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Hancock, J., M.A. Purschwitz, K. Sheppard-Jones
Kentucky agriculture is as diverse as the landscape from the Mississippi River bottoms in western Kentucky to the eastern Kentucky Appalachian Mountains. In 2002, 18.4% of Kentucky employment was farm or farm-related (Census, 2005). According to the 2005 Kentucky Department of Agriculture Report, agriculture is the largest industry in the state. In 2007, Kentucky ranked fourth nationally in the numbers of farms with 85,260 - the highest number east of the Mississippi River. Of these, 89% were family farms and over 95% were small farms. The average age of Kentucky farmers increased to 56.5 years, with the number of full-time farmers decreasing to 40%. Farm operators included 32,652 women, 1,005 were minority/socially disadvantaged including African American, and 29,247 were 65 or older. Overall Kentucky's farm product sales were $4.82 billion (NASS, 2007).
The vast majority of Kentucky's farmers, particularly high percentages of Kentucky's African American and women famers, have livestock on their farms, with horses, poultry, and beef cattle being Kentucky's three major agricultural products. Kentucky farmers have diversified from large row crops (corn and soybean) to hay, vegetable, horticulture, and nursery.
Kentucky is a largely rural state, with 117 of its 120 counties classified as rural. Those living in agricultural settings often experience greater isolation and depressed economic opportunities. Kentucky is the 6th poorest state in the country, with over 17% of the population living below the poverty line (US estimates, 2008). According to the US Census Bureau, 23.7% of Kentuckians, age 5 and older, have a disability as compared to 19.3% of the US population (Census Brief, 2003). In fact, only West Virginia's disability rate exceeds Kentucky (Census Brief, 2003). Of those with disabilities, nearly 30% live in poverty. For people who have a disability, the implications of a rural life can mean even larger disparities in opportunities. Urban and rural communities have different health priorities that are related to differences in demographics, health behavior, geographic isolation, and access to health care (Eberhardt, 2001).
While it is true that those with disabilities in rural settings have experienced a long history of problems with transportation, employment, and access to health care, a new reliance on technology and innovative approaches to service delivery, such as Kentucky AgrAbility, can offer new insights (Harley, Bishop & Wilson, 2002). Having a disability merely increases the need for interventions that may be medical, physical, social, emotional, or societal. This is compounded when those who experience injuries or disabilities don't know where to look for assistance. Typically resilient and self-reliant farm families may not ask for help when disability strikes. This means that without an understanding of the potential for rehabilitation, these individuals may be forced to choose alternate occupations or, worse yet, no occupation at all. Kentucky AgrAbility assists in alleviating the impacts of disability and the challenges inherent in rural life.
2010 Project Description
Events: Distributed and/or presented KY AgrAbility information at the following conferences: 11 KSU Field days; ADED Workshop; AgrAbility National Workshop; Assistive Technology Conference; Eastern KY Field day; KY Women in Ag Conference; National Farm Machinery Show; KARRN Conference; UK's AG Agent Update; UK Extension Districts 1 and 2 Staff Meetings; KSU Research Farm and Extension Staff Trainings; Anderson County Cattleman's Assoc. monthly meeting; Harrodsburg Rotary Club; Migrant Worker Employment Program; KSU Small Farm Conference; Regional Voc Rehab(VR) Staff Meetings; KARRN Videoconference; Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Resident Program; West Tennessee Field Day; Sunbelt Expo; National Physical Therapy Meeting; KY Office of the Blind; Disability awareness merit badge to Boy Scouts; KSU Environmental Educational Unit; Accessible bee training workshops.
Activities and Services: 56 farm/farmer assessments, 30 referrals to VR, 150 one-on-one consultations; weekly consultations with the KY Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital, Monthly meetings with KARRN. Products: Equipment for Demonstration farm: fabricate modifications for skid steer loader; Skid Steer bridge; Kubota Utility Vehicle Lift, Hand Controls, seat modification and three-point hitch; John Deere Tractor Lifts and hitching devices; Transfer seat lift and wheelchair lift added to AgrAbility demonstration truck; Developed safe tractor operation assessment protocols, Training modules for assistive technology, physical accessibility, farm safety and AgrAbility. Online training for allied health professionals. Updated AgrAbility website (http://www.ca.uky.edu/anr/Agrability.htm). Develop Youtube channel for AgrAbility modifications and education; Meet with KY Veterans Administration Rehabilitation (a new collaboration).
