About agrabilitypa

The mission of AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians is to assist farmers and agricultural workers with a disability or long-term health condition by providing the resources and support they need to live independently and continue in production agriculture.

PSU’s 2017 Ag Progress Days: Aug 15-17

AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians will participate in Penn State’s 2017 Ag Progress Days, which takes place on Tuesday, August 15 through Thursday, August 17 at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rocks Spring. Ag Progress Days is Pennsylvania’s largest outdoor agricultural exposition.

AgrAbility PA is teaming up with the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health to host activities in the Rural Health & Safety Tent located at the end of West 6th St., next to the Farm Safety Demonstration Area.

IMG_1068Staff members from AgrAbility PA will be present to share information and resources with farmers and agricultural workers on how to remain in farming despite a disability or long-term health condition. Visitors to the AgrAbility PA booth will also be able to see examples of adaptive equipment, assistive technologies, and other modifications that make working around the farm more accessible.

Visitors to the Rural Health & Safety Tent may also take advantage of free daily health screenings that will be provided:

  • Vision tests from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Blood pressure readings from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Personal protection equipment presentations at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
    (Earn one core pesticide credit by attending a 30-minute presentation)
  • Stroke risk assessments from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Resources about dental hygiene
Additional information will be provided by Centre HomeCare, New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health, Mount Nittany Health, North Central Sight Services, and the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health.

 

ACCESSIBILITY AT THE SHOW

Concerned about mobility around the show grounds? Individuals with medical conditions or disabilities are welcome (and encouraged) to bring their own mobility aid devices — Ventracs, utility vehicles, power wheelchairs, and so forth.

Golf carts (courtesy of Lancaster Farming) will be available on a first come, first serve basis for TWO HOUR increments to individuals who need them for mobility. You can find this service located in the Ag Pavilion near Headquarters (the white house).

T&B Medical has a limited supply of scooter rentals available onsite. Pre-reservations are recommended. Contact: 888-950-0900 or 814-466-8736.

Accessible parking spaces are available for individuals displaying handicap permits. All parking is free.

Still have questions? Please contact Abbie Spackman (AgrAbility PA Project Assistant) at 814-867-5288 or aes5450@psu.edu.

 

 

Sponsored by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, nine miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 15; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 16; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 17. Admission and parking are free.

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View of West Side of Ag Progress Days with the Rural Health & Safety Tent in the background. Source: Ag Progress Days Flickr Account

For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website. Twitter users can find and share information about the event by using the hashtag #agprogressdays and Facebook users can find the event here.

About AgrAbility PA

AgrAbility PA is a statewide partnership between Penn State Extension and UCP Central PA in support of a project funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Since initial funding in 1991, NIFA has awarded AgrAbility grants to more than 35 states resulting in on-farm assistance to more than 12,000 farmers, while educating thousands of professionals on how to accommodate those with disabilities in agriculture.

AgrAbility PA assists farmers and other agricultural workers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with disabilities or long-term health conditions by providing the resources and support they need to live independently and to continue working in or return to production agriculture. AgrAbility PA has been providing information and direct services to farmers and farm family members affected by disability or long term health condition since 1995. Some of the more common disabilities or health conditions that Pennsylvania farmers may have include: arthritis, spinal cord injury, amputation, traumatic brain injury, stroke, diabetes, visual or hearing loss, respiratory problems, and back impairment or joint injuries.

AgrAbility PA staff provides a variety of services, at no cost, for farmers and farm families:

  • On-site farm assessment to identify barriers to completing essential everyday tasks and chores, both in the agricultural workplace and the home.
  • Identification of safe and appropriate assistive technologies (equipment/devices and efficient modified work practices).
  • Referral to information resource materials on a variety of topics related to agriculture and disability.
  • Access to face-to-face educational training opportunities through workshops, conferences, and seminars as well as online blogs and programs.
  • Referral to other service providers for potential assistance (e.g., funding resources, occupational or physical therapy assessments) specific to the farmer’s or farm family’s needs.
  • Provide peer support opportunities to connect farmers to one another.

AgrAbility PA does not provide direct funding, however, the staff works with the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF), Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT), and other third-party funding sources to help farmers and farm families obtain needed equipment, assistive technologies, and/or modifications.

For more information, visit the AgrAbility PA website or follow AgrAbility PA on social media: Like us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or on our WordPress blog. Contact AgrAbility PA at AgrAbility@psu.edu or (814) 867-5288 for more details.

