New to Washington State is a program to connect people in agriculture with resources available to them to help with a broad range of injuries that occur on and off the farm.
Based in Skagit County and operating out of the WSU-Skagit Extension office, Kristen Hinton-Vanvalkenberg is the program coordinator for the USDA funded AgrAbility program in Washington State. This free service offers help to farmers and farmworkers that have been impaired through physical or mental injury, or dealing with the effects of aging.
“One of the things we know about the agricultural community is that they’ll find ways, they’ll figure out how to get it done,” said Hinton-Vanvalkenberg. “It takes a lot of time and effort to come up with those things and be creative and make those solutions; which maybe if there was something that already existed or something you could prototype, that’s where we come in.”
Hinton-Vanvalkenberg said that AgrAbility covers problem-solving help for issues ranging from hearing impairment to amputation, offering simple to high tech solutions and everything in between.
“It could be a simple recommendation over the phone that we give you for a possible simple solution that will make that job easier,” explained Hinton-Vanvalkenberg. They also offer to come and walk through their client’s daily routine with them, brainstorming and coming up with ideas or tools to do things differently in an effort to reduce pain and mobility issues or to reduce the risk of secondary injury.
Mental health is also finally gaining recognition in the farming community and has people taking action. Hinton-Vanvalkenberg shared that AgrAbility also has resources to help farmers depending on their individual need.
This USDA funded program is currently available in 22 states, and their offices are all connected to help brainstorm and problem-solve, forming a sort of clearinghouse of ideas and blueprints for issues that may already exist.