Kojonup farmer Nick Trethowan roars through the paddock on his all-terrain vehicle, screeches to a halt, whips out his crutches and charges across the sheep yards to start rounding up his sheep.

Amid a cacophony of bleating sheep and barking kelpies, Mr Trethowan presents the typical portrait of a busy farmer.

Except Mr Trethowan only has one leg. The other was amputated at the hip when he was 19.

Doctors later told Mr Trethowan that the giant osteogenic sarcoma tumour that had invaded his femur as a teenager had left him with just a 10 per cent chance of survival.

But nine months of chemotherapy and having his leg amputated at the hip helped him beat the odds.

Today — with some adaptations to farm equipment and a just-get-on-with-it attitude — he’s farming the family property in the way he had dreamed he would as a child.

A close-up of Kojonup farmer Nick Trethowan's face. He is wearing a beige hat

Since he lost one of his legs in his late teens, Kojonup farmer Nick Trethowan has — with some simple, clever adjustments — continued farming.(

ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Samille Mitchell

)

Adapting to farm life

“I had this thing, I suppose, where I thought, ‘OK, that’s what life’s dealt me so, get on with whatever is going to happen’,” he said.

“But I just couldn’t see at that stage that farming was really an option.”

Thinking his disability would bar him from life on the farm, Mr Trethowan went on to study accounting and swapped the paddock for the city,

“I did that for six months and worked out that I certainly didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. So I gave up on that and came back to the farm.”

Back on the farm, some simple adaptations saw Mr Trethowan return to the life he loved.

A handle became a brake on the tractor. A piece of poly pipe in each vehicle served for the brakes and the fanciest adaptation yet? A hoist that a mate designed from the internet, that lifts him into the tractor.

“It was a success from the get-go,” Mr Trethowan said.

“Watching a one-legged bloke get up a machinery ladder is really, really ugly but, once you’re in the cab, you’re as good as any other operator.”

A farmer who only has a left leg using a hoist to climb into the cab of his tractor.

An online search plus some innovative thinking saw Kojonup farmer Nick Trethowan and some mates devise this hoist to help him easily access the cab of his tractor.(

ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Samille Mitchell

)

Getting on with the job

Fellow Kojonup farmer Myles Reid reckons his mate just gets on with the job.

“He’s a unique bloke. It hasn’t really affected him,” Mr Reid said.

Kojonup farmers Nick Trethowan and Myles Reid standing among some sheep yards on a farm

Kojonup farmer Myles Reid reckons his mate, Nick Trethowan, just gets on with the job, despite losing a leg to cancer.(

ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Samille Mitchell

)

Mr Trethowan acknowledges that life on the farm with a disability would be much harder without his wife, Jane, by his side.

“There’s certainly no way that I could have gone into farming myself without the support and help and physical strength and emotional strength of someone like Jane,” he said.

“Jane is always there beside me. We’re a team. Farming is bloody hard — you can’t do it on your own.”

As a can-do kind of woman herself, Ms Trethowan was impressed by Mr Trethowan’s attitude from the start.

“I guess I thought he was pretty amazing,” she said.

“The way he got around on one leg didn’t seem to stop him from doing what he wanted to do and when he wanted to do it.

“It is what is and we make the best of it. Stuff has got to be done and we get on with it.”

A woman leaning over the fence of a sheep yard, speaking to a man who has one leg and is using crutches

Kojonup farmer Nick Trethowan acknowledges he wouldn’t be able to farm without the help and support of his wife Jane. (

ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Samille Mitchell

)

Chris Kerr is an ABC Regional Storyteller Scholarship winner, a partnership initiative with International Day of People with Disability.

How a Kojonup farmer uses clever adaptations to work his land
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