AgrAbility celebrates 25 years of providing assistance to people in agriculture with a disability

The National AgrAbility Project is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year in 2016. Observances and special events will commemorate 25 years of helping people in agriculture overcome their disabilities or long-term health condition. The goal of the project is to assist farmer and agricultural workers so they can continue to work and remain in production agriculture.

First authorized in the 1990 Farm Bill (but with funding appropriations beginning in 1991), the National AgrAbility Project began with eight state projects. The number of projects has since grown to a total of 20 this year. AgrAbility consists of the National AgrAbility Project (NAP) and state/regional AgrAbility projects (SRAPs), such as AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians Project. Each project involves collaboration between a land-grant university and at least one non-profit disability services organization.

The National AgrAbility Project is currently based at Purdue University. All AgrAbility projects report to USDA-National Institute for Agriculture in Washington, D.C. More information is available at www.agrability.org, on Facebook: National AgrAbility Project, and on Twitter: @NatlAgrAbility or #agrability25.

“The vision of AgrAbility is to enhance the quality of life for farmers and agricultural workers with disabilities,” said Paul Jones, manager of the National AgrAbility Project. “Through education and assistance, AgrAbility helps to eliminate – or at least minimize – obstacles that inhibit success in production agriculture or agriculture-related occupations.”

The AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians Project (AgrAbility PA) is a statewide partnership between Penn State Extension, located at Pennsylvania State University in State College, and UCP Central PA, a non-profit organization that works with individuals of all ages with all types of disabilities throughout central Pennsylvania. AgrAbility PA has been providing information and direct services to farmers and family members affected by disabilities or a long-term health condition since 1995.

“This project has undoubtedly made a positive impact and has certainly improved the lives of farmers throughout Pennsylvania for more than 20 years,” said Dr. Connie Baggett, project director for AgrAbility PA and associate professor of agricultural and extension education at Penn State University.

National activities planned during the anniversary year include:

  • “25 Years, 25 Stories” initiative will highlight 25 of the thousands of stories of how AgrAbility has improved the lives of people around the country and even in other nations. The stories will be released throughout the year on AgrAbility’s Facebook page and Twitter account. Some will include links to videos related to the stories. Each story will be posted online at www.agrability.org/25years. These stories and other program-related information will be assembled in a 25th anniversary summary, which will be available in print and electronic formats later this year.
  • The annual AgrAbility National Training Workshop will highlight the program’s accomplishments and feature special speakers, including Temple Grandin, renowned animal behaviorist and autism activist. The workshop is scheduled for April 11-14, 2016 in Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • AgrAbility will host a 25th anniversary celebration on July 12, 2016 in conjunction with the annual conference of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) July 10-14, 2016 in Arlington, Virginia. RESNA and AgrAbility are longtime partners; the initial AgrAbility national conferences were held in conjunction with RESNA annual meetings. The guest list for the event will include current and former AgrAbility clients, key stakeholders from the rehabilitation, agriculture and government sectors, and AgrAbility staff members.
  • An “AgrAbility Day” is being planned during the annual National Farm Safety and Health Week in September 2016. More details will be posted closer to the date.

Have a story to share about how AgrAbility PA has helped you? Interested in learning more about AgrAbility PA? Email AgrAbility@psu.edu or call (814) 867-5288. Stay in touch with news, events, and information by following AgrAbility PA on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and on Twitter @AgrAbilityPA.

AgrAbility PA partners with PA Dept. of Ag at 100th Farm Show event for Veterans

AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians partnered with PA’s Department of Agriculture at the 100th Annual Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg on Jan. 14, 2016 for Veterans and Active Military Day. A number of organizations were present, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PA Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, PA Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture, and others. The day-long event focused on sharing information and resources, networking among organizations who support members of the military, and educational presentations at the Ag-Food Career Stage focused on employing and advance those with military service backgrounds. The event saw hundreds of people throughout the day.

A keynote panel presentation that day, moderated by PA’s Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding, featured several individuals with military service backgrounds who now work in the agricultural industry. Panelist were honored for their service and work in agriculture by the Homegrown By Heroes program. The program is combing its logo with PA Preferred as part of a branding campaign so that the public is aware when shopping that certain products were produced by Pennsylvania military veterans.

“Two percent of our population feeds us, and two percent of our population protects us. Put together, that’s a powerful four percent,” Secretary Redding said.

AgrAbility client Cathie Dibert with Kendra Martin

AgrAbility PA staff member Kendra Martin (left) greets Cathie Dibert, of Green “er” Acres Farm in Claysburg, Pa.

An AgrAbility PA client, Cathie Dibert of Green “er” Acres Farm in Claysburg, spoke about her military experience and how she transitioned into farming. She publicly thanked AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians and the PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation for their support in obtaining accommodative equipment to use around the farm. Cathie also attended last year’s AgrAbility National Training Workshop in New York.

“Veterans possess a variety of skills that are needed in the agriculture industry,” Secretary Redding said. “Agriculture is natural fit for our veterans.”

Other events that day included an Army-Navy Cook-Off Competition and a Swearing-In Ceremony for all branches of the military.

Out & About: Events in February

2016 Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention 

When: February 2 – 4, 2016 (AgrAbility PA will be there Feb. 2)
Where: Hershey Lodge and Convention Center | Hershey, Pa.
More information about the convention on their  website.

25th Annual Farming for the Future Conference
When:  February 3 – 6, 2016
Where: Penn Stater Conference Center | State College, Pa.

Come learn about AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians (AgrAbility PA) at the 25th Annual Farming for the Future Conference hosted by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA).  The event theme is  farming in a changing climate  and covers topics such as improving business skills, energy efficiency, urban and campus farms, organics, and more. More than 2,000 farmers, students and consumers participate in this agricultural event.

AgrAbility PA will be located in the trade show area with an exhibit prov iding information about their  services and examples of assistive technology. Stop by to see a demonstratio n of Mr. Lifty, try out Robo  Handles, and pick up information about dealing with arthritis in agric ulture.  More information about the conference on their website .

Clearfield County Crops Day
When: February 10, 2016 | 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Where: Clearfield County Fairgrounds, Pa.
More information on their website.