About Ag Progress Days

Ag Progress Days features the latest technology and research exhibits, educational programs, and guided tours. Sponsored by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, it is one of only three agricultural exhibitions in the country sponsored by a major university. Exhibits showcase the latest in Penn State research, as well as information on best management practices and changing regulations in the agricultural industry.

With close to 500 exhibitors from 34 states and 4 provinces of Canada, there is something for everyone. Each year, farming families from across Pennsylvania and surrounding states attend this three-day event. Of the 45,000 expected attendees, over 60 percent are actively engaged in agriculture or related professions. Ag Progress Days features more than 80 acres for crops and machinery demonstrations, and 55 acres for indoor and outdoor exhibits.

For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website at http://apd.psu.edu. Twitter users can find and share information about the event by using the hashtag #agprogressdays and Facebook users can find the event here.

Q&A with AgrAbility PA’s Occupational Therapist: Dwight Heller

What to Expect During an On-Farm Occupational Therapy Evaluation

guy with sheep croppedOccupational therapy (OT) is a healthcare profession that focuses on helping people participate in the meaningful activities they need and want to do. Occupational therapists enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health and prevent—or live better with—injury, illness, or a disability.

AgrAbility PA services include an on-farm occupational therapy evaluation that is FREE to the farmer. Evaluations are completed by a licensed occupational therapist.

Dwight Heller

Dwight Heller, OTR/L, CHT

Dwight Heller, a licensed OT practitioner, has been working with AgrAbility PA clients since 2001. He shared with us answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the OT evaluation process.

Why is an OT evaluation important to my farming future?

OT is about optimizing one’s ability to be as independent as possible with their farming daily activities yet at the same time enabling them to cope with their medical disability. The origins of OT includes adaptive equipment. Farming is a very difficult job both physically and mentally. OT can educate farmers on ways to incorporate joint and soft tissue conservation preventing deformity by means of adaptive equipment.

 

What typically happens during an on-farm OT evaluation?

It consists of working with individual farmers’ as a team member reviewing their medical history, cardio-respiratory skills, orthopedic status, skin integrity, extremity active and passive movement, muscle strength, and problem areas that each one is having due to their medical complexities. We then collaboratively match adaptive equipment to their medical problem, which will enable them to farm with greater ease, efficiency, independence, and safety.

How should I prepare for the evaluation?

Allow a few hours during the day to complete all the comprehensive steps of the evaluation. Portions of the evaluation are completed indoors as well as outdoors. The evaluation will also include observation of actual or simulated farming activities that the farmer is having difficulties performing.

What is the most common disability or long-term health condition evaluated?

Degenerative joint disease or disc disease associated with joint pain and muscle weakness.

Will the occupational therapist understand my farm-specific needs?

I have spent close to half my life working on a dairy farm I can appreciated early mornings and late evening hours working and the 24 hours on the job. I know farming is not always a convenient life but it offers a joyful life through the sense of accomplishment and positive impact to the local communities. I appreciate the benefits of a farming family working together building a life together. Having the medical background from occupational therapy as well as my former farming experience, I am able to individually customize farming adaptive equipment to each farmer complementing their specific need.

How can I receive an occupational therapy evaluation?

Occupational therapy evaluations are part of the services AgrAbility PA provides, FREE of charge, to their clients. Contact AgrAbility PA to determine if you are eligible to receive an evaluation.

Phone: (814) 867-5288
Email: AgrAbility@psu.edu
Web: AgrAbilityPA.org

Dwight Heller was born and raised on a Pennsylvania family-operated dairy farm. He has been in practice for more than 19 years with UPMC/Susquehanna and is a certified hand therapist. He enjoys enabling farmers to resume their passion of farming through the means of adaptive equipment.

Top OT Take-Aways

1. Recognize daily farming activities that are repetitive and labor intensive. Plan your day by pacing your time, simplify the farming task, avoiding extra trips, and repetitive lifting. Take frequent rest breaks.

2. Take a step back and look at the farming activity. Ask yourself: “Is this the most efficient and safe way for me to perform?”

3. Do some basic arm and leg stretches as well as trunk rotation exercises to improve flexibility and prepare joints and soft tissue structures for activity.

AgrAbility PA recognizes winning PA FFA chapters in Bridging Horizons PA Contest

image_leadimageAgrAbility PA recognized three FFA chapters from the mid-state – Cumberland Valley, Central Columbia, and Columbia-Montour A.V.T.S. – as winners in its inaugural Bridging Horizons PA Contest.

