Dairy Spotlight: Samantha Wolfe

Agriculture Occupational Health Educator, MSU Extension

Photo by Samantha Wolfe.

I work adjacent to the dairy industry with the AgrAbility project, which works with people in the agricultural industry who may have disabilities, chronic conditions, or injuries.

Working with AgrAbility offers many opportunities to visit farms and work directly with growers and producers, while improving quality of life and helping people stay safe at work. Through this program, we offer farm visits to assess farm operations, learn about their health conditions, and pair them with assistive technologies that make tasks easier, loads lighter, and workplaces safer. We work with everyone in the agriculture industry: clients are aged 12 to over 90, with conditions ranging from chronic health and symptoms of aging to acute injuries such as traumatic brain injury or an amputation, and we work with all farm sizes and all commodities.  

Our small but mighty staff also includes a Spanish-speaking Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, who provides arthritis screenings and assistance in Spanish with workers right onsite, and many of these clients work at dairies. Farming is dangerous, with injury rates higher than other industries (182 per 100,000 workers in 2021), and dairy and livestock farms see the most injuries due to the nature of the work. Injuries caused by cows accounted for 32% of injuries reported in Michigan, and 43% of injuries reported came from dairy farms, in 2020-2021, according to MSU Occupational and Environmental Medicine. There are no Generally Accepted Agriculture Management Practices (GAAMPs) for safe animal handling, so it falls to the individual to take necessary safety precautions, which can be inadvertently overlooked amidst familiarity and proficiency in tasks.  

If you or someone you know may be interested in the AgrAbility program and having a free onsite assessment with our team, email me at wolfesa4@msu.edu, call the Benzie County office (231-882-0025) or the AgrAbility toll-free line at 1-800-956-4106.

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