David Marquez

Mr. David Marquez, a 100% disabled Army Veteran, attended one of my Veterans in Agriculture presentations. He contacted me online afterward to ask for a visit. Arrangements were made and I traveled to the San Luis Valley for a meeting at his ranch in Chama, CO. The ranch is very rural with Alamosa being the nearest town being about 60 miles distance.

Approaching the ranch, I noted what appeared to be an older farmstead comprised of several wood frame outbuildings, corrals, and pens in poor repair. There were pasture areas with an estimated 100 head of beef. I met David outside near the barn area. We talked for a while as I gathered information. Dave was a fulltime rancher operating a cow/calf business on about 660 acres of range land. He advised that he was a multi-generational rancher with his ancestors having homesteaded it in about 1860 when Chama was the oldest own in Colorado.

We then walked and rode across his ranch to see the varying issues that posed challenges for him as a disabled rancher. These included perimeter fence repair, outbuilding repairs, creek maintenance, pasture maintenance, livestock processing, propagation of hay crops, and irrigation. His cattle handling was antiquated and done largely as it had been in the last century, with wood stringer fenced corrals, wood catch pens, and wood alleys. Cattle processing was essentially manual meaning he had to manhandle, rope, and sometime wrestle animals. This of course is difficult when one is disabled with low stamina, weak shoulder joints, poor grip strength, and poor balance. It is also dangerous to both man and animal.

I suggested that we consider a DVR referral however he was not warm to that idea just then. At this time, we held a grant from the Colorado Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. The grant permitted us to purchase up to $5,000 in Assistive Technology for a disabled rancher. Working with Dave to prioritize his needs, we agreed that a modern cattle handling system would be of most benefit. We used the DMVA grant to acquire a new automatic chute system for him.

We maintained our relationship over time and when traveling to the west side of Colorado as we do several times annually, Candy was with me and we stopped for lunch with Dave on our way through Fort Garland. These contacts deepened our relationship and Dave finally contacted me to discuss DVR. He really needed a new tractor.

The one he had was an early 60’s model with no auto nor hydraulic transmission, no power steering, and high steps to mount. It also had no quick hitch for the PTO. Essentially a person with poor balance, reduced leg strength, poor hand grip, and limited upper extremity strength cannot operate this equipment.

We decided to approach DVR for a farm/ranch assessment auth. Estevan, the counselor in Alamosa gave us the auth and we did a full assessment. We noted all of the above issues and it was agreed that a tractor remodel or replacement was necessary and appropriate. I worked with several tractor dealers and determined that the technology on the present tractor was so old it could not be modified. We then agreed that replacement was necessary. DVR was not familiar with tractor specs nor farm equipment dealers and after a few weeks, contacted me for specific written specs for what was needed and issued an auth for me to find a dealer and a tractor.

I found several that might be appropriate. The nearest dealer with one was in Bayfield. That dealer sold to the San Luis Valley regularly and offered free delivery. DVR needed a specific targeted justification letter as to why this was necessary and what specific physical limitations did the tractor address. The matter went to the highest approval level and was finally approved. Dave is once again able to ranch with markedly reduced difficulty and pain.