By Garland Mason
Did you know that agriculture is one of the most hazardous industries? According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2010, 4.8 out of 100 agricultural workers were injured on the job, compared to an average of 3.8 out of 100. On small farms like those scattered throughout Rutland County, injury of a worker can significantly affect the farm’s bottom-line and consequently, the viability of the farm long term.
Musculoskeletal injuries are some of the most common non-fatal injuries farmers experience, and are some of the easiest to avoid. Each day during the growing season a farmer might find themselves in all sorts of awkward and uncomfortable positions. Imagine hours of scooting down rows of veggies on your knees lugging many pounds of harvested produce, teetering atop a step-ladder while trellising hundreds of tomato plants, squatting next to cow after cow to attach a milking machine, and sitting for hours turned halfway around in a tractor seat to monitor the work of a cultivator as you make passes through the field. These are the types of activities farmers engage in on any given day, bent forward, using every muscle in their body to reach or balance, or twisting their spine while riding along a bumpy tractor.
This month, on September 23rd, RAFFL is hosting a workshop called “Movement for a Healthy Farming Body.” The intention of the workshop is to help beginning farmers take care of their bodies before they become tired old farmers with perpetually sore backs, arthritic hands, or worse. The workshop will be led by three farming women who make it a priority to take care of their bodies, and to educate others about how best to care for their own.
Lindsay Arbuckle of Alchemy Gardens is a beginning farmer herself and has recently completed her certification in massage therapy. Farming and massage therapy go hand-in-hand for Arbuckle, she is now able to help the community not only by providing nourishment through healthy food, but also by providing physical healing through massage therapy. Lindsay will be providing instruction on self-massage during the workshop and will also provide a brief overview of the inner workings of the muscles and bones of the human body along with the other workshop leaders.
Most days, Stephanie Jones can be found teaching a variety of different yoga classes all over town. When she’s not leading a group through a yoga pose, Jones can be found working the soil of Radical Roots Farm. During the workshop Stephanie will lead the group through a series of simple stretches that can be done morning and night to keep a working body strong and flexible.
Galen Miller, lives and homesteads in Shrewsbury and is an active practitioner of yoga and healing through movement. During the workshop Galen will focus on simple ways to stretch and relax the neck and shoulders before and after the workday.
This two hour workshop will help farmers avoid chronic and acute pain and injury. Just a few minutes of daily stretching before and after a long-day of farming can work wonders for flexibility, balance & strength—three attributes that are incredibly valuable for a farming body. The safety and health of the farmers is critical to the success of any farm.
Farming is an inherently risky career as most farmers’ income is dependent on a myriad of external factors, but maintaining a healthy body is one way a farmer can reduce their level of risk and be confident that their body can keep up with farming as long as they want to farm.
The two hour workshop, “Movement for a Healthy Farming Body,” is open to all farmers. The workshop will be held in the Fox Room of Rutland Public Library and will occur from 6-8 pm on Monday, September 23rd. A $10 donation is encouraged to support RAFFL’s New Farmer Initiative. RSVPs are appreciated but not required. To RSVP please click here: https://raffl.wufoo.com/forms/x7s7x7/”
Garland Mason works for the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link, heading up the New Farmer Initiative and Farm to School and Institution activities. She lives and farms West Tinmouth.
Originally published in the Rutland Herald.