AgrAbility helps farmers, ranchers with disabilities

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Although Mark Hosier was told he’d never walk again, the Indiana farmer is running a 500-acre farm and 10-sow showpig business entirely on his own.  Injured in 2006 when a 2,000-pound hay bale rolled off his tractor on top of him and crushed two vertebrae, Hosier thought he wouldn’t be able to continue farming.  Today, he operates his tractor with the help of a mechanical lift; modifications to his facilities allow him to care for his hogs from a wheelchair.

A few months after his accident, Hosier and his family learned about AgrAbility, an organization that works to assist disabled agricultural producers in their effort to continue farming.  AgrAbility is operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  A rural rehabilitation specialist from AgrAbility visited the Hosier farm and made recommendations regarding facility and equipment modification options.  In addition to a wider aisles and the mechanical lift added to his tractor, Hosier had the hog stalls raised so he can assist the sows from his wheelchair.  He also had a live-streaming video system installed so that he can monitor the sows from the house and avoid unnecessary trips to the barn.

An estimated 19 percent of farmers are unable to perform essential tasks due to a disability.  However, in a study covering eight states, 88 percent of 366 farmers and ranchers with disabilities are able to engage in farming or ranching activities full- or part-time as a result of AgrAbility services, and 58 percent are able to manage their farms or ranches independently.

NIFA provides funding for 31 state and regional projects and one national project.  Recently, Purdue University was awarded $1,930,513 over the course of four years to lead as the National AgrAbility Project (NAP).

Purdue’s role is to provide training, technical assistance, and information on available resources to state and regional AgrAbility project staff and to promote ongoing growth of AgrAbility services in states that do not have federally-funded AgrAbility projects.

This is the second consecutive NAP award for the Purdue team, which is led by Dr. William Fields.  More information on AgrAbility is available at www.agrability.org.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education, and Extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people’s daily lives and the nation’s future.



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