By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 200,000 farmers and ranchers lose work time each year due to injuries or illnesses acquired on the job.
Five percent of those injuries and illnesses result in permanent disabilities.
Bob Fetsch, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension family life state specialist, wants to show these farmers that assistance and alternatives are available so they can keep working, if at all possible.
Fetsch is a part of AgrAbility, a program sponsored by the Colorado State Cooperative Extension and Easter Seals.
The program is designed to show people ways to work around their disabilities.
Friday, Nov. 12, at the Steamboat Pilot & Today Community Room in Steamboat Springs, Fetsch will give a workshop for people in the agricultural industry who have a disability or a family member with a disability.
"AgrAbility prevents people from being forced out of agriculture due to their disabilities by providing them with safe, affordable modifications and solutions to help them maintain their business and life-styles," Fetsch said. "The program helps assess work sites, identify helpful modifications, restructure tasks, coordinate local resources and services, prevent secondary injuries and encourages independent living."
Fetsch will introduce the hundreds of modification ideas that are available for agricultural equipment.
He also invites people to bring modification ideas that they have already developed so ideas can be shared and compared.
"It's designed to help families and we focus on what families need," he said.
He also will inform those in attendance on Barn Builders, a peer support group for farmers and ranchers with disabilities.
Peer support is important for those in agriculture, he said.
In the past 10 years, the leading external cause of death among farmers and ranchers is suicide, he said.
The second leading cause of death is accidents with animals, a bull or horse, and the third leading cause is tractor turnovers, he said.
High stress has lead to the high number of suicides and people need to know how to spot signs of stress and depression, especially in those with disabilities who are likely to be depressed, Fetsch said. Those in agriculture often do not seek help when it is needed.
Neighbors often would be willing to help another neighbor if they knew there was a problem. However, quite often they don't know, he said.
Debbie Alpe, consumer and family science extension agent in Steamboat, said she heard Fetsch's program has been received well in other places, but he has not yet come to the Northwest Colorado area with his workshop.
"From my perspective, life is difficult enough on a daily basis without having to deal with financial stress due to a disability," she said. "I wanted to offer this for folks who might be interested in the area."
Fetsch said he will offer a morning session for farmers, ranchers and their families from 9 a.m. to noon.
From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. a session will be offered for professionals who deal with people in agriculture who have disabilities.
People who pre-register with Fetsch by Oct. 26 will receive a free lunch.
Fetsch said he can be reached at 970-491-5648 or 970-491-5889.