Grit Blogs > The Daily Commute

Keeping Disabled Farmers and Ranchers Working

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief

Tags: farmers, ranchers, farms, disability, machinery,

I received a very compelling letter and information kit from Purdue University Professor William E. Field yesterday. Professor Field is the project leader on the Breaking New Ground program … a forward thinking effort to keep physically disabled farmers farming and ranchers ranching. Professor Field writes that Breaking New Ground’s resource center has recently been selected as the site of the National AgrAbility project, which provides services to 22 state and regional ventures designed to work with physically disabled farmers and ranchers to assist them in returning to independence in agricultural production.

Breaking New Ground

According to the Breaking New Ground website, since its inception in 1979, the Breaking New Ground Resource Center in Purdue's Department of Agricultural & Biological Engineering has become internationally recognized as the primary source for information and resources on rehabilitation technology for disabled persons working in agriculture. Two of the center’s most successful products are The Toolbox and The Toolbox CD … print and electronic versions of a publication that helps disabled farmers and ranchers sort out the various tools and tool modifications that can be used to keep them in the saddle or on tractor seat.

AgrAbility Logo

Like Purdue University’s Breaking New Ground Resource Center, the USDA’s AgrAbility project was created to assist people with disabilities employed in agriculture. According to the USDA, this project links the Cooperative Extension Service at a land-grant university with a private nonprofit disability service organization to provide practical education and assistance that promotes independence in agricultural production and rural living. The AgrAbility Project assists people involved in production agriculture who work both on small and large operations.

It seems fitting that the two programs have merged, at least partially. I look forward to learning more about the accomplishments of Breaking New Ground and AgrAbility and will report what I learn here.

Graphics courtesy Pudrue University's Breaking New Ground Project and the USDA's AgrAbility Project.

Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .