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 more easily 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. 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.
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. The Farm Science Review is an annual agriculture trade show held at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center near London, Ohio and is sponsored by The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.
Two of the workshops Ohio AgrAbility will offer at the Review are on modifications to farm equipment, and another workshop is for professionals who work with individuals with disabilities. All workshops will take place under the Ohio AgrAbility tent on Land Avenue between Market and Kottman streets.
The daily workshops for those who work with individuals with disabilities, which will be at 1:30 p.m., will provide an overview of what Ohio AgrAbility offers.
The farm modifications workshops, which will be at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. daily, will address what changes can be made to farm equipment to allow farmers to use equipment effectively without causing undue strain or additional injuries.
Laura Akgerman, disability services coordinator for the AgrAbility program, will also present “Gardening and Farming with Arthritis – It Doesn’t Have to Hurt” 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.
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.
“People might think ‘I don’t have a disability. I don’t need to know this.’ But we all get older,” said Akgerman.
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.
“If you could avoid an injury or chronic condition that aggravates your back or shoulders, causes you pain, or limits your productivity, why wouldn’t you?” Akgerman asked.
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.
“Farming is one of the more dangerous occupations in the country due to the amount of equipment on the farm and because farmers are working with animals and machinery with a lot of moving parts,” Landis said.
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.
Ohio AgrAbility is a program provided through OSU Extension in partnership with Easter Seals Greater Cincinnati.
For more information about Farm Science Review, visit fsr.osu.edu.