Technology for individuals: through collaboration with VR we have been able to design, fabricate and install electronic controls for clutch, brake, throttle and differential on 2 farmers tractors; 2 seated lifts; 6 standing tractor and combine lifts; helped farmers acquire 4 utility vehicles for mobility on the farm; 1 tractor with hydrostatic transmission and remote cameras; 2 loaders; 2 lift pods for tractor access; modifications to a skid steer including tracks, controller modifications, cab AC, camera system; wheelchair accessible kitchen modifications; automated poultry and egg processing equipment; vehicle modifications for on-road vehicles; mechanical hand controls for tractor. Through our collaborative cooperation with partners, AgrAbility was able to acquire an estimated $257,500 in funding for equipment enabling disabled/injured farmers to continue their livelihood and keep farming in Kentucky.
Change in knowledge: Through conferences, workshops and displays we have directly informed/educated approximately 1000 consumer/farmers about the availability of assistive technology for agricultural occupations, the Kentucky AgrAbility project, and how to obtain services through the project. Indirectly through conference attendance, pamphlets, newsletters and updated websites, we have introduced the AgrAbility project to approximately 400,000 people. We have trained approximately 400 allied health professionals, UK extension agents, vocational rehabilitation staff, KSU extension agents, KSU research personnel in assistive technology applications for agricultural occupations and how to make referrals to the KY AgrAbility project. We have increased our knowledge in seating and positioning on farm equipment through the acquisition of and training on the pressure mapping system. Through research and application we have increased our knowledge of farm equipment and modified farm equipment's use and safe operation. Through collaboration with the driver rehabilitation program we have learned about procedures and processes for making determination of those individuals' specific needs to allow them to drive safely as well as taught driver rehab people when to refer individuals to AgrAbility. Through our attendance at these conferences, workshops and tradeshows we have learned about new and changing technology in the agricultural fields that we can apply to AgrAbility clients.
Change in Actions: Because of our newly gained pressure mapping knowledge we have begun to use the technology to improve the seating and positioning on farm tractors and prevent secondary injuries. We are using a safe equipment training program to familiarize farmers with disabilities with the use of new and/or modified technology. We have a certified driver rehabilitation specialist who is involved in farm assessments. Kentucky Extension Agents are better versed and able to make referrals to the KY AgrAbility Project (From the District 1 Staff meeting in February 6 referrals were received). At Cardinal Hill inpatient and outpatient staff are now able to recognize clients for referral resulting in approximately 3 referrals per month.
Change in Condition: Vocational Rehabilitation staff have become more aware of farmers and their requirement for off-farm employment. For this reason, Voc Rehab has recognized the need to provide services to individuals with disabilities who have dual employment. A new policy is being developed to address this issue.
Bokros, L., Hancock, J., Hunter, E., Weber, C., Purschwitz, M., 2011, Kentucky AgrAbility, Promotes/disseminates AgrAbility educational information and assistive technology to Kentucky farmers and families as well as allied health professionals.
Wasson, Katheran (2010). Farmers offered a lift: Latest equipment gets them back on the farm after injuries. The State Journal, Frankfort, KY, July 16, 2010.
Hancock Speaks to Rotary, Harrodsburg Herald, February 2, 2011.
Hunter, E.G., Hancock, J., Weber, C., Simon, M. (2011) Developing Innovative partnerships to address health disparities among underserved farmers with disabilities. Journal of Agromedicine (16), 2.
Kitzman, P. and Hunter, E.G. (2011) Developing a community based rehabilitation network for people with spinal cord injury in Appalachian Kentucky. Journal of Rural and Community Development.