AgrAbility can get you farming again

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Jeff Austin
Catie Noyes met Jeff Austin under the AgrAbility tent at Farm Science Review in 2017, where he was sharing how he ended up paralyzed from the waist down after having stage 4 cancer in 2013. Since then, he has worked with AgrAbility and Life Essentials to slowly regain his independence, including getting this Action Track Chair in the fall of 2016, that allows him to work on equipment. (Catie Noyes photo)

LONDON, Ohio — Getting older or injured generally won’t stop a farmer from working. But work does not have to be painful.

Changes can be made to a tractor or a combine, such as adding a lift to get aboard them easier or adding a camera to keep a farmer from having to turn his or her head to see behind.

Injured or aging farmers can find the technology they need to continue to work through Ohio State University Extension’s Ohio AgrAbility program.

Ohio AgrAbility is a program provided through OSU Extension in partnership with Easter Seals Greater Cincinnati.

The program offers free on-site assessments for people with a disability, to help determine what assistive technology might enable them to continue to work.

Workshops

Ohio AgrAbility will offer three daily workshops at Farm Science Review Sept. 19-21 to discuss what’s available for farmers who are injured or struggling with a physical disability and don’t want to give up farming.

Two of the workshops will be on modifications to farm existing equipment — at 10 and 11 a.m. — and another workshop is for professionals who work with individuals with disabilities — at 1:30 p.m.

All workshops will take place under the Ohio AgrAbility tent on Land Avenue between Market and Kottman streets.

Laura Akgerman, disability services coordinator for the AgrAbility program, will also present Gardening and Farming with Arthritis at the Small Farm Center Sept. 20 at 10:30 a.m., and Gardening with Arthritis at the Utzinger Garden Sept. 19 and 21 at 10 a.m.

AgrAbility tent

Under the Ohio AgrAbility tent at the Review, people can see motorized doors for a barn, a motorized chair specially made to ride through rough terrain and a modified lawn mower that has shock absorbers to prevent a bumpy ride.

The assistive technology that will be discussed could be helpful to anyone, even those without a disability, Akgerman said. All farmers might benefit from having hand rails on a tractor or combine or a new seat with a suspension system that offers a smoother ride, she said.

One of the aims of the AgrAbility program is helping injured farmers keep from getting secondary injuries.

For example, a farmer who struggles with arthritis or hip pain might find it challenging to climb up into the tractor, and in attempting to do so, could fall and possibly break a rib or another bone, said Charlie Landis, Ohio AgrAbility’s rural rehabilitation coordinator.

An increasing number of farmers are aging, and as farmers get older, the odds of them injuring themselves increase, Landis pointed out.

“People have to realize that they’re just not as strong or as quick as they used to be, but there are ways they can keep farming despite their injury, illness or disability,” he said.

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