchase of a used Spray Coupe that features an automatic transmission so that Glen could resume his spray duties on the farm.

OVR also acquired funds to pay for a significant portion of the prosthetic leg that was not covered by Glen's insurance. The new prosthesis, which he received in early September, is specially adapted for the uneven terrain and heavy use that Glen will experience on the farm. In addition, a Kubota utility vehicle received in October will help Glen traverse the farm with maximum mobility.

Elvin Stoltzfus praises the working relationship between all the parties involved. "I was impressed by the way the two organizations [AgrAbility and OVR] worked together," says Elvin. "There wasn't that much paperwork for us, and everyone has been friendly, knowledgeable and courteous."

Glen is hopeful about his future, and grateful for his life, his family, friends and most of all his faith. "My driving force has always been that I want to be here to see my kids grow up," says Glen. "I don't know why I've been asked to go through this trial, but if I can handle it in a way that provides faith or inspiration to others, then it will be worth it."

AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians helps individuals who are coping with many different kinds of physical challenges, including arthritis, stroke, knee and back problems, amputations, vision and hearing disabilities, and many others. For more information about the project, or to find out how AgrAbility can help you or someone you know, telephone toll free in PA to 1-866-238-4434.