Vermont AgrAbility Helps Disabled and Suffering Vermont Farmers

by Geoffrey Whitchurch

We have all been injured in one way or another at work or at play. Sustaining an injury usually affects our ability to be as productive as our uninjured selves. Many of us will heal fairly quickly and get back to business as usual. What happens to those who do not recover from their injury? What happens to a farm or other agricultural enterprise when a farmer or farmhand is unable to work due to an injury or a chronic health condition?

The University of Vermont Extension has a couple of programs in place that address this and related issues. The Rebates for Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS) program helps prevent injury by providing a 70 percent rebate (up to $865) for the installation of an ROPS on farm equipment. The Vermont AgrAbility Project provides resources for farm and equipment modifications to farmers with a disability or chronic health condition.

Agriculture consistently ranks as one of the nation's most dangerous occupations. Each year, agricultural workers in Vermont sustain disabling injuries in work-related accidents, nonfarm injuries, illness and other chronic health conditions. The effects of a farm going out of business are felt from the family level to the state level. Farming has about a $4 billion impact on Vermont's economy ( When farms go out of business or do not run efficiently, families are devastated and Vermont suffers.

Preventing Injury
The first step toward keeping a productive farm in business is ensuring safety. When seven out of 10 farms are out of business within a year of a tractor rollover, it makes sense to protect yourself, your family and your business. Rollover protective structures are 99 percent effective (when used with a seat belt) in preventing rollover deaths and serious injuries. If your tractor does not have an ROPS installed, do it now! You can save 70 percent (up to $865) on costs to retrofit your tractor with an ROPS. Just call 877-767-7748 with the year, make and model of your tractor and they will help you find the right ROPS. This rebate offer ends soon.

Accommodating an Injury
So what happens when a farmer or other agricultural worker must live with an injury indefinitely? Vermont AgrAbility is a free, confidential service provided by University of Vermont Extension that promotes success in Vermont agriculture for people with health conditions and their families.

Vermont AgrAbility helps farmers and agricultural workers with chronic health conditions gain more control over their lives, continue to farm successfully, and live independently. They offer education, assistance, referrals for financial assistance, and facilitation of farm modifications to accommodate your unique abilities.

Vermont farmers and agricultural workers eligible for Vermont AgrAbility services may have any type of acquired or traumatic disability--physical, cognitive or sensory.
AgrAbility addresses many conditions, including, but not limited to:
  • Arthritis
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Paralysis
  • Back impairment
  • Amputation
  • Brain injury
  • Visual/hearing
  • Respiratory
  • Muscular

No-Cost Services
1. Information and referral
  • Information about farming with a disability
  • Referrals for financial assistance
2. On-Site and Technical Assistance
  • Restructure work tasks/operations
  • Modify farm equipment and tools
  • Acquire assistive technologies
  • Explore alternative agriculture enterprises
3. Secondary Injury Prevention
  • How to prevent further injuries or disabling conditions
4. Peer Support
  • Connect with others who have accommodated their disability
Background and Resources
The Vermont AgrAbility Project operates under a grant from the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service in Washington, D.C. A vast network of resources is available to address the individual needs of each farmer. Currently, there are 21 USDA-funded state AgrAbility projects, plus several affiliates serving other states using other funding sources.

Install your ROPS so you do not become an AgrAbility client. If you do sustain an injury or would like to find ways to accommodate an existing injury or disability, take advantage of your Vermont AgrAbility Project. Vermont needs farmers, and AgrAbility may be able to help you continue to farm comfortably and productively.

For more information, contact:
Geoff Whitchurch
802-888-4972, ext. 403