AgrAbility National Training Workshops Archived

December 17th, 2013 10:16 AM

The AgrAbility Virtual National Training Workshop is an annual web conference consisting of a series of webinars conducted over three days.  Webinars offered included:

  • An update from the USDA NIFA office on AgrAbility
  • Alternative Production Systems for Farmers with Disabilities: Local Food and Beyond
  • The Affordable Care Act for Rural Americans
  • An update from the farmer Veteran Coalition
  • Product Liability in the Farm Equipment Industry
  • Selecting and Evaluating Farm Enterprises for Individuals with Limitations

More information is available on the National AgrAbility program website.


What’s possible: Maine AgrAbility helps farmers with disabilities remain active and independent

December 5th, 2013 10:19 AM
Naomi King and Alexandra Tomaso in an apple orchard

King, far left, operates Pietree Orchard in Sweden, Maine, with the help of her assistant Alexandra Tomaso. Tomaso started working for King this past April at the suggestion of Maine AgrAbility.

Naomi King, a Unitarian Universalist minister and daughter of authors Tabitha and Stephen King, moved to Sweden, Maine in 2012 to be closer to her family after her rare muscular disorder started to advance. King, who uses a wheelchair, took the management job at the family-owned farm business.

By February 2013, the challenges of managing a successful, growing mid-size farm began to take a toll.

“I was at the point where I could not work at all here anymore,” King says.

Then King discovered a reference to the National AgrAbility Project online. When she learned there was a Maine program, King contacted Maine AgrAbility Project Coordinator Lani Carlson to determine if the program would apply to her.

Maine AgrAbility, a USDA grant-funded state program helps farmers with chronic health conditions and disabilities gain more control of their lives, continue to farm successfully and live independently. The Maine AgrAbility program is a nonprofit collaboration of University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Goodwill Industries of Northern New England and Alpha One.

Since receiving USDA funding in 2010, Maine AgrAbility has assisted more than 160 Maine farmers who have disabilities by offering services that range from answering agricultural questions, to suggesting ways to adapt tools or work sites, to referring farmers to other local support agencies.

“I was tremendously discouraged and convinced I couldn’t do anything related to the farm anymore,” King says. “So to be able to come to work six days a week is invaluable to me. It gives me a lot of purpose.”

Read more about King’s experience with Maine AgrAbility.

Low Vision Gardening

December 4th, 2013 2:06 PM

The American Council of the Blind of Maine (ACB of Maine)  shared an article written by David Perry.  David talks about his experiences of  gardening with a vision impairment. The article, Low Vision Gardening, shares tips on planning, organizing and being in the garden as well as how and when to ask for assistance.

New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference – December 17-19, 2013

November 18th, 2013 10:50 AM

New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference and Trade Show
Tuesday through Thursday, December 17-19, 2013
Radisson Hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire

The New England Vegetable and Fruit (NEVF) Conference will include more than 25 educational sessions over 3 days, covering major vegetable, berry and tree fruit crops as well as various special topics. A Farmer to Farmer meeting after each morning and afternoon session will bring speakers and farmers together for informal, in-depth discussion on certain issues. There is also an extensive Trade Show with over 100 exhibitors.

The conference is put together with close collaboration between growers and Cooperative Extension from across the region. This is a great opportunity to meet with fellow growers, advisors, researchers, and industry representatives.

For more information and to register, please visit the NEVF Conference website,

Diabetes Awareness Month & World Diabetes Day November 14

November 14th, 2013 12:13 AM

Diabetes Awareness Month & World Diabetes Day November 14

Diabetes can affect anyone.

A farmer with diabetes should consider their health needs before starting their daily chores. It’s important to pace work throughout the day considering physical endurance as well as food breaks and maintaining communication with someone else nearby.

Physical endurance:

  • Work simplification to avoid getting over tired
  • Having tools and equipment close to where they are used
  • Planning the day, allowing the best use of time and energy

Sense of touch and circulation in extremities:

  • Compensate for the loss of sensation by using other senses
  • Avoid exposure to temperature extremes; wear gloves and boots that fit properly to protect the skin and prevent injury
  • Thoroughly dry hands if exposed to water, use lotion to prevent chapping
  • Inspect skin for cuts or blisters daily; and seek medical attention if needed
  • Increase flexibility and circulation with stretches and exercises throughout the day

Because blood-sugar levels change in relation to activity level and diet, be sure to always have an established source of communication to summon help if needed ie: intercom system, radio or cell phone. Also make sure someone knows where you are and when you should be done.   Additional ideas can be found on the Ohio AgrAbility Fact Sheet: Farming with Diabetes, AEX-982.6-11.


mPower! Financing Adaptive Equipment & Technology

November 12th, 2013 8:09 AM

This free webinar explores Maine’s mPower Loan Program – offering low interest financing that increases the purchasing power of people with disabilities in Maine.

