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Robert runs his dream farm in Adelaide – all from a wheelchair

ROBERT Goodwin runs his own 68-acre property north of Adelaide, complete with a fruit forest bearing delicious fresh produce year-round.

Among the day-to-day challenges of farm work, a priority for Robert is to ensure the trees don’t grow too tall so he can pick the fruit from his wheelchair.

Robert, 59, sustained a T5 complete spinal cord injury on March 5, 1983, however his determination, optimism and love of the outdoors has meant he has worked hard to maintain his independence and set up the lifestyle that he wants on his property at Mallala.

“I’ve got heaps of trees. There’s 80-odd trees and vines. You don’t realise how good it is for you – being outside – so I go out there fairly often. Going outside and being in the sun helps with the depression and gets your mind off stuff you shouldn’t be worrying about.”

The fruit forest was conceived, Robert says, when some of his family members were visiting and together they started planting a few trees.

“Then somebody said, ‘I think we can plant more and go up the side of the house.’ And now, the canopy covering the trees to keep the birds out is 2100 square metres.”

‘It’s always exciting to see a fruit or flower arrive’

There’s no shortage of delicious offerings on Robert’s mini farm – at any given time, there’s kiwi fruit, nuts, citrus fruits, sugar cane, persimmons, blueberries blackberries, and red berries, all of which Robert shares with his extended family, friends and the local school and RSL club.

“A bit later in the season you have pears and apples and, at present, we’ve got citrus starting to produce and grapes and figs coming in. You can go out and you can see something pretty much throughout the year … you’ve always got something to pick and that was the idea – for me to get out there every day.

“I don’t want the trees to get overly tall so I can reach them from the wheelchair.”

Robert also looks forward to when the dark red plums are ready, so he can do some cooking.

“My mum passed away and I’ve got some of her old preserving jars and I use those and every time I look at them I think of her and how she used to cook them for us.”

A spirit of independence

Robert’s main aim is to continue living as independently as he can, and to use the support he receives through the NDIS to allow him to do the fun activities he wants.

He currently receives some funding which is used for gardening, as well as for house work and cleaning, hanging out washing and other daily household tasks, as well as physiotherapy. Support workers help Robert with pressure care management to help prevent pressure injuries, catheter management and wound care, and foot care.

Robert says that he enjoys doing food preparation with his support workers.

“Pulling things out of ovens is a bit hard when you’re sitting, so we cook a few meals up so I have enough to last for next time. It’s pretty handy and it helps keep me independent.”

Robert also enjoys using supports for taking part in activities he loves such as fishing, crabbing, and lawn bowls.

“When we go crabbing, I do all the driving. We’ve done four different jetties so far and we caught crabs at every one we’ve been to. We come home and cook them up.”

When it comes to lawn bowls, Robert loves to drive his team mates to the club.

“I have a lift on the left-hand side of the vehicle so I could tow a trailer or a boat or a caravan. I take people to play lawn bowls and I want to get back into that.”

Supermarket savvy

Robert says another way to maintain his independence has been to work with local supermarkets so workers are able to support him with his shopping trips as needed.

“If you can drive to the shops, they’ll help you, so you don’t really need a support worker. If you can have a chat with them, and see what they can do, it helps. So even if you ring ahead, then someone from the shop can bring your shopping out to the car.”

“You’ve got all these help when you get there. I’m happy to speak with the workers there and find out what they can do … we can work together.”

Robert says that most of the wheelchair users he knows have worked throughout their lives. They’re independent, and able to continue to find ways to maintain their independence where possible.

He has now spoken with each of the major supermarkets in his area to talk with the managers about how they can support him. This also means he doesn’t need a support worker for the four-hour round trips to the shops – leaving plenty more support time for activities like crabbing and lawn bowls.

At Feros Care, we’re proud to help people with disability live healthy, fulfilled and connected lives. Click here to find out more about how we support people throughout our LAC office locations.

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