West Virginia AgrAbility presented at the West Virginia Occupational Therapy Association (WVOTA) Conference, held October 2nd at Mountain State University. Staff introduced AgrAbility’s mission and explained the physical impacts of farm-related tasks on one’s body. The purpose of AgrAbility’s outreach towards allied healthcare professionals is to increase awareness of a farmer’s mindset and how this affects his/her attitude towards personal health care and behaviors. AgrAbility’s outreach strives to integrate post care services and delivery, such as rehab services, into a farmer’s priorities, including keeping the farm running. Many farmers choose not to follow post care instruction so that they are more available to continue farming. This can have a negative effect on their injury, chronic health condition, and general health. WVOTA offers AgrAbility a good opportunity for outreach. Its annual conference attracts professional occupational therapists and occupational therapy students from across the state for poster and workshop presentations, as well as discussion on current topics in occupational therapy. For more information on WVOTA, visit www.wvota.org.
West Virginia AgrAbility hosted this year’s National AgrAbility Training Week (NATW) at the Charleston Marriott Town Center earlier this month. This year’s conference had approximately 190 participants. The conference also set a new record for the number of farmer/rancher scholars who attended, with 32 present. Most farmers who attend are consumers of AgrAbility services, and a big draw for many farmers this year was the small farmer/rancher information track, a new initiative for NATW this year.
Representatives from AgrAbility’s currently funded 23 state and regional projects attended. In addition to welcoming state projects that have been awarded renewed funding, the NTW was happy to welcome new state and regional projects, including Arkansas, and Maine. Also in attendance where stakeholders from Idaho, North Carolina, and Guam who want to bring AgrAbility to their state or territory, with an interest in finding out more about the National AgrAbility Project (NAP) and how to apply for funding.
In addition to greeting old faces and meeting new friends, attendants discussed new issues and persistent challenges facing farmers with disabilities, general project administration, and project outreach. Success stories were also shared. Funding sources for farm modifications; implementing assistive technology and ergonomics, safer farming practices; and preventing secondary injuries were frequently discussed topics. New topics included outreach for veterans, caregivers, and people who have traumatic brain injuries. Also new to the agenda were formal discussions on small farm operations; implementing peer support networks for farmers with disabilities; and increased interest and demand for accessible gardening. Staff from WVU’s Extension Service Small Farm Center presented the small farmer/rancher information track. This track addresses unique challenges facing small farm operations and specific management techniques. Some examples of topics were: marketing, financial and business management, season extension, irrigation, and small farm risks and taxes.
As always, AgrAbility mixed a little fun with business. An auction during the conference helped raise money for AgrAbility’s Farmer/Rancher Scholarship Fund. Scholarships help pay travel and conference registration fees for farmers who are consumers of AgrAbility’s services to attend NATW. Each state project donates items to the auction. Bids generally come from staff of all state and regional AgrAbility projects. This year’s auction made a record amount for the scholarship fund, $4,600.00.
Traditionally, the last day of the conference is a ‘tour day’ conducted by the hosting staff, highlighting the hosting state. Conference attendees were treated to tours of the USDA Research Center outside of Beckley and the Exhibition Coal Mine. Tamarac was also a stop for lunch and shopping.
Next year’s conference will be hosted by the National Project in Indianapolis, November 7-11. 2011 marks AgrAbility’s twentieth anniversary of being federally funded through the 1991 Farm Bill. Please mark your calendars to join AgrAbility in marking this tremendous milestone.
Submitted by Mary Slabinski