AgrAbility Promotes Agricultural Access

Program helps farm producers get 'back in the saddle.'

Chronic pain, arthritis, heart conditions or injuries from accidents don’t necessarily have to curtail life on the farm.

AgrAbility, a four-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is gearing up to help find ways to make farms and ranches in Texas accessible despite one’s disabilities.

 “Texas AgrAbility is designed to assist farmers, family members or their employees who have acquired a disability or chronic health conditions and need assistance returning to work in production agriculture,” said Dr. Rick Peterson, Texas AgriLife Extension Service family life specialist.

The USDA census of agriculture indicates that the average age for a producer in Texas is 58, according to Cheryl Grenwelge, AgriLife Extension specialist for disability transition. And agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S.

For those two reasons, she said, it is estimated that more than 50,000 producers in Texas may be trying to cope with disabilities from injury or age-related conditions.

“Certainly there is a strong need for the type of program we have here to provide assistance to farmers, ranchers and their families,” Peterson said. “We know that our farm and ranch population is aging, so we’re going to have more of those kinds of issues coming to the forefront.”

The team plans to work with the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Services to link people to entities that can assist with needs, he said. People who have been injured or have chronic illnesses may need training or assistance technology to help return to production agriculture.

For example, Peterson noted, it may be possible to acquire a tractor lift to help make a job easier for a producer who can no longer climb to the machine’s seat.

“It can definitely make their operation accessible,” added Grenwelge. “One of the primary reasons for assistance technology is to make those operations such as using a tractor or getting through a gate or a distance through a muddy field more accessible.”

Because of the vastness and diversity of agriculture in Texas, Grenwelge said, there is a huge number of underserved people with disabilities in agriculture.

Peterson said people in agriculture should contact the Texas AgrAbility group to begin the free process of examining what assistance may be available. The team can help people navigate the health care and disability system to achieve the best help.

"We also have the ability to do farm assessments by trained people who can go out and look at the operation, make some assessments about what assistive technology may be essential for them,” he said. “From that, there will be some recommendations made and followed up to acquire that assistive technology.”

"One of the things we want to do is assist clients to access resources, we want to connect people to those resources and to others who may have similar conditions and may be able to share the types of concerns they have, and basically to be able to empower them to be able to return to production agriculture in a way that’s going to make sense for them,” Peterson said.

Texas AgrAbility is partnering on the project with Easter Seals-East Texas and Sam Houston State University.

People interested in the program should call 979-845-3727 or e-mail Grenwelge at chgrenwelge@ag.tamu.edu. The project Web site is http://txAgrAbility.tamu.edu.

 

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