Community Agriculture Alliance: AgrAbility program helping ranchers |

Community Agriculture Alliance: AgrAbility program helping ranchers

Karen Massey/For the Steamboat Today

— Milner rancher Diane Holly has worked hard all of her life.

"As I get older, I find that I can't lift and pull as much weight as I used to. By attending CSU Extension's AgrAbility workshop, I learned to work smarter, not harder," she said.

Holly said she was pleased to discover the resources and networking that Colorado AgrAbility can provide.

"They will even come to my ranch to evaluate hazards and help me with modifications to make work easier," she said.

The tool that Holly is most excited about is a modified shovel. Back and elbow pain are her biggest challenges, but during the workshop, she learned about a new shovel designed with an additional side handle that will help protect her back. Attendees also learned about non-skid mats, new gate applications, motorized seats and many smaller adaptations that can make ranching and farming easier.

AgrAbility is a unique USDA-funded program run by Colorado State University Extension and Goodwill Industries Denver. The program acknowledges the fact that farming and ranching are physically demanding and potentially dangerous professions. AgrAbility's mission is to help farmers and ranchers with disabilities so they can stay on their farms and ranches. Modifications can be straightforward, such as shock-absorbing tractor seats to reduce back pain. Modifications also can be complex, such as lifts to help workers with heavy loading or rear-mount cameras to help drivers avoid neck strain.

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The Colorado AgriAbility Project has changed the lives of hundreds of Colorado farmers, ranchers and their family members since the program started in 1998. Its assistance has improved the work performance of injured, disabled and aging farmers, ranchers and their family members. Results from the program also have been shown to reduce the potential for a secondary injury or illness through awareness and improved working conditions. Most important, AgrAbility has helped individuals regain their independence at work, at home and in their community and returned them to what they love — farming and ranching.

CSU Extension specialist Dr. Robert Fetch and his AgrAbility team provide their services free of charge to Routt County farm and ranch families. This year they provided a half-day workshop to 12 local ranchers and will follow up with on-site consultations, technical assistance and referrals to local professional service providers. If you missed this year's program, call the Routt County Extension office at 970-879-0825 for information about the next AgrAbility workshop.

The Colorado AgrAbility Project is designed to serve all Colorado ranching and farming families. Individuals do not need to attend a workshop to receive assistance. Program details, success stories and winter workshop schedules are listed on the Colorado AgrAbility website at

Massey is the interim director of the Routt County Extension Service.

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