Disabled Farmers and Ranchers Continue Work Through Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Project

After a debilitating injury in 1997 left Lynn Fisher confined to a wheelchair, Lynn and his wife Iris were unsure how they would continue to run and maintain their ranch. Lynn was still in the hospital when the Fishers learned about Colorado’s AgrAbility project, sponsored by Colorado State University Cooperative Extension and Easter Seals.

AgrAbility helps people in the agriculture industry who have been injured or disabled to continue working. The program teaches farmers and ranchers and their families ways to work around their disabilities and even incorporate it into their lifestyle. The Fishers, ranchers in Genoa, have done just that.

"Lynn was still in the hospital when AgrAbility occupational therapists came to show us a book of ideas that could help him continue working despite his disability," said Iris. Since then, the Fishers have received ranch assessments from AgrAbility occupational therapists as well as partial funding from the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation to help build much needed cattle guards for their land.

"I was tickled to heck to have those cattle guards. They have more than helped me continue working," said Lynn. Through AgrAbility’s assistance, Lynn has become more independent and better able to give needed attention to his ranch and livestock. Having the cattle guards allows Lynn to have access to 13,000 acres of his land that would otherwise have to be cared for by hired assistants. "Because of the cattle guards, I can give the ranch and cattle more attention during times of need such as calving season," said Lynn.

The program has helped Iris cope with the changes Lynn’s disability has forced them to make in their everyday lives. "The AgrAbility program helps farmers and ranchers find simple and good solutions to eliminating barriers," said Carla Wilhite, project coordinator for Easter Seals Colorado. With the information the Fishers received from AgrAbility, they made home modifications such as a roll-in shower and an elevator that provides outdoor access. These modifications allow Lynn to live as independently as possible in the home and reduce the level of care that Iris must give him.

"The information and ideas we got from the program allowed us to improve little everyday things. That’s important," said Iris.

The program defines a disability as any impairment that keeps people from doing as much work as they used to, keeps them from doing necessary work on the farm or keeps them, their spouse or child from doing routine daily activities like walking, talking and playing. A disability recognized by AgrAbility could range from back pain and hearing loss to amputation or paralysis.

AgrAbility workshops are being offered this fall at no charge for farmers and ranchers with disabilities or those who have family members with disabilities. Workshops also are offered for professionals who serve this population.

The workshops are designed to give farmers and ranchers information and education about lifestyle changes that they can make so they can continue working. Workshops also provide families with research-based information on coping with disabilities and addressing the emotional needs of those adjusting to life with disabilities.

Free workshops are scheduled around the state and begin in November. Morning workshops are for farmers and their families; afternoon workshops are for professionals who work with them. The registration deadline for all workshops is one week before each workshop starts.

For more information about AgrAbility or a workshop schedule, call Bob Fetsch at Colorado State Cooperative Extension at (970) 491-5648 or (970) 491-5889.

AgrAbility workshops scheduled in Colorado:

Northwest Colorado

  • Workshop date: Wednesday, Nov. 13. Registration deadline: Wednesday, Nov. 6.
    Colorado State Cooperative Extension Moffat County office, 539 Barclay St., Craig
    Contact Elisa Shackelton, Colorado State Cooperative Extension
    (970) 824-9180
  • Workshop date: Friday, Nov. 15. Registration deadline: Friday, Nov. 8.
    Area Vocational Technical Center, 1765 U.S. Hwy. 50, Delta/Montrose
    Contact Robbie Baird LeValley, Colorado State Cooperative Extension
    (970) 874-2195

Southwest Colorado

  • Workshop date: Tuesday, Dec. 10. Registration deadline: Tuesday, Dec. 3.
    Colorado State Cooperative Extension office, 344 Hwy. 84, Pagosa Springs
    Contact Bill Nobles, Colorado State Cooperative Extension
    (970) 264-5931
  • Workshop date: Wednesday, Dec. 11. Registration deadline: Wednesday, Dec. 4.
    Empire Electric Association Facility, 801 N. Broadway, Cortez
    Contact Kenny Smith, Colorado State Cooperative Extension
    (970) 565-3123

Northeast Colorado

  • Workshop date: Tuesday, Jan. 14. Registration deadline: Tuesday, Jan. 7.
    Central Services Building, 508 S. 10th Ave., Sterling
    Contact Jan Nixon, Colorado State Cooperative Extension
    (970) 522-3200, Ext.0
  • Workshop date: Thursday, Jan. 16. Registration deadline: Thursday, Jan. 9.
    Island Grove Regional Park Fairgrounds Bunkhouse, 607 N. 15th Ave., Greeley
    Contact Jerry Alldredge, Colorado State Cooperative Extension
    (970) 356-4000 Ext.4474

Southeast Colorado

  • Workshop date: Tuesday, Jan. 21. Registration deadline: Tuesday, Jan. 14.
    Colorado State Cooperative Extension Otero County office, 411 N. 10th St.,
    Rocky Ford
    Contact Bill Hancock, Colorado State Cooperative Extension
    (719) 254-7608
  • Workshop date: Thursday, Jan. 23. Registration deadline: Thursday, Jan. 16.
    San Luis Valley Information Center, 947 1st Ave., Monte Vista
    Contact Marvin Reynolds, Colorado State Cooperative Extension
    (719) 274-5200