Community Agriculture Alliance: Colorado AgrAbility offers free workshop in Steamboat

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— Do you know a person who is involved in agriculture who has physical limitations that they didn’t have before?

Are you someone who might be suffering from injuries that are keeping you from working on your farm or ranch like you always have?

Community Agriculture Alliance

This weekly column about agriculture issues is written by area farmers, ranchers and policymakers. It publishes on Fridays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

Maybe you or someone you know is like Dusty Franklin.

Franklin has been actively involved with farming since he was 6 years old. He always wanted to be part of agriculture, and when years of abuse to his back from heavy lifting, hard work and years of farming resulted in compressed discs in his back and rheumatoid arthritis, he thought his custom hay-cutting business would come to an end.

He was living daily with tremendous pain, and each time he rode in his tractor or performed needed farm tasks, it would result in days of lost time and productivity to his operation. He was searching for alternative ways he might be able to continue with farming when he heard about Colorado AgrAbility.

An occupational therapist from AgrAbility visited Franklin and his family on their farm and provided a free analysis of his work site and made recommendations for modifications to equipment and in his work activities that allowed Dusty to return to a much more productive work life.

AgrAbility partnered with the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to make these changes to the Franklins' farming business. The collaboration of these service providers has for this family made a difference between remaining in farming or leaving this beloved way of life.

Perhaps you know someone like Kathleen Miller.

As owner/operator of a small acreage, Miller has always valued gardening, but when faced with multiple physical limitations, she thought she might not be able to continue her dream. Miller was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, resulting in chronic back and neck pain with severe limitation in her ability to bend, twist and lift.

Thanks to some creative thinking and to a public/private partnership with the Colorado AgrAbility Project, Miller did not have to give up her dream of small-scale farming. An analysis of Miller’s abilities and limitations by AgrAbility found that a utility vehicle designed for an agricultural setting would be the ticket for getting Miller back into control of her farm.

AgrAbility project manager Candy Leathers described the equipment as an “equalizer” by leveling the playing field for Miller to access her property, perform general maintenance of her large gardens and tend to her animals independently.

Colorado State University Extension and Goodwill Industries of Denver work together on the Colorado AgrAbility Project to provide disability workshops, on-site evaluations, resource information, equipment modification and assistive technology for ag producers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture provides funding for the Colorado AgrAbility Project.

Colorado AgrAbility will host a free workshop in Steamboat Springs this winter. The workshop, “AgrAbility Farm/Ranch Adaptations & Financial Resources,” will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 29 and includes lunch for those who preregister. For more information and to register, call the Routt County Extension office at 970-879-0825.

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