With the increased awareness of local foods and health benefits, home gardening has been become a popular activity. In turn, the number of gardening-related injuries has increased. These injuries can be attributed to increased strenuous activities over the weekend – the endearing term “weekend warrior” comes to mind.
Improper work practices while gardening may make it difficult for you to enjoy your favorite past time. Before you head out to the garden consider your most important tool- YOU! Stretching warms up your joints and muscles to make your gardening activity more enjoyable.
You can also help prevent injury or undue stress while working in the garden by listening to your body. Respect pain, it’s a warning signal that something isn’t right. Be mindful of your posture while working; poor posture can lead to fatigue and strains. Avoid staying in one position too long by switching tasks routinely – bend, stretch and move around to avoid stiffness. Likewise, repetitive motion activities can lead to injuries or strains. Mix it up while working – weed, hoe, enjoy! Being safe also includes being aware of pinch points and cutting edges – wearing the appropriate protective gear while working, including sun protection. Beware of carrying loads that are too heavy, use assistive tools such as wheel barrows, and proper lifting techniques.
Ergonomically designed tools are becoming more popular and are widely available. These tools are designed to keep the body in neutral positions to minimize stress on joints while maximizing power with less energy. Ergonomic tools are generally made with large, soft handles to allow you to get a better grip on the tool while reducing vibration and slipping. The tool should also have a depression or ridge on the top of the tool for your thumb to rest against. This will assist in keeping your wrist in a neutral position as you work. Spring loaded or power assist tools will make your job easier and faster while longer handles on tools will allow you to reduce back strain and increase leverage which requires less strength.
Also consider the weight of the garden tool, most are designed for men, but some are designed especially for women. Lightweight or telescoping tools can extend your reach and reduce strain on your back or awkward reaching positions. Tools can be adapted at home with the addition of PVC piping to lengthen the tool, and additional handle or “D-grip” for a two-handed grip or adding foam insulation to pad the tool. Adapting your tools or garden space to allow you to work upright will reduce back strain and muscle fatigue.
If you are one of the many affected by arthritis, gardening can be an excellent therapy to help maintain flexibility, increased range of motion and increase your quality of life. The Arthritis Foundation has excellent resources available. Employing safe gardening work practices with a focus on basic ergonomics may help you continue to enjoy gardening the whole season long.
Image Description: Umaine ExtensionOxford County office, South ParisMaster Gardners feed hungry
The University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Maine AgrAbility program was mentioned in the Portland Press Herald blog “The Root: Dispatches from Maine’s food sources.” Lani Carlson, Maine AgrAbility project coordinator, spoke about the program that provides services and assistance to support Maine farmers with disabilities and their families so they can continue to have successful agricultural careers.
Friday, April 19, 2013
This hands-on workshop provides participants with an overview of hundreds of assistive technology solutions that can be created in minutes using everyday tools and materials found around the farm or in rural communities. Participants will learn amazing uses for 42 different tools and materials for fabricating quick solutions in rural remote areas without the need for electricity.
Farming values the family working together to take care of the land, animals and farmstead. Farm families are frequently challenged with limited time and resources and are in need of an immediate fix to a challenging situation. When a farmer experiences a disability this sense of urgency is even more important. The assistive technology solutions and methods developing and providing these solutions benefit everyone in all life functions at home, school, work and play.
Dr. Therese Willkomm, PhD, ATP, is an amazing Assistive Technology magician who has invented over 600 different Assistive Technology solutions including 50 different iPad solutions for people with disabilities. Dr. Willkomm holds a PhD in rehabilitation science and technology and is the director of New Hampshire’s state wide Assistive Technology program. She is also a clinical professor in the Department of occupational therapy at UNH and oversees the graduate certificate program in Assistive Technology. She also has over 25 years of experience assisting over 1,200 farmers with disabilities. Dr. Willkomm was the first project coordinator of Breaking New Ground in the Agricultural Engineering Department at Purdue University and has developed over 30 different resources on farming with a disability.
Maine AgrAbility is a non-profit collaboration of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Goodwill Industries of Northern New England, and Alpha One. Maine AgrAbility is part of a nationwide network of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs begun through the 1990 Farm Bill. The goal of the National AgrAbility Project is to inform, educate, and assist farmers, ranchers, farm workers, and their families with disabilities, so they can continue to have successful careers in agriculture.
