The Ohio AgrAbility Program offers a peer-to-peer farmer support network

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Agriculture ranks as one of the most dangerous jobs in the nation with approximately 1 in 14 farm families having to deal with a farm related injury every year. The Ohio AgrAbility Program is part of a national program that promotes independence for people in agriculture who want to continue farming after experiencing a disabling condition. Our goal is to provide education, resources, and technical assistance to those individuals and their families so they may continue to farm. The Ohio AgrAbility goal of trying to help those farmers and farm workers whom experience an injury is not limited to injuries just on the farm. The program also works with individuals injured off the farm, or experience work limitations due to an illness or other health problems.The goal at Ohio AgrAbility is to get these individuals to work on the farm in a safe manner and help them to resume their life and live as normally as possible. In order to best help, AgrAbility goes out to the farm and assesses the limitations of the farmer. From this assessment, Ohio AgrAbility aims to provide safe and practical solutions for the farmer. The amount of assistance provided by the program varies greatly. Help can range from suggesting simple changes in the farm worker’s routine, to providing assistive equipment necessary for them to continue safe farming and living, despite their limitations. Ohio AgrAbility also works to prevent secondary injuries through educational programs and by providing other safety awareness resources to farmers. Peer-to-peer programAn important part of the Ohio AgrAbility Program is the Peer-to-peer program. This program provides networking support between farmers. This program aims to provide a useful system of giving and receiving help for clients with similar injuries or limitations. This enables farmers to not only share ideas on farming with injuries, but also gives them the opportunity to help each other cope with their limitations. The Peer-to-peer program’s aspiration is to provide hope and a bright future for new and potential members who fear their career and lives are over following a traumatic injury or illness.A good example of the purpose and success of the Peer-to-peer program can be seen through the story of an Allen County farmer. Jeff Austin grew up on the family farm, working with his father and great-grandfather. After graduating from high school, Jeff went on to The Ohio State University, graduating from OSU ATI with a degree in Ag Business and Swine Management. After graduation, Jeff married his wife Kristi and continued to work on the farm with his father. Jeff and Kristi have four children and like a lot of other farmers, Jeff supplemented his farm work with another job at the Lima Refinery. Jeff, along with his family, bought a farm of his own to add to his father’s operation.On July 25, 2013, their lives changed forever. Jeff had been struggling with severe back pain for the prior month and experienced a searing pain down his back and side, and even started losing feeling in his legs. A trip to the local emergency room ended with a life-flight to The OSU Medical Center in Columbus and a diagnosis of cancer on his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Jeff spent the next 6 months in and out of the hospital trying to rebuild his life and learning how to live as a paraplegic. A friend of the family, a retired OSU Extension educator from Allen County and a local Cooperative elevator, referred Jeff to the Ohio AgrAbility program.After meeting with AgrAbility’s Rural Rehabilitation Coordinator, a plan was started to help make Jeff’s life easier on the farm and get him working again. Initially, there seemed to be some apprehension in Jeff and his family’s mind about him being able to work on the farm again. A Peer-to-peer meeting was set with Bill Wilkins, a current AgrAbility member who is also a paraplegic and has been farming from a wheelchair for over 40 years. The two families met at the Wilkins farm and spent much of the day discussing farm work as an impaired worker. Jeff and his family were given hope and saw that while there were adjustments to be made, there was in fact a farming future at the end of the tunnel. Ohio AgrAbility was able to supplement resource sponsorship funds from an Ohio Attorney General grant to purchase a trailer mounted lift to help Jeff transfer from his chair to the cab of the tractor or combine. A meeting with the Austin family after the lift was delivered and installed allowed Ohio AgrAbility to see the appreciation and necessity of the Peer-to-peer Program. The program aided Jeff in his road to independence. This meeting also showed the importance of the peer program immediately after the injury and during rehabilitation. Ultimately, it allowed both Jeff and his family to adapt to a new life style. Jeff’s wife, Kristi, expressed that there is a need to be able to talk with someone whom has been through similar life changing experiences in order to learn how to cope with the new lifestyle. Peer-to-peer panel at Farm Science ReviewFind Ohio AgrAbility program at this year’s Farm Science Review, located in OSU Central. Learn more about the Peer-to-peer program, view Assistive Equipment on display, and talk to current members! There will be two panel discussions held each day of the Review: the first session will be at 10:00 a.m. and the second session at 1:00 p.m. Members of the AgrAbility and Peer-to-Peer program will be available to talk about their injuries and the support they have gained from their involvement in these programs. Come join us at the Farm Science Review to learn more about the program and support our members with a wide range of injuries and limitations.More information on the AgrAbility program can be found online at or by calling Ohio AgrAbility at (614) 292-6008.last_img

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