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May 2011

West Virginia

West Virginia AgrAbility took the spotlight for the April taping of Access for All: Supports and Services in your Community. This broadcast addresses a different disability related topic each month and highlights services available to people with disabilities in West Virginia. It is created by the Center for Excellence in Disabilities (CED), one of the three partners that make up West Virginia AgrAbility. It is produced by the West Virginia Library Television Network. You can watch this broadcast four times a week on the West Virginia Library Television Network. It is also uploaded on the CED’s website,

The topic for this taping was square foot gardening. This growing method originally targeted home gardeners in urban areas. It was created by Mel Bartholomew as a minimal maintenance growing system that produces maximum yield from small spaces. The method is based on the theory that if you set visual boundaries based on how much space mature plants need and only plant as many as the space can support, then you will not over plant. The result will be a garden that yields how much you want and not extra that may go to waste.

Since you only plant what you need, you will not be doing extra gardening chores to take care of extra plants or garden space. The theory holds that you only need a few square feet to have an adequate vegetable garden. In fact, this growing system’s rule of thumb is a 4’ x 4’ ft. garden produces enough vegetables for salads for one person for an entire growing season.

Square foot gardening works by dividing your garden bed into square foot units. You plant only one type of plant per unit. How many seeds you plant depends on the amount of space that the particular plant requires. For example, if you want to plant lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, you need at least three, one square foot units. Four lettuce plants can be planted in one unit since each plant needs six inches of space to grow to full maturity. One tomato plant will take up another unit since the spacing requirement for tomatoes is 12 inches. Two cucumber plants will have enough room to grow in the third unit.

There are two big differences between traditional gardening and square foot gardening. First, traditional gardening plants seeds in rows. Square foot gardening uses the whole square to grow plants. Secondly, square foot gardening uses single planting. This means that seeds are planted according to how much space they need when they are mature plants. This cuts down on gardening chores because the gardener will not have to thin once the seeds sprout.

Square foot gardening is explained in more detail on the broadcast, which will be aired in May. The full demonstration on how to integrate square foot gardening into a garden bed can be viewed on West Virginia’s AgrAbility’s webpage,, in the coming week. All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew makes for good reading to learn more about this planting method.

For the second year in a row, West Virginia AgrAbility was represented at the Spring Continuing Education Conference for Social Workers. It was hosted by the National Association of Social Workers, West Virginia Chapter in Charleston, April 13-15.

This year’s workshop, Making Sense of Rights, Protections and Entitlements for People with Disabilities, covered services and entitlements available to people of all ages who have disabilities. What makes this information unique, and the workshop dynamic, is the legal background provided by AgrAbility’s student worker and third year law student Lauren Wilson. She explained why entitlement programs and services work the way they do from a legal perspective.

Ms. Wilson shared her expertise on the legal parameters involved in financial planning, estate planning, and guardianship issues. This included advance medical directives (living wills, Do Not Resuscitate orders, Power of Attorney), writing wills, implications of the Family Medical Leave Act, and creating trusts for which only people with disabilities are eligible. Ms. Wilson explained how these legal topics, among others, protect people with disabilities and what family members can do to make sure their loved ones with disabilities are covered by these protections.

The idea for this presentation came from caregivers talking about how it felt to be overwhelmed at the moment they were told of a loved one’s diagnosis. A lot of information exists but simple, comprehensive information that explains what basic public services are, how to sign up, and their eligibility requirements is hard to find. The workshop’s information is formatted like a ‘cheat sheet’ so both caregivers and care receivers can get a taste of what services/entitlements are available in a simple overview. This information offers a basic understanding of services and terms to prepare clients before initial contact. Information is also meant for people who may not be ready to call a service provider but are thinking about calling.

This workshop served as an extension to last year’s presentation, Caring for the Caregiver: Tools for Supporting Caregivers in Rural Areas. The information presented in this previous workshop focused on common struggles that exist when providing care in farm families and suggestions for different coping techniques for dealing with resulting stress. The information from this workshop was formatted into a guide for caregivers.

The guide for caregivers will be expanded to include the ‘cheat sheets’ from Making Sense of Rights, Protections and Entitlements. Information will also be posted on West Virginia’s AgrAbility’s webpage in the near future.

Submitted by Mary Slabinski