AgrAbility News for January 2019

Maine AgrAbility Project News

Maine AgrAbility staff and advisory council members shared the three-day schedule to provide coverage at the AgrAbility booth at the Annual Agricultural Trades show in Augusta on January 15, 16, and 17. The exhibit was an “Assistive Technology Demonstration Area” with hands-on demonstration opportunities that included a hydraulic lift table, a power-assist wheelbarrow, a bucket dolly, and a raised garden bed to try out ergonomic garden tools.

7th graders' seed startsaeroponic tower systemOn Friday January 18, Lani Carlson spoke with 84 (!!!) 7th graders about AgrAbility and disability awareness as part of their science classes. They were starting seeds in different growing mediums and then transplanting them to an aeroponic tower system. Oh, the questions they asked!

Maine ME AgrAbility at Potato Conference

Lani Carlson shared Maine AgrAbility program information with over 100 growers at the two-day Annual Maine Potato Conference in Caribou January 22 and 23. The exhibit focused on back health and sharing information and resources with the growers in northern Maine.

ME AgrAbility booth at MELNABrie Weisman exhibited Maine AgrAbility program information at the 2019 Grow Maine Green Expo on January 23. This was the annual meeting for the Maine Landscape and Nursery Association and the Maine Arborist Association. The exhibit focused on assistive technology ideas and resources for this demographic.

On January 23, Sarah Morton (Alpha One) and Sally Farrell (4-H/AgrAbility) presented their work with youth and the VR Pre-ETs program to the York County Farmers Network. Sarah and Sally will be sharing their programming and progress at the 2019 NTW.

3D printed rhinocerosOn January 25, Lani Carlson attended a “3D Printing in Agriculture” workshop at the Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) Farm. 3D-printed toolThe presentation discussed 3-D printing software and applications – exploring the “farm hack” nature – innovating to create super affordable parts and tools (or prototypes) that do exactly what you need them to do. KVCC worked with a group of pilot farmers to teach the potential of 3D printing on the farm and gave printers to start 3D printing 3D-printed objects“hubs” for farmers around the state. Some of the projects that were included: customized seed processing equipment, customized seed wheels, soil block makers, landscape fabric cutters, clips, replacement parts and more. Staff are going to work with this group to explore possible adaptations and assistive tools that could work for AgrAbility’s Maine farm clients.

ME AgrAbility at Flowering in the North conferenceJanuary 28, 29 and 30, staff displayed Maine AgrAbility program information and an assortment of assistive technology at the Flowering in the North Conference in Portland, Maine, at USM. This event drew more than 200 attendees with programming geared towards cut flower producers in the Northeast.

Lani Carlson (Center) and Dick Brzozowski (Right) at Hall of Flags event in AugustaOn January 29, Lani Carlson and Richard Brzozowski went to the Annual Hall of Flags event at the Maine State House in Augusta. Maine AgrAbility was asked to be one of seven programs to represent Cooperative Extension’s work as part of the UMaine School of Food & Agriculture exhibit. The display theme was “How Extension Impacts Maine’s Communities.” Throughout the event, we were able to share program information with state legislators. The University of Maine president, Joan Ferrini-Mundy, was on hand to learn more about AgrAbility too.

Richard Brzozowski, Lani Carlson and Ellen Gibson have recently completed a new fact sheet titled “Cheese Maker Self-Assessment Tool for Occupational Health, Safety, and Ergonomics” and it is now available to the public. This self-assessment tool is designed to guide a cheese maker in reviewing and evaluating their cheese processing area or facility, then to reach out to AgrAbility for next step ideas and resources.


AgrAbility News from Across the Nation

  • 2019 NTW in Lincoln, NE, will be here soon! Registration is open. Access registration through the NTW website HERE.
  • Join the AgrAbility All-Staff Call/Web Meeting: February 27 at 3:00 p.m. EST. Our featured presenter will be Aida Balsano who will provide an update from USDA/NIFA on AgrAbility and related programs. Look for details coming through email.
  • Thank you to all the presenters and participants in 2019 AgrAbility Virtual National Training Workshop. Total combined attendance for all sessions was approximately 200. See for archived sessions and materials.
  • The recent AgrAbility call regarding VR issues is archived along with supplemental materials at If you have additional insights, comments, or questions about AgrAbility’s relationship with VR, please contact Paul Jones soon.

Toolbox Spotlight:

The joystick-steered, zero-turn-radius TracFab Gas-Powered Tracked Wheelchair, with 17.5 hp four-stroke engine, reportedly generates a top speed of 7 mph. Check out other gas-powered wheelchairs in The Toolbox under Outdoor-Use Powered Wheelchairs.