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Karl Guenther Column: AgrAbility


 A recent Farm Bureau publication noted an expansion of access for disabled farmers.  It’s coming by way of a series of grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, financing an extension of a help program called AgrAbility.  We are all aware, I expect of the thousands and thousands of military personnel coming back to the states with permanent disabling injuries.  That circumstance prompted this "Komment on AgrAbility"

According to Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA’s chief scientist and undersecretary for research, education and economics, nearly 2 million individuals working in U.S. Agriculture live with a disability that affects their work and daily life.  AgrAbility has been in Michigan for several years, having started in Indiana, and quickly making its way North.

Michigan AgrAbility is housed in the Clinton County MSU Extension office, and is funded through a partnership involving MSU Extension, Easter Seals, Michigan Farm Bureau, United Cerebral Palsy and Michigan Rehabilitation Services.  A good deal of AgrAbility is provided without cost, but not everything.  For example, some assistance with the cost of equipment may be available from Rehab Services and Easter Seals, the farmer is always asked to share the costs to the extent possible.

In a late-February web site illustration, I found 29 of our 83 counties where no farmer is reported to have taken advantage of these services.  Two very busy agricultural counties, Cass and Branch, are among the 29.  These services are confidential, so one doesn’t know many particulars, unless personally acquainted.

There was a publication-Michigan Farm News-in the summer of ’05 that told of Linda Streeter’s Quarter-Circle-S farm at Lawton in Van Buren County.  Streeter became burdened with post-polio syndrome. That’s a condition that befalls polio victims as much as 40 years after the initial recovery, characterized by progressive muscle weakness and atrophy, joint pain, and skeletal deformities.  Streeter has been able to maintain her successful career breeding and selling Paint horses. AgrAbility managed modifications to her bathroom shower, and provided technical assistance with a new computer system, mechanically improved the utility vehicle she uses to get around the farm, and engineered an extra step for mounting her tractor.

MSU Extension is a major part of AgrAbility, one part of its long-term mission, to extend the University beyond the campus and onto the farms and other holdings in rural Michigan.

Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster at WKZO and can be reached at khguenther@att.net. He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.