When Andy Detweiler was 2 years old, he reached into a grain auger for a sample of wheat and fell into the hopper. The accident took both of his arms and ever since “The Harmless Farmer” has been using his feet for everything.
With over 70,500 subscribers on YouTube and thousands of followers on Instagram (@harmlessfarmer), this farmer from Midwestern Ohio uses social media to share his story and encourage others. During “How to Face Challenges and Push Past Them” at Farm Journal Field Days, Detweiler joined Instagram’s @thisfarmwife Meredith Bernard and @farmfitmomma Amanda Nigg to discuss overcoming obstacles and keeping a positive attitude when hard times hit.
“I've always just had a good attitude,” Detweiler says. “You've got to be able to make a joke out of bad things. I've always been able to joke about not having arms. If you can't have a good attitude about something like this, you're finished.”
Nigg agrees. After her family survived a devastating house fire that took all of their possessions on March 19, she’s been a strong advocate on social media that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
“Instead of looking and focusing on something negative that’s happened in your life (or nitpicking it and being like ‘why did this happen to me?’), you find that positive thing,” Nigg says. “Sometimes you have to dig hard, like really, really hard. But there's always a positive in every situation.”
Nigg lives on a fifth-generation farm in the northeast corner of South Dakota where they grow corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. She says the fire was the most challenging thing she’s ever had to go through.
“I know when you hear of a house fire, you don't really understand the emotional impact that it puts on you until you have gone through it,” she says. “It's all material things, but it's material things that you can't replace”
Her father-in-law passed away from cancer nine years ago and they lost special keepsakes like his cowboy hat and boots.
“Stuff like that on paper is not worth a lot of money. But to us it's priceless,” Nigg adds. “It was really hard to have to go through that especially as a family and then COVID hit and it's just been a daily adventure since.”
Faith and family have made up a valuable support system for both Detweiler and Nigg. About a year ago, Detweiler was diagnosed with esophageal cancer – one more obstacle to overcome. He said cancer helped reaffirm his faith.
“I always thought that I would never be one that had cancer and when I was diagnosed, that just brought me back to everything, to church and all,” he says.
Nigg says social media has provided her an opportunity to not only help others by being honest about what she’s been learning since the fire, but it’s also helped her find support she never expected.
“I think it's so crazy how God has played such a huge role in bringing certain individuals into my life through social media friendships,” Nigg says. “He's definitely opened my eyes and helped me be able to be like, ‘Okay, this person was brought into my life to help bring goodness into my life.’ Friends and family are so important to me.”
If you aren’t connected on social media, Bernard, who moderated the panel, says it’s hard to understand how actual friendships can develop online. There’s no question, it has been a challenging year filled with obstacles for those in the farming community.
“I wholeheartedly believe that, especially in the farming community, we're better together,” Bernard says. “We need each other and I'm proud to be a part of it.”
Read more stories of resiliency by Farm Journal's PORK:
Derecho Forces Evacuation of 25,000 Pigs After Winds Rip Barns Apart