AgrAbility PA travels to Tennessee for 2017 National AgrAbility Training Workshop

Aida Balsano addressing the workshop attendees on the first day.

Members of the AgrAbility PA staff traveled to Knoxville, Tennessee, to attend the 2017 AgrAbility National Training Workshop, March 20-23.

Abbie Spackman, case coordinator and project assistant, and Kendra Martin, digital media and outreach coordinator, as well as a farmer and an occupational therapist represented AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians (AgrAbility PA) at the national workshop. The workshop was packed full of speakers, educational sessions, networking opportunities, hands-on demonstrations, and farm tours. Topics included service to veterans, assistive technology, financial assistance, new and beginning farmers, health and wellness sessions, sustainability, outreach strategies, and more. Sessions also included information on farming with a brain injury, mental health, urban agriculture, military culture, and niche markets.


Kendra Martin at the AgrAbility PA booth as an exhibitor.

Highlights included an update from Aida Balsano, national program leader with the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture; motivational speaker Ashlee Lundvall, who was paralyzed in a ranching incident in 1999, spoke at the annual banquet dinner; and assistive technology demonstrations and tours of local Tennessee farms involved in farm to table and hydroponic operations.

Farm tour 2017 AgrAbility NTW

A farm tour in Tennessee.

Overall, the 2017 AgrAbility National Training Workshop was a great learning experience and provided an opportunity to connect with dozens of people committed to the mission of AgrAbility: to promote success in agriculture for farmers with a disability or long-term health condition.

AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians (AgrAbility PA) is a statewide partnership between Penn State Extension and UCP Central PA in support of a project funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Learn more about AgrAbility PA by visiting or search @AgrAbilityPA on social media.

PSU students raise funds to benefit a young farmer with a disability

Penn State University students in agricultural fraternities, a sorority, and several clubs held a “Penny War” and spaghetti dinner at University Park which raised nearly $1,000 for a farmer with a disability.


Kyle, a young beef farmer, sustained an injury from a PTO entanglement incident.

A young beef farmer in northern Pennsylvania, named Kyle, sustained an injury from a PTO entanglement incident. Since the incident, he has been working hard to regain his ability to work on the family farm using a prosthetic leg. AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians (AgrAbility PA) began working with Kyle to help him safely and productively overcome obstacles he faces on the farm.

Lewis Frame, a member of Delta Theta Sigma, organized the fundraiser to help Kyle purchase assistive technology to use around the farm. Members of Delta Theta Sigma, Alpha Zeta and Sigma Alpha participated in the Penny War competition. The dinner was hosted by Alpha Zeta and was attended by many people from the community. Support also came from the Poultry Science Club and the Collegiate Farm Bureau. AgrAbility PA also received a donation from Collegiate FFA to provide additional assistance to Kyle.

Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities for someone with a disability. For Kyle, assistive technology means many items and types of equipment on the farm. These funds will be put towards the purchase of accessible tractor steps and automatic gates. These devices will reduce the repetitive, strenuous movements on his leg and make it easier for him to move around his farm.

If interested in donating to Kyle or AgrAbility PA in general, contact Project Assistant Abbie Spackman at 814-867-5288 or Learn more about the AgrAbility Project by visiting or search @AgrAbilityPA on social media.

AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians (AgrAbility PA) is a statewide partnership between Penn State Extension and UCP Central PA in support of a project funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

The AgrAbility PA project is designed to assist farmers and agricultural workers with disabilities or long-term health conditions by providing the resources and support they need to live independently and to continue working in or return to production agriculture.



Oh, Taxi! A twist on taxis for calves

The birth of a healthy new calf on the farm is cause for celebration! On a dairy farm, the birth of several new heifers can be the highlight of the year. Not to mention, new calves are super cute. 🙂



But combine a flood of new calves, cold weather, and a disability — suddenly calves are no longer so cute. In fact, caring for them can be a struggle. This is especially true for individuals who have mobility impairments, arthritis, or muscle weakness.

An assistive technology (AT) solution to help feed calves can be found in a milk taxi, calf mobile, or milk shuttle.

