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Exhibit will help farmers with disabilities find ways to keep farming
 
By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
Ohio Correspondent

LONDON, Ohio — Helping farmers with disabilities keep working; that’s the mission of AgrAbility, an Ohio State University (OSU) Extension program, so that the farmers, their families, and their communities continue to succeed, said Laura Akgerman Disability Services Coordinator, Ohio AgrAbility. They will have an exhibit in the OSU tent at Farm Science Review.  
Staff will be onsite with information about the AgrAbility program. Vendors that the group works with will be represented such as Life Essentials offering custom mobility equipment, Propel Doors which installs sliding door automation, K and M, which manufacturers after-market tractor seats and steps, Camden Door Controls Manufacturing, and PWR EZ, which offers equipment for accessing augers.
“I will be doing a presentation on gardening with arthritis or with a disability,” Akgerman said. “It applies to farms because a lot of farmers have gardens. It is also a great way to do outreach, to let people know about AgrAbility, that is, different tools, different ways that you can work. 
“We are big proponents of, if you can’t kneel down and dig in the dirt, get a raised bed to get the dirt up to you,” she explained. “Using vertical gardens. Switching out the kind of equipment that you’re using; tools that you can purchase, tools that are easier to hold, or put some pipe insulation around the handle of your trowel and it’s a lot easier to grip. It can be as simple as that.”
They will also offer information on universal design. Universal design is the process of creating products that are accessible to people with a wide range of abilities. Adding universal design to a workspace or equipment makes it safer to use and more accessible.
The AgrAbility area will offer Fitness from Farm Life information. Akgerman and Dee Jepson, OSU agricultural safety and health program, worked on that last year, planning on rolling it out at the 2020 Farm Science Review before it went virtual. This is an educational program aimed at improving the quality of work and life for agricultural workers of all ages and abilities.
The goal of the program is to show farmers that by taking some small steps to care for their bodies and physical health, they can then improve and preserve their physical abilities to continue doing “what all of us here love — farming,” Akgerman said.
AgrAbility is a program funded by the USDA and is in 21 states. The national program is at Purdue University.  Please note that Ohio AgrAbility cannot purchase equipment or provide farmers with any financial support. However, they offer a wealth of webinars, caregiver support, and more, all free. Visit AgrAbility.osu.edu
9/14/2021