Featured image forAgrAbility for Pennsylvanians Supports Farmers

Posted April 27th, 2017 by in AgrAbility, Assistive Technology, General

This year, we partnered with AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians as one of our Funding Assistance Centers (FACs) to help farmers and agricultural workers across the state more easily fund the assistive technology they need. Our primary contact at AgrAbility is Abbie Spackman, who has shared with us the following spotlight on AgrAbility. Abbie spreads the word about PATF to her clients and contacts, and we share and cross-promote information that might benefit both audiences. In fact, next week PATF is doing an Instagram takeover on AgrAbility’s Instagram feed. Check it out Monday through Friday! And for now, read on to learn more about AgrAbility and how farmers can benefit from our partnership:

AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians is a project designed to assist farmers and other agricultural workers with disabilities or long-term health conditions by providing the resources and support they need to live independently and continue in production agriculture. This project is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This statewide project is a partnership between Penn State Extension and UCP Central PA.

Dairy farmer inspects machinery with various tubes and pipes that helps him milk his cows.

Dairy farmer using assistive technology to help milk his cows.

AgrAbility staff can provide a variety of services, at no cost, for farmers and farm families members who have a disability or long-term health condition and want to remain in or return to production agriculture.

AgrAbility services include:

  • On-site farm assessment to help identify barriers to completing essential everyday tasks and chores, both in the agricultural workplace and the home;
  • Identification of safe and appropriate assistive technology or modifications for agricultural operations;
  • Provide referrals and information about state and local resources;
  • Educational opportunities such as farm safety days, presentations to health care and rehabilitation professionals, county crop and dairy days and statewide agricultural expositions;
  • Peer and caregiver support; and
  • Provide support and assistance for disabled veterans seeking an occupation in agriculture.
A bright blue squeeze shoot for cows.

A squeeze chute that helps a farmer provide medical care to his cows.

AgrAbility does not provide direct funding for equipment. However, AgrAbility staff works with the PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation, and other third-party funding sources to help farmers and farm families obtain needed assistive technology and modifications.

As AgrAbility Project Assistant, I am responsible for conducting the on-site farm assessments. Each farm assessment is unique and I greatly enjoy working with the farmers. Farm assessments can last for several hours and include learning about the individual and their agricultural operation, evaluating the worksite and equipment for accessibility and ergonomics, observing the performance of difficult tasks, and discussing assistive technology, modifications and preventing secondary injury.

A utility vehicle in front of a red brick barn with a silo.

A utility vehicle that helps a farmer check and feed his cows.

Some of the more common disabilities or health conditions I see that impede farmers include:

  • Arthritis
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Amputation
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Visual or hearing loss
  • Respiratory problems
  • Back injury

Some of the best and most common recommendations made by AgrAbility include:

A close up of a tractor with hand controls.

Hand controls on a tractor.

Following the farm assessment, I work with the farmer and farm family to connect them to all of the other resources they need to implement AgrAbility’s recommendations. AgrAbility continues to follow up making sure the accommodations work well and to support the farmer in continuing their agricultural occupation.

Learn about the impact AgrAbility has by watching this video of Dawn Custer sharing what AgrAbility means to her:

Read more about Dawn’s story.

To learn more about AgrAbility visit AgrAbilityPA.org or find AgrAbility on social media @AgrAbilityPA.


Curious how PATF can help farmers acquire assistive technology? Contact us so we can connect you with possible funding resources, or visit our programs page to learn more about our low-interest and 0% interest loan programs.