Colorado State Program Receives $800,000 to Assist Farmers and Ranchers with Disabilities

Agriculture and mining are consistently the two most dangerous occupations in the United States over the past 25 years. In Colorado, six out of 100 farmers and ranchers are likely to have work-related injuries this year. Historically in Colorado, the leading external causes of death have been suicide, animal incidents and tractor rollovers.

The Colorado AgrAbility Project, a Colorado State University Cooperative Extension program aiming to keep farmers and ranchers healthy and able to continue their agricultural operations, has received a four-year, $800,000 grant from the USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service. The grant will provide information, service and workshops to help assist farm and ranch families facing disabilities, said Bob Fetsch, director of the Colorado AgrAbility Project.

"Our goal is to enhance the quality of life and provide them with the tools they need to be successful and independent," Fetsch said. "We help them find the assistive technology they need to continue to do what they love – ranch and farm."

A variety of factors put Colorado’s farmers and ranchers at high risk of injury, Fetsch said. Livestock are a major cause of injuries on farms and ranches. Injuries that result from animals tend to be more serious than other farm accidents. Also, exposure to pesticides and the associated depression, anxiety and inability to concentrate are postulated to be related to increased risk of agriculture-related injury. Between 2000 and 2004, 19 percent of Colorado farm and ranch deaths were reported as suicides.

"This grant will enable us to assist more farm and ranch families with physical challenges and disabilities like back problems, knee, hip, and joint problems, multiple sclerosis, visual problems, arthritis, amputations, hearing difficulties and more," Fetsch said. "Any professional who works with farmers and ranchers with disabilities can get current, credible information on a variety of topics for ranchers and farmers with disabilities."

Colorado State Cooperative Extension and Easter Seals Colorado work together on the Colorado AgrAbility Project, which is the only organization in Colorado that provides free on-site evaluations, information and workshops directly to farm and ranch families for equipment modification and assistive technology. The two agencies work closely with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation that often provides the resources needed to continue to ranch and farm.

The CAP provides 15 winter workshops annually. This year’s morning workshops for farm and ranch families will be on "Managing Back Problems and Injuries, and AgrAbility." This year’s afternoon workshops for professionals who work with ranch and farm families with disabilities will be on "AgrAbility and Utilizing Back Problem and Injury Resources with Farmers and Ranchers with Disabilities."

Below is a list of the dates and places for the educational workshops. Times have yet to be announced for some sessions.

– Durango: Nov. 7, Extension Building, Florida room at 2500 N. Main St., with Wendy Rice, (970) 247-4355.

– Cortez: Nov. 9, Cortez Public Library conference room at 202 N. Park St., with Tom Hooten, (970) 565-3123.

– Monte Vista: Jan. 23, San Luis Valley Information Center at 947 1st Ave., with Marvin Reynolds, (719) 852-7381.

– Greeley: 10:30-noon, Jan. 25, for farm/ranch families only, Greeley Farm Show Event Center room C, with Ernie Marx, (970) 498-6003.

– Trinidad: Jan. 30, Trinidad Junior College Sullivan Student Center at 600 Prospect Ave., with Dean Oatman, (719) 846-6881.

– Yuma: Feb. 6, First Presbyterian Church at 110 W. 4th Ave., with Dennis Kaan, (970) 345-2287.

– Meeker: Feb. 20, Fairgrounds Complex at 779 Sulphur Creek Road, with Bill Eckstrom, (970) 878-9490.

– Delta: 11:15-noon, Feb. 22, for ranch/farm families only, Delta/Montrose Area Vocational Tech Center at 1765 U.S. Hwy. 50, with Wayne Cooley, (970) 874-2195.

For more information, contact Bob Fetsch at (970) 491-5648, or via e-mail at