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AgriAbility program has funds for disabled farmers in Illinois
By TIM ALEXANDER
Illinois Correspondent

URBANA, Ill. — AgriAbility Unlimited, a program sponsored by the University of Illinois Extension and Easter Seals, which assists disabled farmers in buying equipment, has announced they have limited cost-share funding available.

Eligible farmers must be involved in production agriculture, have a significant disability that limits farming activities, be able to contribute financially to the purchase of needed items and agree to a free on-site assessment conducted by AgriAbility.

Mike Brokaw, program manager for AgriAbility Unlimited, said the program helps farmers who have a disability find the resources they need to continue farming.

Brokaw said the “concept” for AgriAbility has been around since the late 1970s and became a formal project through USDA in 1991.

“Since 1991, we have helped over 800 individuals to remain active, productive members of their farm operations,” said Brokaw, whose organization continues to aid disabled farmers even though USDA pulled its funding for the project in 2005.

“The State of Illinois (Department of Agriculture), realizing the need to continue this program, stepped up to the plate and continued the funding, at least for the next year. One of the things we decided to do with the state dollars that we couldn’t do with the USDA money was to help our clients with the purchase of recommended assisted technology.”

Besides technological items, assisted farm equipment AgriAbility might help purchase includes handholds and steps to reach a tractor or combine cab, other handicapped-access accessories or a specialized utility vehicle for a farmer with limited mobility.

Brokaw said that in 2003, a Purebred Shorthorn breeder from Salem, Ill. contacted him for ideas to help him remain in farming while battling the effects of polio.

“As he got older he was having more problems getting around his farm,” said Brokaw. “Several of his pastures were not adjacent to the homeplace and his pickup truck was not suitable for fixing fence and feeding the cattle in these other locations. I met with him and did an assessment; we decided that a John Deere Gator would allow him to haul the feed, fix the fences and travel between locations.”

Brokaw referred the farmer to the Illinois Division of Rehab Services (DRS) to obtain funding to purchase the Gator, and the breeder continued his farming operation.

For details on AgriAbility Unlimited or to apply for funding, contact Mike Brokaw at 800-500-7325, ext. 126, or by e-mail at fbfm_brokawm@extension.uiuc.edu

This farm news was published in the Nov. 15, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

11/15/2006