AgrAbility PA Advisory Board holds annual meeting

The AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians Advisory Board held an annual meeting in State College, Pa., on March 17. The board met to review the project scope, responsibilities, and overall efforts of the grant-based program. The goal of the project is to assist farmers and agricultural workers in overcoming a disability or long-term health condition so that they may continue to work and remain in production agriculture in the state of Pennsylvania. The grant for the project was awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

AgrAbility PA (for short) is a statewide partnership between Penn State Extension, located at Pennsylvania State University, 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.

The Advisory Board consists of experts and specialist from state agencies, organizations, and non-profits throughout Pennsylvania. Examples include PA Office of Rural Health, PA Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania Initiative on Assistive Technology, Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation, PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, PA Department of Agriculture, and PA Area Health Education Center. The board also consists of occupational and physical therapists, agriculturalists, and AgrAbility PA clients.

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The AgrAbility PA Advisory Board

Project highlights presented and discussed included AgrAbility PA outreach at events, efforts in marketing and use of social media, updates on former and current AgrAbility PA clients, overview of the year ahead, and new initiatives. A new initiative was presented called Bridging Horizons– a contest for high school students involved with FFA.

The project has continued to be a critical resource for farmers and agricultural workers in Pennsylvania with a disability or long-term health condition. Most commonly seen health challenges for AgrAbility PA clients include arthritis, back injuries, joint impairments, and mobility constraints. More than 60 percent are a direct result of an incident or the overall physical nature of work on the farm. Many AgrAbility PA clients work on dairy farms, as it is the largest agricultural industry in Pennsylvania, but more and more clients are seeking resources and support from other farming operations. Clients range in age from 18 to late sixties, with the average Pennsylvania farmer being 55 years old. Common equipment accommodations include using utility vehicles, making tractor modifications, and changing feeding practices. The PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation, Ag Choice Farm Credit, and the Farm Service Agency largely provide funding for these accommodations.

"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, AgrAbility PA Project Director and Associate Professor of Agricultural and Extension Education at Penn State University.

The Advisory Board will continue to provide feedback and recommendations on the project throughout the year. The grant is operational for a four-year period with the option to renew. The current grants runs through September 2017.

For more information about AgrAbility PA, visit www.AgrAbilityPa.org, 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.

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