Milk Taxi by Holm & Laue

Options for these devices range from small and simple to large and complex, and can be fitted to most sized operations. Although there are many makes and models, the general concept includes an insulated or heated milk storage tank on wheels with an easy dispensing system. This tool can easily transport milk from the milk house to the calves. It eliminates lifting or carrying heavy buckets and saves time by reducing the number of trips back and forth.

Devices with a heating option can keep milk warm for longer periods of time, allowing the individual to work at a slow pace if needed. Most of these tools are also designed with self-cleaning or easy to clean setups.

Contact AgrAbility PA to learn about vendors and potential financial assistance options.


AgrAbility PA: 2016 Year in Review

AgrAbility PA logoAgrAbility PA had a busy and productive year in 2016! It was filled with meeting new clients, farm assessments, outreach events, and more. The staff, which is comprised of members from Penn State University and UCP Central PA, traveled and networked throughout the state spreading the word about how AgrAbility can assist farmers and other agricultural workers with a disability or long-term health condition.

The services, resources, and support provided by AgrAbility PA have helped many farmers and agricultural workers to live independently and to continue working in production agriculture. AgrAbility PA is fortunate to have strong partnerships with the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF), Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT), and other third-party funding sources to help farmers and farm families obtain needed equipment, assistive technologies, and modifications.

Dairy farm wide

Here are some highlights from 2016:

  • Staff met with hundreds of farmers and agricultural workers throughout the state over the last year, meeting one on one with more than two dozen people to provide farm assessments and individualized reports on recommendations.
  • Most often, an all-purpose utility vehicle or some type of mobility device is recommended to help a farmer around their farm, but replacing old, unsafe tractor steps with new ones is second. Assistive technology is any item that is used to improve the functional capabilities for someone with a disability or long-term health condition. There are a host of options to consider on the farm!
  • A contest was launched for Pennsylvania FFA chapter members to get involved with AgrAbility PA on a project level. Deadline for submissions is March 21, 2017. Details are available at:
  • IMG_1074Penn State’s Ag Progress Days in August proved once again to be a valuable event to attend and interact with those who could benefit from AgrAbility PA’s services.
  • The National AgrAbility Project celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. September 19, 2016 was National AgrAbility Day.
  • Pennsylvania legislators, supporters, and advocates gathered at the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg in October to recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
  • screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-4-07-32-pmAgrAbility PA gained fans and followers on social media! Follow or like AgrAbility PA to stay up to date on project news, photos, events, and more – comments and shares are welcome! Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
  • The AgrAbility PA Advisory Board continues to be an important piece to our success throughout the year. Thank you members for your time and commitment!
  • Field Notes is the AgrAbility PA newsletter. It is published in print (twice a year) and electronic (monthly) versions. Join the mailing list by sending your email and mailing address to:

The AgrAbility PA team is looking forward to an exciting year ahead in 2017. The New Year not only marks the fourth and final year in our current grant cycle, but it will bring the opportunity to focus on new challenges and opportunities, such as connecting with underserved populations and enhancing the overall impact that AgrAbility can have on the agricultural community.

Reminder PA FFA: Participate in the Bridging Horizons Contest!

image_leadimageAgrAbility PA launched a new contest open to students involved in Pennsylvania FFA Chapters. The contest is aimed at making a positive impact in communities across the state for farmers or agricultural workers with a disability or long-term health condition.

The contest is currently underway — but there is plenty of time to get involved and participate! Contact us directly to get ideas, gain insight, or to get started. Deadline for submissions: March 21, 2017.

Contact: Kendra Martin | Digital Media & Outreach Coordinator | AgrAbility PA
717.975.0611 ext. 128

The Bridging Horizons Community Service Contest provides an opportunity for the Pennsylvania FFA Association members to make a positive impact in their community to enhance independence and promote success of farmers and agricultural workers with disabilities or long-term health conditions.

The contest will accept entries in three categories:

1.    Design and create an assistive technology table-top demonstration
2.    Develop an AgrAbility PA promotional video
3.    Complete a service project that helps farmers with disabilities and/or their family members

Monetary awards will be given to the one statewide winner in each category (3) and an overall winner.The winning entry in each category will be awarded $400; an additional $800 will be awarded to an overall grand-prize winner.

Learn more:

This contest is in association with the AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians Project which is a statewide partnership with USDA-NIFA, Penn State Extension, and UCP Central PA.