County AG Report - AgrAbility

Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 11:35 AM EDT
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For some farmers, it’s more than a job, it’s a way of life. But what happens when a disability gets in the way of their passion? In this weeks County AG report, Brian Bouchard looks into AgrAbility, the initiative aimed at helping farmers overcome their challenges.

“AgrAbility is a grant project that is funded by the USDA Farm Bill that helps states work with farmers with disabilities or limitations of one type or another to continue to farm, doing what they love and being able to adapt the tasks and help people just kind of keep going doing what they love no matter what the limitations could be”

Kelley Spencer is an independent contractor for AgrAbility and owner of Maine Assistive Technology Solutions. She works with AgrAbility, and its partners to help find solutions for farmers with limitations.

“It’s a partnership between the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Alpha One which is the disability related partner, and contractors like myself who have backgrounds in occupational therapy. We reach out to the communities to help make sure that people understand that there are resources for people to continue to farm dealing with disability, injury, aging”

While a number of other limitations may affect one’s ability to do what they love, sometimes it’s as simple as connecting these farmers with more ergonomic tools, other times, it may require modified machinery to better improve their quality of life.

“One of the individuals that we privilege of serving, he has a larger farm operation and needed to have a couple people help him into his tractor, he was a gentleman with a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down. And so two people would help him into his tractor and that’s where he would stay all day long, working from that tractor. Super bad for your body, super bad for your health in general to stay in that tractor all day long. So we help hooked him up with an organization that designs tractor seat lifts and so once he had that lift installed on his tractor, he was able to get in and out of his tractor independently, he didn’t need anybody’s help, much healthier and reduces a lot of stress on his body to be able to get out of the tractor, to take breaks, to use the bathroom, the things we all need to do to be healthy all day, so it was a great success for him and helped him do his job independently.”

Spencer says that although AgrAbility doesn’t provide equipment or funding to farmers directly, their consultations and expertise in finding solutions to problems faced by these farmers helps ensure that they can continue their passion in a safe and healthy way.

“Our Maine farmers are very proud, very independent farmers and a lot of times people begin to struggle as they age or something happens and people are very stubborn, they really want to figure it out on their own. But you don’t have to go it alone. There are just lots of ideas and lots of things that can help you work a lot more safely and efficiently and with a lot less pain, and if your life is changing, then adapt to it, right?”

For more information on AgrAbility, visit:

Brian Bouchard, NewsSource8

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