This is the first in a series of blogs highlighting organizations whose mission is to benefit the health and safety of farmers and farmworkers.
California AgrAbility provides education, assistance and support to farmers, ranchers, workers and their families who have an injury, disability, or illness that limits their ability to perform farm tasks.
CalAgrAbility staff help find solutions and resources to meet client challenges, even though funds cannot be given directly to agricultural families.
Take the case of Stepheni Norton, who was bit by a deer tick right before she was deployed for duty in the Coast Guard. For 2 years, she suffered symptoms of Lyme disease before she was diagnosed. By this time her Lyme disease had progressed causing degenerative arthritis, scaring in her lungs, and had started destroying her jaw. After a year, she was declared a 100% disabled veteran, enabling the military to relieve her from her duty.
To help with her illness, Stepheni’s doctor wanted her to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. However, it quickly became apparent that it was hard to obtain them where she lived. As a result, Stepheni started her own farm, Dickinson Farm, planting a variety of herbs and vegetables. With her condition, it was hard for Stepheni to stand up after weeding, seeding, or tilling on the ground.
Stepheni contacted CalAgrAbility, and staff suggested that she try using the Hoss Wheel Hoe, which allowed Stepheni to work without having to get on the ground. CalAgrAbility collaborated with the California Department of Rehabilitation to purchase the hoe for Stepheni without her having to spend a dime. The wheel hoe was the perfect solution, allowing her to work her farm for 6 hours at a time without feeling pain and safely produce fresh produce not just for herself, but also restaurants and chefs in her area.
CalAgrAbility has helped clients receive other types of assistive technologies, health care and rehabilitation services, and staff advocate with government and non-profit agencies for farmers and workers.
Bilingual (English and Spanish) information and referral, technical assistance, education, and training can be provided to individuals with varying degrees of injury/disability. Workshops and seminars are conducted on health, rehabilitation, workers comp, and other topics to assist rehabilitating farmers and workers.
CalAgrAbility is located on at the University of California, Davis, and is part of the University of California Cooperative Extension Service. CalAgrAbility Director Fadi Fathallah is a professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and Director of Research for the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety.