AgrAbility


Bob's Biddies - A Dream Realized

                Bob's Biddies - Honk for Service

Driving up to Bob and Diane Berry’s farm, one is greeted by an old claw foot tub with flowers filled to the brim and a sign reading, Bob’s Biddies- Please Honk Horn for Service. After hearing the sound of a horn, Bob eagerly comes out to greet his new visitors.

Bob Berry has always been interested in farming. “My love has always been chickens. Even when I was a youngster coming up we had anywhere from 3 to 500 chickens”, said Berry. While visiting a feed store, he saw an incubator and asked if it was for sale. The store owner sold it to him and he started hatching a few eggs and selling baby chicks. Even though, according to Bob, it was “just a hobby” he realized that it could be a prosperous business.

However, Bob’s ability to operate his hatchery had been a challenge due to his limited eyesight. He was diagnosed with glaucoma in the late 1980’s. Glaucoma has been nicknamed the “sneak thief of sight” because the loss of visual field often occurs gradually over a long time and may only be recognized when it is already quite advanced. Once lost, the damaged visual field can never be recovered.

Because Bob could not personally deliver his chicks, either his wife had to drive him or his customers had to pick them up. A solution was to ship the chicks directly to his customers. This would allow him to do the task independently and would enable him to expand his business.

In order to ship his chicks he needed certification from the National Poultry Improvement Program (NPIP). The NPIP was set up in the mid 1930’s to keep poultry free from disease. Requirements are set up by the NPIP depending on what kind of business you have and the breeds or type of poultry you raise. They perform a site visit to test your stock, eggs, and facilities. If you are approved for the program, they have labs set up in various areas in state and you can take your eggs for regular testing. This certification is essential to grow Bob’s business.

That is when Bob contacted the Georgia Department of Labor Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Program in Valdosta, GA. Vocational Rehabilitation’s goal is to help people with disabilities to become fully productive members of society by achieving independence and meaningful employment. Bob went to the VR office and began the evaluation process to receive VR services and was assigned to Kim Wagner. Kim is a certified Rehabilitation Counselor and oversees cases for people with visual impairments.

“Mr. Berry is one of those kinds of people that is highly motivated and is really focused on a goal. He is very determined and industrious; two important attributes when starting a business”, said Kim.

The first thing that had to be done for Bob to apply for a self-employment was to write a business plan. Kim had heard about AgrAbility through the project’s free community workshops. She recommended that Bob contact the AgrAbility project for assistance. AgrAbility is a free service offered to production agriculture workers that have health conditions or disabilities. It is a grant program funded by the USDA.

When asked about his experience working with AgrAbility, Bob said, “I think it’s a great program. The staff members are super and wonderful to work with and they’re a group of hard working people that go over and beyond what you ask of them.”

The AgrAbility staff made visits to Bob’s house and worked with him on developing and writing his business plan and getting the proper documentation required. “I don’t think Mr. Berry would have had a successful business plan that VR would have accepted had [AgrAbility] not helped him”, said Kim.

Vocational Rehabilitation awarded Bob’s self-employment plan and has provided financial support to purchase a computer, feed, medical supplies for the chickens, incubators and brooders to accommodate his needs. “With Kim Wagner, you will not find a better counselor. She’s very thorough. She takes time and she has patience,” remarked Bob when asked about his experience working with VR.

Vocational Rehabilitation and the AgrAbility staff are glad they could play a part in making Berry’s dream “Bob’s Biddies” a profitable business.

 

 

Bob Berry holding a chick
  

Bob

Glen Rains (AgrAbility),
Bob Berry, Kim Wagner

 

 

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