The contest provided an opportunity for any Pennsylvania FFA Association chapter to make a positive impact in their community by enhancing independence or promoting success for farmers and their families with disabilities.

Entry categories included three options: completing a service project, developing an assistive technology tabletop demo, or creating a video presentation. The Central Columbia FFA and Columbia-Montour AVTS FFA chapters split $400 as they collaborated on a service project. The Cumberland County FFA received $400 for an assistive technology tabletop demo.

Student representatives from each chapter accepted certificates on June 14 during a General Session event at the Bryce Jordan Center as part of Pennsylvania FFA’s 88th State Convention & Activities Week at Penn State. AgrAbility PA Project Director and Penn State Associate Professor of Agricultural and Extension Education Dr. Connie Baggett presented the awards on stage to Nina, Nick, and Kennedy.

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Dr. Connie Baggett with Nina, Nick, and Kennedy at the 88th State Convention & Activities Week.

“We are pleased to recognize these students, in conjunction with their FFA chapter, whom exemplify not only the core principles of the Pennsylvania FFA – Purpose, Passion, and Potential – but also for their leadership to serve their communities at large with their time and talents,” said Dr. Baggett.

Mike Brammer, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania FFA, thanked AgrAbility PA for offering the Bridging Horizons PA Contest to FFA chapters as a way to support school-based agricultural education.

 

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Students from the Central Columbia FFA and Columbia-Montour AVTS FFA chapters worked collaboratively at the Eos Therapeutic Riding Center in Bloomsburg, Pa. The center provides therapeutic horseback riding lessons for mentally, physically, and emotionally challenged children and adults. The students worked over the course of a year to assist with facility needs, riding equipment needs, and rider needs.

A student with the Cumberland Valley FFA chapter developed a myoelectric prosthetic hand. This assistive technology developed out of an agriscience research project conducted by a student with an interest in robotics and prosthetics. The student started by creating models of hands from drinking straws and emerged into creating a function model out of lumber. The project evolved after a model of a hand was 3-D printed and programmed to operate from an electrical stimulus.

AgrAbility PA assists farmers and agricultural workers with disabilities or long-term health conditions by linking them with potential resources and by providing support they need to live independently and continue working in or return to production agriculture.

Information about next year’s Bridging Horizons Contest will be available on September 1, 2017 at http://www.bridginghorizonspa.org.

AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians (AgrAbility PA) is a statewide partnership between Penn State Extension and UCP Central PA in support of a project funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Learn more about AgrAbility PA by visiting http://www.AgrAbilityPA.org, calling (814) 867-5288, emailing AgrAbility@psu.edu, or searching @AgrAbilityPA on social media.

 

Assistive Technology Matters: Gathering in Washington, D.C. to inform legislators

US_CapitolIt was a busy day in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, June 22. And not only because it was the day that Senate Republicans shared their version of a healthcare reform bill. Although that certainly added to the political atmosphere. 🙂

AgrAbility PA joined the National AgrAbility Project for a day of informing legislators, staffers, and legislative aides about assistive technology and the important and necessary role it plays in the everyday lives of people with a disability or long-term health condition. That includes farmers, agricultural workers, and ranchers across the country!

As many said, “It’s not a want. It’s a need. Technology matters.”

The event held at the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill was sponsored by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD). It is a coalition of more than 100 national disability organizations working together to advocate for national public policy that ensures the self-determination, independence, empowerment,  integration, and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of society.

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U.S. Representative Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, of PA’s 5th district

Several legislators visited the event to offer words of encouragement and ensure support from Congress, including U.S. Senator Ed Markey and U.S. Representative Joe Kennedy III, both of Massachusetts, and U.S. Representative Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, who is the U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 5th congressional district, serving since 2009. He represents Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Huntingdon, Jefferson, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Venango, and Warren counties in Pennsylvania. Rep. Thompson specifically called out AgrAbility as an example of a program that has had and continues to have a significant impact on those who work in the agricultural industry — an industry of critical importance in a state like Pennsylvania.

IMG_2666.JPGA panel consisting of consumers and their families shared personal stories about how assistive technology has impacted their lives in so many ways — from a mother sharing about her daughter born with cerebral palsy to a young man who was the victim of a violent attack that left him paralyzed. All emphasized the importance of access to assistive technology.

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Dr. Connie Baggett, Paul Jones, and Kendra Martin (left to right)

AgrAbility PA staff Dr. Connie Baggett, project director, and Kendra Martin, outreach coordinator, joined National AgrAbility Project staff member Paul Jones at a booth to share information on assistive technology related to agriculture — from ergonomic gardening tools to automated doors and lifts — and how it greatly benefits farmers with mobility impairments, joint injuries, arthritis, and other conditions.

