Michael makes ‘the best of it’ (Picture: Michael Nixon)
Welcome back to How I Made It, Metro.co.uk’s weekly career journey series.
This week we’re chatting with farmer, Michael Nixon, 35, from Milton Keynes.
Michael has been farming since the age of 14, but his life changed in 2019, when an accident left him paralysed from the chest down.
He explains: ‘I broke my back by cleaning out the guttering above a calf shed.
‘The calves were getting pneumonia from the water and milk over flowing from the gutter, so I went up to clear it and fell through the roof, falling 28ft.
‘I was told I wouldn’t walk again and I was devastated – but, while I knew life was going to be different, I thought, “I’m still here.” So, I just cracked on.’
Now, Michael uses a wheelchair, and while he has to work a little differently, it hasn’t stopped him from doing the job he loves.
He also opened an accessible gym on his farm, designed with inclusivity in mind.
We spoke to Michael about his career journey so far.
Hi Michael. How would you describe your work?
We have a small holding where we have 20 chickens and 15 rare breed sheep. I help out on the farm, which also has a pick your own fruit section.
I also run a gym with equipment that is accessible for wheelchair users – it’s greatknowing that others are benefiting from something I provide.
Michael still is active around the farm (Picture: Michael Nixon)
How did you get into farming?
Farming has always been in my family – it’s in the blood. My grandad was a farmer and my weekends as a child were always spent on the farm.
At the age of 14, I started by helping my big brother on his farm, by feeding calves and helping to get the cows in for milking.
Tending to sheep (Picture: Michael Nixon)
He askes for help when he needs it (Picture: Michael Nixon)
What was recovery like for you?
I spent three months in hospital flat on my back, I then moved to another hospital for three months where I worked hard on recovery and managed to get myself home.
I came home in time for Covid, so there were no shops open, and to be honest I struggled a bit.
So, after five weeks being at home, I rang my mate up and ended up working on his farm feeding cattle, cleaning grain stores, painting and fencing, just keeping myself busy.
Michael on the farm (Picture: Michael Nixon)
How does your disability affect your work? What modifications do you have to make?
There are different things I use on my farm compared to other farmers. I have a battery powered strimmer blower and strimmer, and I have an attachment on my wheelchair that gets me across the uneven ground and makes it easier.
I also have a hand controlled lawn mower so I can mow our lawns.
What’s been the biggest hurdle?
The realisation I can no longer do what I used to, but I do what I can and ask for help when I need it.
An average day in the working life of Michael Nixon
6:30am: Let the chickens out then do 90 minutes at the gym.
8.30am: Tend to the sheep and walk the dog. I go in my standing frame to give myself a good stretch and do this twice a day.
10am: I tend to whatever needs doing, from fixing fences to working with the animals.
6pm: Dinner time.
9pm: Time for the final check of the sheep and put the chickens away.
What do you love most about your job?
The best part about my job is working outside in the countryside and looking after the animals and giving them the best life possible.
It’s tough but I make the best of it.
What do you dislike the most?
The only thing that is hard going for me is working from a wheelchair outdoors when the weather is bad.
The wet and snowy weather it makes the job on the farm incredibly difficult.
My wife and son will help me with when they get home from work and school which I always appreciate.
Mike’s story is part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s Future in Farming series showing innovation in the industry for a more sustainable future.
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