sealPurdue News

October 29, 2002

Four more years of service 'granted' for Indiana's disabled farmers

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Indiana AgrAbility Project was awarded $600,000 to aid in its work on programs, including a new initiative to serve the growing Latino/Hispanic populations on large farm operations.

"The Indiana AgrAbility Project's mission is providing assistance for farmers with disabilities through direct services, developing resources and training," said Paul Jones, manager of Purdue University's Breaking New Ground, the lead organization of the Indiana AgrAbility Project.

In addition to outreach services for the growing Hispanic population, the program provides assistance to farmers with arthritis and support services for farmers and agricultural workers with upper limb amputations.

Indiana AgrAbility's outreach to Hispanic agricultural workers focuses on educating employers at large agricultural operations about ergonomics and repetitive motion injuries. Communicating such information can be difficult because of language barriers, so the project will focus on how to convey safety messages to those who don't speak English, Jones said.

Paul Lueken, of Birdseye, Ind., employs 14 Hispanic employees and has dealt with language barriers on his operation, Lueken Dairy, where only half his Hispanic workers know English.

Lueken learned Spanish by taking classes at a local university. Lueken's English-speaking employees also are learning to become bilingual through classes and conversation with their Spanish-speaking co-workers.

"Once you learn how to communicate, an operation doesn't have as many problems," Lueken said.

Lueken's biggest safety issue is the use of equipment.

"Most of the Hispanic workers grew up around cattle but not tractors or four-wheelers," he said. "For this reason, most of my workers work only with cattle, but I had to eliminate the four-wheeler from the farm due to accidents."

Language barriers are a more recent "disability," but arthritis has plagued farmers for centuries and continues to do so.

Arthritis is a problem that many farmers face as they become older. The Arthritis Foundation-Indiana Chapter, a partner in the Indiana AgrAbility Project, is working with Breaking New Ground to develop a brochure and video regarding farmers with arthritis.

"When you think of disabilities, you have to consider not only amputations or spinal cord injuries – arthritis and back injuries are also disabilities," Jones said.

The direct services the project offers include farm visits, recommendations concerning assistive technology, and a toll-free line, (800) 825-4264. Breaking New Ground also produces a variety of resources, including "The Toolbox," a manual that contains information on assistive technology appropriate for those with disabilities who farm or ranch.

The Indiana AgrAbility Project also coordinates an annual series of workshops for caregivers of people with disabilities. Caregiving in the Heartland has a special focus on emergency preparedness for caregivers.

"What do you do if someone uses a ventilator, and the electricity goes out?" Jones said. "Our training workshops help caregivers and emergency personnel deal with those types of emergencies."

For more information on the spring 2003 series of Caregiving in the Heartland, contact Breaking New Ground or Jones.

The $600,000 grant was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.

Breaking New Ground started in 1979, and the AgrAbility Project began in 1991 after passage of the 1990 farm bill, which included assistance to farmers with disabilities. There are currently 21 states funded with the AgrAbility Project. Area states include Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin.

The Indiana AgrAbility Project is a collaborative effort among Purdue's Breaking New Ground Resource Center and Outreach Program, the Southern Indiana Center for Independent Living, the Eastern Indiana Center for Independent Living and the Arthritis Foundation-Indiana Chapter.

Writer: Michelle Betz, (765) 494-8402,

Sources: Paul Jones, (765) 494-1221,

Paul Lueken, (812) 389-2478,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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