AgrAbility Projet
David Johnson, a produce farmer from Whiteville, Tenn., received a leg amputation in 2010. He worked with Tennessee AgrAbility specialist Joetta T. White to procure an AgrAbility grant for tractor steps that included a handrail for easier access to his tractor. White also worked with Midsouth Farmer’s Cooperative which provided mud grip tires for a golf cart that Johnson uses to get around on his farm. Photo by J. T. White, courtesy UTIA. Download image 
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Getting around with arthritis or a disability is tough. Getting around a farm or a garden with arthritis or a disability poses an extra set of obstacles, and for farmers those obstacles jeopardize their livelihood.  

Arthritis is one of America’s most common chronic disease conditions, affecting one in three people. If you are a farmer, you are at increased risk for arthritis-related disability. The National AgrAbility Project can help farmers overcome obstacles and get back to doing what they love. In late August, specialists with the National AgrAbility Project as well as rural health professionals, farmers and others interested in mobility issues will gather in Knoxville to learn more about how folks can maintain their independence and be successful despite a disability.

Scheduled for August 24-27, the conference will feature practical tips on protecting joints, managing stress and modifying work practices. Those facing arthritis or disabilities that can impact their mobility, such as  farmers, ranchers, veterans and gardeners, may choose among one set of presentations, while extension educators, occupational therapists, physical therapists, nurse practitioners, state departments of health, rheumatologists, vocational rehabilitation staff, farm business representatives and others may be more interested in a separate slate of topics and speakers. 

Among the educational sessions is a talk led by UT Extension’s Eileen Legault, with the Tennessee AgrAbility Project, “What is AgrAbility and How Can It Help Your Clients?”  A different session will focus on safety strategies for older farmers, assistive technology and re-equipping equipment on the farm.  Derrick Stowell, HGTV/UT Gardens Educator, will discuss gardening as a therapeutic tool for individuals with arthritis. He will also explore tips for modifying garden tools and activities as well as look at the use of horticultural vocational training programs.

Finis Stribling with Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension will explain the Farmer Veteran Coalition, Homegrown by Heroes and the New Farmer Academy which is training veterans to develop successful farming skills and techniques. Lois Symington with East Tennessee Technology Access Center will share low-cost accommodations at the assistive technology session.   

All conference attendees can also choose to visit the Therapy Gardens with UT Gardens, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine facility, and the UT Farmers Market. They might also choose to visit UT’s East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center Organic Crops Unit and the UT Turfgrass research center.

“The conference is an exciting opportunity for rural professionals and farmers alike,” says Legault. “Among the objectives is to help rural professionals become more aware of evidence-based strategies to aid farmers, ranchers and others battling the many forms of arthritis and other disabilities. We will give educators tools to help farmers maintain their independence and success despite a disability.”

A specialist in assisting with mobility issues, Legault adds, “People with arthritis and other disabilities must be good self-managers of their condition. They can learn how to effectively manage their workplace and their activity schedule in ways that minimize the effect of the disease or condition on their health and daily quality of life. The AgrAbility Project can help.”

The AARH Conference is made possible through the National AgrAbility Project, with planning by the Arthritis Foundation, Goodwill of the Finger Lakes, and the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. Multiple pricing options are available for registrants. For more information, please visit the website

The Tennessee AgrAbility Project is a partnership between the USDA, University of Tennessee Extension, Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension and the Tennessee Technology Access Centers that provide services to farmers, farm workers and their family member that have disabilities.
The UT Institute of Agriculture provides instruction, research and public service through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.



Eileen Legault, Tennessee AgrAbility Project, 865-200-4527,

Joetta T. White, Tennessee AgrAbility Project, 731-855-7656,

Patricia McDaniels, UTIA Marketing and Communications, 615-835-4570,