Several organizations representing the field of assistive technology were in attendance, including Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT). PIAT strives to enhance the lives of all Pennsylvanians with disabilities, older Pennsylvanians, and their families through access to and acquisition of assistive technology devices and services, which allow for choice, control, and independence at home, work, school, play, and in their neighborhoods. Kim Singleton, director of assistive technology programs, was on-hand to answers questions and demonstrate a new piece of robot technology guided by a smart phone for the home.

Many thanks to Perkins School for the Blind, RESNA, National Disability Rights Network, Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs, and American Foundation for the Blind for their leadership in organizing the event.

About AgrAbility PA

AgrAbility PA assists farmers and agricultural workers with disabilities or long-term health conditions by linking them to potential resources and by providing support they need to live independently and continue working in or return to production agriculture.

AgrAbility PA is a statewide partnership between Penn State Extension and UCP Central PA in support of a project funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Learn more about AgrAbility PA by visiting http://www.AgrAbilityPA.org, calling (814) 867-5288, emailing AgrAbility@psu.edu, or searching @AgrAbilityPA on social media.

Improved Workflow Leads to Enhanced Farm Living for Todd Zimmerman

 

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Todd with the 3-ton bulk feed bin.

Todd Zimmerman knows all about the benefits of working with an occupational therapist (OT) to ease his pain and better his workflow around the farm. He had the opportunity through AgrAbility PA and the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) to receive on-farm visits from a licensed OT practitioner in 2008 and 2016.

On the surface, the story is a familiar one: Farmer has work to attend to on the farm, but experiences pain and discomfort due to a disability or long-term health condition. In Todd’s case, a back injury in 1991 coupled with degenerative disc disease that has taken its toll on his spine over the years.

Todd owns a dairy goat farm, Four Zimm Dairy Plus, in Union County, selling raw milk and making homemade goat milk soap with essential oils. He first contacted AgrAbility PA in 2008, which initiated a visit from an AgrAbility staff member to provide a farm assessment and recommendations. Todd also received a visit from Dwight Heller, a licensed OT specialist, and representatives from OVR. This team walked with Todd – step by step – through his daily activities on the farm. Dwight was able to make suggestions along the way to improve the function and flow of Todd’s workday – from feeding to cleaning and everything in between.

“Dwight has an agricultural background – having grown up on a farm – but he is very good at what he does now. He can come up with ideas to help in the short term, as well as considerations for down the road,” Todd said.

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Todd with his goats.

For example, using a milking stand. Dwight worked with Todd to adjust the set-up, depending on whether or not he was using a walker to aid in his mobility. Dwight also suggested changes to the feeding process. Todd had to break down 50 lbs. bags into 5-gallon buckets in order to carry them. Similarly, forking manure was a significant strain on his back.

OVR was able to assist with the cost of improving the workflow around Todd’s farm. First, with the purchase of a 3-ton bulk feed bin. Feed is blown into the bulk bin monthly and then an auger draws it down for Todd to distribute. Secondly, by concreting the barn floors, Todd can use his tractor to move manure. He also received a composter. These improvements have drastically eased the strain on Todd’s body.

In 2016, Dwight visited again to review Todd’s workflow and to offer suggestions on the soap making process. Todd was using an old table to handle and label the soaps prior to distribution, causing him strain and pain. Dwight suggested a Varidesk – an adjustable-height standing desk that allows you to switch between standing and sitting while working. OVR was able to assist with the purchase of a desk.

Todd is grateful for the support to continue farming, thanks to AgrAbility PA and OVR. The time spent with Dwight has truly made a lasting impact on his daily work.

“If anyone is on the fence about contacting AgrAbility PA, I’d tell them to go ahead. It needs to be done to ensure you will be able to do the work you love,” Todd said.

* Todd’s story appeared in Field Notes, AgrAbility PA’s printed newsletter. Contact us to be added to our mailing list.

About AgrAbility PA

AgrAbility PA assists farmers and agricultural workers with disabilities or long-term health conditions by linking them to potential resources and by providing support they need to live independently and continue working in or return to production agriculture.

AgrAbility PA is a statewide partnership between Penn State Extension and UCP Central PA in support of a project funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Learn more about AgrAbility PA by visiting http://www.AgrAbilityPA.org, calling (814) 867-5288, emailing AgrAbility@psu.edu, or searching @AgrAbilityPA on social media.