At their annual workshop in Montezuma County on Thursday, members of the Colorado AgrAbility Project attempted to help local farmers with physical limitations get a better grip on their business.
The National AgrAbility Project, which advises disabled and aging farmers on how to stay in business, was created through the Farm Bill of 1990 and has chapters in 22 states. In Colorado, Montezuma County is one of several regions where the project holds workshops once a year to advertise its services and teach farmers how to overcome various disabilities. About a dozen people attended Thursday’s workshop, which was held at Southwest Colorado Community College in partnership with the Colorado State University extension office.
AgrAbility has numerous clients in Montezuma County, according to Candy Leathers, one of the project’s rural rehabilitation specialists. The organization has hosted workshops in the region for about 20 years, although she said it didn’t come to Montezuma County last year.
“The focus for the AgrAbility project ... is really to address people with limitations–physical limitations, psychological limitations,” Leathers said. “Our real focus is helping people with limitations remain in ag.”
On Thursday, she and fellow specialist James Craig showed the audience a wide variety of tools designed to help with common problems like arthritis. The latest gadgets available to farmers include grip aids, a hand-operated lever for farmers who can’t use tractor pedals with their feet, specialized wheelchairs and many more. AgrAbility can’t provide funds to farmers directly, but it does offer free on-site visits in which staff assess farmers’ needs and give them advice on how to acquire adaptive technology to help with any limitations they have.
The specialists also advised farmers on how to use technology to minimize the risk of injury in the first place. Another section of the workshop focused on how to work with agricultural lenders and develop long-term saving strategies. Norman Dalsted, of Colorado State University, finished up the workshop with a presentation on the economic outlook for various crops and meat products in 2018. Leathers said “fact-based” information like this is crucial to the AgrAbility program and the CSU extension offices that partner with it.
Judy Lichliter, a farmer who attended the workshop, said she would like to see bigger crowds at future AgrAbility events.
“These people are awesome,” she said. “(Farmers) and ranchers need these kinds of things to come into our community, and it’s awesome when they do.”
Leathers said she would speak at several more AgrAbility workshops this month. The next scheduled workshop will be in Greeley on Feb. 12. The organization conducts needs assessments on farms and ranches year-round.