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Participants will learn how to handle tractors and equipment safely, how to identify hazards, and how to minimize the chances of accidents. The course is open to all adults and youth interested, but priority will be given to youth ages 14 to 16. This course is required for 14 and 15 year olds who plan to operate farm equipment for hire on farms other than their own. A Federal Certificate of Training will be issued at the completion of the course after successful completion of the written test and driving course and with attendance requirements met.
For more information or to register, select a location near you:
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Placing doorbells and wind chimes on the farm may help someone with low vision orient themselves.(Tip courtesy of Oklahoma AgrAbility)
So You Want to Farm in Maine is a farm business course for people who want to start a profitable farm or expand their farm hobby into a profitable business. This course will be offered in eight (8) evening webinars, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., starting Thursday, March 7. Classes will be held on the Internet, live and with an archived version that will be available shortly after the live session.
Topics will include selecting and evaluating a farm enterprise, writing a business plan, record keeping, market research, and much more. The webinar is free. Course texts can be purchased from the UMaine Extension Publications Store.
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Monday evenings in April. The participants will learn how to handle tractors and equipment safely, how to identify hazards and how to minimize the chances of accidents.
Canada’s farm fatality rate seen declining, Oldest farmers at higher risk; child deaths “still too high”
The Kennebec Journal posted online a photograph of a central Maine woman receiving a free hearing checkup at the Maine Agricultural Trades Show by a technician participating in the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Maine AgrAbility program, which assists farmers with chronic health issues and disabilities across the state.
Farming doesn’t stop in the winter: animals still need to be fed, chores completed, fences repaired. Here are some reminders for farmers who are working out in the cold, adapted from a winter hiking tip sheet.
1. Dress like an onion.
You know it – dress in layers. Wait 10 minutes and the weather is liable to change so having a variety of insulating clothing will help you regulate your body temperature and stay comfortable. It’s also a good idea to have two layers of gloves or mittens, one for insulation and one for waterproofing.
2. Pace yourself and start early.
Be reasonable about the duration and difficulty of a task. While the task might be a cinch in warmer weather, ice or snow can change the work. Also consider access around your farm and equipment. The sun sets much earlier in the winter months, plan accordingly to finish your work before dark to avoid having an accident.
3. Bring safety gear.
There are a few basic items that every farmer should carry in case of emergency. Aside from basic work personal protective equipment (PPE) a first aid kit, a pocket knife or multi-tool, a headlamp and a radio or cell phone.
4. Keep and eye on the weather.
Keep an eye on the weather conditions, not just the temperature. Changing conditions can alter accessibility, visibility and mobility.
5. Watch your step.
When the conditions are icy, be sure to use salt or sand in work areas. Or try using cleats or ice-crunchers on your boots; they will give you extra traction too. Take it slow when you’re starting out to avoid accidents.
6. Tell someone where you’ll be working.
You should always tell someone where you’ll be working and when you’ll be done. In case of an accident, someone will notice if you don’t show up at the right time.
It is essential to drink plenty of water when working outside in the winter, as dehydration is a common problem. Add some comfort to your work by bringing coffee or cocoa in a thermos. A hot beverage can warm you up and provide a nice break from chores.
8. Invest in good work gear.
There are some basic items that every farmer should be prepared to buy: waterproof pants and jacket, waterproof boots, an insulated jacket, hats and gloves as well as eye protection (sun glasses). It can be expensive when you’re getting started, but by dressing in layers, most of the gear can be useful in any season.
9. Be prepared to finish at another time.
Don’t hesitate to stop and take a break if the conditions look dangerous. Finishing the farm chore is just half the journey; you must have time and energy left over to finish your other daily farm chores.
10. Fuel your body.
Be sure to fuel your body with nutritious food and healthy meals. Keeping your body safe and running is the best way to keep farming in the future.
(Adapted from “10 Tips for Safe and Comfortable Winter Hiking”, 3/7/08, http://matadornetwork.com/notebook/10-tips-for-safe-and-comfortable-winter-hiking/)