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April 2012

West Virginia

Warm weather brought one West Virginia farmer more than just hay to cut and birthing cows this spring with help from the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS). The agency approved funding for a TommyJohn Quick Hitch, an Ag Cam, a platform tractor lift, a Bruno Stow-Away seat, and a Bruno Out Rider 1100 Scooter Lift. This equipment will allow this farmer to continue to run his operation independently, more safely, and with lower risk of suffering from secondary injuries.

Rheumatoid arthritis, neuropathy, knee replacements, and fused ankles and wrists make getting around and operating his several hundred acre cow/calf and hay operation very difficult. Assessing the farmer's operation, management style, and layout of the farm together, the farmer and AgrAbility staff looked at the challenges farm chores presented in light of the farmer's health. Staff presented some assistive technology equipment specific to farming that could help lessen or eliminate the challenges the farmer identified. Equipment requested for DRS funding came out of conversations surrounding the farm assessment.

The farmer identified getting on and off of his tractor as a major hurdle to getting his work done. A hydraulic powered platform lift was suggested. This eliminates climbing steps and preventing falls from losing one's balance and grip. In addition to making it safer to get on and off the tractor, the platform lift also helps conserve the farmer's energy so he can work until his chores are done.

A second obstacle identified by the farmer is the struggle he faces in switching around his tractor attachments, like hay wagons and mowers. Like most farms, this farmer uses many different tractor accessories throughout his farm operation. Switching attachments can be hard for several reasons. Switching attachments adds to the number of times of having to get on and off the tractor. It is also difficult to align the tractor with the attachment and wrestle the attachments, PTO, and attachment pins into place because of the twisting and turning required.

Staff recommended the quick hitch system to eliminate most of these difficulties. The quick hitch system connects the tractor to the attachment by using a system of hooks that hook into the attachment's pins.

The farmer does not have to wrestle the attachments into alignment because they are attached to the tractor's lifting arms. The arms raise and lower the hooks to the height of the implement's pins. The farmer does not have to get on and off the tractor to hitch or unhitch the equipment.

The farmer does a lot of twisting and turning when using his tractor to get farm work done because he has to be able to see what is going on behind the tractor as well as drive the tractor. This is especially awkward when cutting and bailing hay because he has to watch the tractor attachments, e.g. the mower or bailer, the whole time he is operating them. The Ag Cam was recommended so the farmer can see what is behind him when he operates his equipment. The Ag Cam camera system is designed to decrease the amount of turning and twisting needed from the tractor seat or any vehicle. It is a camera with a magnetic base and a monitor. The camera is attached and aimed at whatever space or image the farmer needs to see. The monitor is placed at eye level wherever it is comfortable for the farmer to see it. The Ag Cam is powered by being wired into the fuse panel of a vehicle, or by wall plug or cigarette lighter.

Submitted by Mary Slabinski-Schmidt