Tim Farmer is well known for his ability to inspire and educate others. He is the host of the popular television program Kentucky Afield–now entering its sixth decade of production–and Tim Farmer’s Country Kitchen. There was a time, however, when things looked bleak.
Just after enlisting in the Marines, then 20-year-old Tim was driving home after a visit with his parents in 1984 when he lost control of the motorcycle he was riding. The accident claimed his right arm and nearly his life. It was a devastating event that changed his life forever and ruined his chances for a military career, but the Kentucky native was determined to recover. Soon after, Tim relearned how to shoot, hunt, and fish. For him, being outdoors was vital to a healthy life. It didn’t occur to him that his passion for nature could lead him down a very different career path than the one he planned. After attending college part-time, Tim found a job as a fisheries technician with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. Several years later Tim was brought to the attention of Kentucky Afield as an ideal candidate to host the show. Tim was instantly popular among the program’s audience. Refusing to call the loss of his arm any sort of a handicap, Tim is an inspiring presence to many disabled outdoorsmen and women who have suffered similar injuries.
We were able to sit down with Tim and learn a little bit more about him.
OutdoorHub: What was your childhood like?
Tim Farmer: My dad’s goal was always to live as far out in the country as possible and we accomplished that. We lived so far out that it was just me, my dog, ponds, and crickets. My sister played with Barbie dolls and I played with my BB gun in the woods. We moved up into the mountains of Kentucky and there just weren’t many jobs where we were. I had always loved history and especially American history, and that involved reading about the Marine Corps. As soon as I was able I went in and signed up.
What were your initial thoughts after the accident?
The initial thoughts came when it was still happening. Once I figured out I had a catastrophic injury, I could immediately see the amount of damage to my right arm, ripped off by a guard rail. I realize now that life can change dramatically. You know, I asked myself, “what is a twenty-something guy going to do?” at that point. I had planned on being in the Corps for a career. I had it all figured out, I would do 20 years in the Marines, 20 years in the state police, but then it all went out the window.
I never lost the urge to do anything I wanted to do. I had always aspired to go into the outdoors. I figured out that I would have a very limited use of my right arm but my desires didn’t change. The first thing I did was go fly fishing, holding the line against the rod and I figured it out pretty fast. Same with shooting a .22 in my off hand. Before long I was shooting squirrels with my shotgun. In 1989 I was working at a courier service and going back to school at the same time, studying biology. My next-door neighbor said to me, “fellow like you likes to hunt and fish, why don’t you try for a job at the Department of Fish and Wildlife?”
I said to him that you needed two arms for that type of job, but my neighbor insisted and said that the department needed more than just people in the field. So I went in, took the test, and got the job with the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Watch Tim go after bass on a kayak below:
How did you get introduced to Kentucky Afield?
I first saw it at my grandparents’ in Louisville and after I got hurt, I decided to get cable. After getting the fisheries job I went out West where there were a lot of archery tournaments. By this time I had learned how to shoot a long bow with my feet, and I shot a few pheasants out of the air. That’s when I started getting a little edgy and began playing around with video. When I submitted a tape to this outdoors channel they instantly responded and said they were interested. Then Kentucky Afield approached me, and their host had recently left. I said to myself “no, I won’t get this job, this is top of the line.” Still, I put in for the job, and long story short, I’ve been there ever since.
How long would you say it took you to relearn how to shoot, hunt, and fish?
Surprisingly not all that long, but I’ve been doing these things all my life. I understood all the techniques, like how to hold a bow and how to release. The only problem that emerged when it came to bows was the delivery system. I didn’t want to shoot a crossbow. Then I heard about a guy in Washington state who was shooting with his teeth. The first evening I tried it I was shooting baseball-sized groups at about 15 yards, so I knew it was possible right away. The tough part was finding the right material to put on the string. Initially it was a piece of leather, which didn’t work well because it made my mouth bleed. Then I found a piece of corded nylon and put it on there. It works pretty well.
It’s just a whole lot of practice, and you know, I had something to prove too. I was always a decent shot, and had discipline.
Not too long after learning how to shoot with my teeth I began hunting and bagging big game all over America.
You can see Tim in action here after setting up his Mathews S7 bow:
Does it hurt to draw a bow with your teeth? Or are you just used to it?
No, it doesn’t really hurt. You grip with your molars in the back of the jaw and those muscles are some of the strongest in your body. I pull about 70 pounds and when I was competing I pulled about 80 pounds.
How did relearning all these skills change your perception of the outdoors and about life in general?
It didn’t change. I was going to figure it out one way or another. As far as life it made me more open to challenge. Life was pretty easy up to that point. The accident caused me to settle down and set priorities. Now in my older years I’m always looking for challenges. It’s not a handicap, it’s a challenge. Simple things like putting a nail in the wall, or clipping your fingernails, and there’s the pain. I’m in constant pain. When I first got out of the hospital they had me on all kinds of painkillers. The pain was so overwhelming that it was all I could think about. My doctor told me I had to take pills for the rest of my life. I asked if I could try to wean myself off and he said you could take less, but do it slowly. Of course I didn’t listen to him and flushed them down the toilet. Then I discovered this horrible thing called withdrawal. It was a rough two weeks. But I persisted and sweated and then the next thing you know I could taste and smell again. I had energy and motivation to do things. I think if I stayed on that stuff, I might have been addicted and it would be a different story.
Many people say that you’re an inspiration to them, how do you react to that?
It’s very nice to actually help someone in a tangible way. There was this one fellow who was in an electrical accident, and an avid bowhunter. I taught him how to shoot with one arm and how to climb a treestand. It was pretty rewarding. I’d like to think that there is a plan, although I can’t see it all the time. Maybe through this crazy television thing I can help folks.
Editor’s note: This interview is part of a series with OutdoorHub’s featured video partners. Click here to read our interview with huntress Larysa Switlyk of Larysa Unleased , and click here to read our interview with hunter and filmmaker Tom Opre.