Jeremy Libby, Independent Living Specialist from Alpha One reviews the mPower Loan Program application process and loan eligibility. The mPower Loan Program was created more than 20 years ago as a revolving fund and hundreds of loans have been made and paid back over the years. The presentation will outline many types of adaptive equipment, assistive technology, vehicles and home access modifications that can be bought using mPower funds.

Complete information on how to register for this webinar may be found on this link to the Maine CITE Training page.

Livestock producers who suffer from arthritis can learn ways to manage pain and prevent injury.

November 11th, 2013 11:04 AM

The National AgrAbility Project  at Purdue University will host the free webinar to provide an overview of the tasks related to livestock production and to show the relationship between arthritis pain management and those tasks. “Osteoarthritis, Joint Stress and Injury Prevention in Livestock Production” will be on November 19, 2013 at 3 p.m. (EST).   Webinar to help livestock producers cope with arthritis



Maine Farm Bureau Annual Meeting

November 10th, 2013 11:25 AM

Maine Farm Bureau State Annual Meeting!

November 9 – 11, 2013 at the  Atlantic Oceanside Hotel & Conference Center, Bar Harbor, Maine

62nd Annual Meeting  (hosted by Washington-Hancock County Farm Bureau)

Photo: In Bar Harbor at the annual Maine Farm Bureau	meeting.

Farmer Veteran Coalition

November 1st, 2013 9:04 AM

The article entitled Swords Into Plowshares discusses Michael O’Gorman’s efforts in establishing the Farmer Veteran Coalition in Davis, CA.  The Maine chapter is currently being established to assist veterans in Maine. For more information contact:


50-Cent Fixes

October 22nd, 2013 2:59 PM
By Tom Gillis ATP, Alpha One & Maine AgrAbility

Whether farming is your livelihood or you’re a weekend gardener, the simple fixes listed below can help reduce the stress and wear your body endures while farming to make your work more productive and efficient.

 Standing at a work bench for an extended period fixing that broken mower engine?

Find a scrap piece of 4”x4” and use it as a footrest to periodically shift your weight from side-to-side to relieve pressure in your back and knees.

  Do you experience back or knee discomfort from bending over/down when planting seeds?

Use a scrap piece of PVC pipe at a length long enough to hold while in an upright, standing position.  Straddle your garden rows, push the pipe in to the desired planting depth and simply drop the seed down the pipe.

  Weeding young plants in plastic flats?

Don’t bend over to weed the plants; put the flats on a portable table that you can bring to your worksite.  This will bring the flats to a height that is comfortable for you to work from.

  Washing leafy greens by hand?

Instead of putting stress on your back by bending over and exposing your hands to cold water as you wash, put the greens in a mesh bag and with an erect posture lift the greens out of the water.  This will allow you to efficiently wash more greens, reduce the time your hands are exposed to cold water, limit back strain, and reduce the risk of the greens being damaged during the washing process.

 Having difficulty gripping a pair of pliers or other small hand tools?

Try a product called Sugru or Model Magic which is a light-weight moldable substance. When applied and cured it can be used to “build up” the handles of small hand tools to provide extra gripping area or comfort.  The material can also be used to make a pencil or utensil grips.

 One-handed use of a battery/ electric operated drill?

Use a magnetic drill bit which will make one-handed drill operation easier and more efficient.

 Need reminders about chore times and other tasks around the farm?

Program a list of chores into your cell phone, smart phone or iPad which can give you an auditory prompt (i.e. beep, ring, chime) as to when necessary tasks need to occur.

 Do you have low vision or a vision impairment and are trying to manage farm records on your computer?

Adjust the computer screen’s display to a high contrast theme; enlarge the size of the mouse arrow; or use the on-screen magnifier feature.  All these functions come standard on all Windows PCs and can be found under the ‘Ease of Access Center’ section:

→        Start Menu;
→       Control Panel;
→       Ease of Access Center; 
→       Choose the desired adaptation and its settings.
High contrast computer screen display in a Word document

High- contrast computer screen display in a “Word” document

On-Screen Magnifier controlled with mouseUntitled2

For more information about ideas that can make your farming experience more productive and less physically demanding, check out the National AgrAbility Program’s Tool Box Assistive Technology Database at