It’s no secret: Farming is hard work. The various tasks and duties involved in keeping just a small vegetable garden, let alone a multi-acre hobby farm, can be demanding for even the most able individuals. But for farmers with additional physical challenges and restrictions, those tasks can be overwhelming, which is where the National AgrAbility Project steps in.
"AgrAbility is a program that was created [to help] farmers, ranchers and other agricultural workers with disabilities and their families overcome obstacles that inhibit success in production agriculture and ag-related occupations,” says Kylie Hendress, engagement coordinator for the National AgrAbility Project. The NAP is headquartered in West Lafayette, Ind., but there are also regional AgrAbility projects in 31 states.
The organization helps farmers in a number of ways, not the least of which is their comprehensive database of assistive technology called the Toolbox, a one-stop shop for agricultural workers of all types, collecting approximately 1,000 assistive-technology products that can help farmers complete common tasks and chores in easier, more effective ways. Each product’s entry on the database features pricing information, as well as details on how exactly the product can make farm life easier. Hendress says that gardening tools and wood splitters are popular Toolbox products, but she also notes that several homemade solutions, such as an electric gate opener and a vegetable picking cart—building plans included with the product entries—are among the site’s top offerings.
The Toolbox just scratches the surface of the myriad other assistive services that the program offers: "[AgrAbility can] conduct farm- and home-modification assessments to make recommendations on products that make it easier to farm and move about the house and farm; introduce assistive technology products, such as lifts, ramps and extended steps; help the client find financing with organizations, such as Vocational Rehabilitation Services; and provide information and assistance with starting a new ag-business by helping to develop a business plan,” Hendress says.
Additionally, the program has staff members dedicated to answering farmer questions via phone and email, and also hosts free, bimonthly webinars on topics related to farming with disabilities. The webinars are archived for future use.
For more information on the National AgrAbility Project and to find the nearest AgrAbility project in your area, head over to the NAP’s website.