Britain’s ‘only blind farmer’ uses ‘hands as eyes’ while working with chainsaws and axes

The UK’s only ‘blind farmer’ has shared how he can use his ‘hands as eyes’ and opened up about his work encourage more diversity in the farming industry. Mike Duxbury believes he is ‘the only farmer with his disability in the UK,’ having lost his vision due to glaucoma at the age of six.

The 54-year-old uses ‘all the kit’, including chainsaws and drills, thanks to simple tricks he’s learned over the years – like laying wire close to a gate, so he can feel when he’s near to it. Mike, who has worked on farms for several years, also drives a converted golf buggy as a pick-up truck.

When he’s not splitting wood with axes, he can be found hard at work at Inclusivity Farm, near Flitwick, Bedfordshire – a working farm where students can come and learn farming skills, irrespective of their needs.

The farm, which is home to 32 pigs, 30 chickens, six sheep, five ducks and four geese, was designed and built entirely by Mike and his partner Nessie last year. They produce sausages for local shops, pubs and restaurants, and sell up to 200 eggs a week to locals.

The farm also welcomes 15 students a week, plus visitors who want to see how it’s run, with enquiries coming in from all over the world. Mike grew up on a farm in Worcester, before he attended Warwick agricultural college in 1986 to study to become an animal nutritionist.

But despite applying for over 500 jobs, he failed to receive a single interview, so he decided to take matters into his own hands. He explained: “When I went to college, they didn’t know what they were doing, and neither did I, but we figured it out together and I’m really grateful for that opportunity.

“A lot of people are left behind in the farming industry, injured farmers don’t get support, and a lot of young people who want to go into farming don’t get the opportunities – so I decided to do it myself.

“My journey has been a big learning curve, but I’ve worked with some amazing people, and I’ve learnt how to do things slightly differently that work for me.

“At the end of the day, the animals need to be watered and fed, sheep need to be sheered, so I just got on with it and found a way to do that.”

The government’s Annual Population Survey found “disabled workers are least likely to be employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing, as were non-disabled workers (each less than 1%)”. But Mike hopes this will change, as he is passionate about teaching young people the lessons of farming.

He said: “I was brought up in a world where disability was really taboo, a lot of people were just hidden away and people didn’t speak about it. But when I got the opportunity to go into farming and get my hands on animals, I absolutely absorbed it. I found ways to look after them, my own way, not necessarily the ways books would tell you.

“The farm is harnessing farming diversity, we’re here to help others and help people learn about farming irrespective of their needs. People tell me it’s life-changing. They say they might not go into farming but they’ve learnt so many transferable skills like communication, positive mindset and self-value.

“Farming seems like an unlikely industry to lead the way, but other industries have let us down, so if it takes the farming industry to make change then so be it.”