LAUREL — She has a history and deep love for agriculture, a passion to serve those who are challenged with a disability, and a drive to help in any way she can.
Each podcast begins, “Hello everyone, this is Kenny from the Big Sky state. I want to welcome you and thank you so much for joining me here on Cutting Fences.”
Her headphones on, Zoom recording, and a guest ready to tell their story of triumph over adversity. You can hear the concern in her voice.
Kendra Joyce, 26 years old, is a born-and-raised Geraldine farm girl who now lives in Laurel, and just graduated with her doctorate in occupational therapy from Rocky Mountain College.
“I love OT obviously,” she said, “It's why I’m going into the field, but I never imagined that I’d be able to combine the two.”
But that’s just what she’s doing, and a recent capstone project is now kicking off her career. “To add to my presentation, I reached out to a few of my friends who were in ag, just to get some quotes and I think within 10 minutes, I had three individuals farming and ranching from the seat of a power chair. And that was really my lightbulb moment.”
Her Cutting Fences podcast is reaching out and sharing stories of Montana farmers and ranchers who’ve suffered injuries or accidents and are dealing with disabilities, PTSD, and even suicide.
“I know that they're emotional and I know they're heavy, but these things need to be said,” said Joyce, “People are talking about suicide and that's not something that I ever thought farmers and ranchers really would they talk about because they're not people that liked to ask for help."
The federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates that, every day, about 100 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury.
“Farming and ranching isn't an easy career lifestyle in general, but then you throw a disability onto it and it's a whole other level, but the people in farming and ranching, in general, are so resilient and they're ready to push forward through obstacles because they have to," Joyce noted.
“Several of my podcast guests have told me you know, it's not easy to share my story but it's been so therapeutic for me to be able to talk about it and in a nonjudgmental way and, and be able to help someone out there,” said Joyce.
These stories are also fueling her fire to move forward. “I love the way I started it because I created a sense of community and that'll always be the cornerstone, is this podcast and the people that I’ve connected with, but I’ve been moving into trying to make it a little more sustainable."
She’s now consulting with Raw Life Essentials, an adaptive equipment company in Indiana, creating another direct connection for Montana farmers and ranchers.
“It's my hope to keep gaining resources for the next person and because I’ve grown more in the past three months of this capstone than I ever could have imagined. I mean, I really truly have from the stories that I’ve heard,” Joyce’s voice started to crack,” and it gets me a little emotional because it's just it's been such a special thing for me to do.”
This is only the beginning for Joyce, as she plans to continue “cutting fences.”
“We're very rural and we're very spread out. I like to say there's miles and miles of disconnect and so miles and miles of fence line, and so just eliminating those that disconnect and connecting everyone on the same level,” said Joyce.
Each of her podcasts wraps up with the same message of cultivating compassion, empathy, and support. “Thank you so much for listening and I invite you to be so inspired,” rings Joyce's voice.
And trust me, you will be.