Tour focuses on accessibility for aspiring farmers with disabilities

The Kansas AgrAbility Project recently gave a large group of soldiers transitioning to civilian life and veterans from Fort Riley an up-close look at how people with disabilities can be active, successful farmers in the Sunflower State.

The project, along with Service member Agricultural Vocational Education, sponsored a tour on April 29 of farms in north central Kansas where the operators have a disability. Forty soldiers, veterans, KS AgrAbility specialists and others took part. 

Assistive Technology for Kansans (ATK) at the Life Span Institute at Parsons is a partner in the AgrAbility project with Kansas State University. Sheila Simmons, research project manager at Parsons, spoke to the group and fielded questions.           

The tour included a stop at farm near Jewell, Kan., that produces row crops and livestock.  The farmer has a progressive health condition but has remained active in his operation thanks to assistive technology, including a power chair lift that he manages with a remote control device. After seeing the standing platform lift and chair boom lift in action, one soldier said, “I never knew there was equipment like this.” 

The group also visited a farm near Beloit, Kan., where the farmer, who has lower-extremity mobility issues, showed the group his “hoop house,” a tunnel made of polyethylene, where he grows vegetable crops in a stable, enclosed environment. One observer noted, “It’s amazing how he can run his farm and do pretty much anything he wants to do.”

The Kansas AgrAbility Project offers no-cost assistance to farmers, ranchers and farm workers who have disabilities such as spinal cord injuries and amputations or other health conditions such as arthritis, chronic back pain and behavioral issues.