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June 2012

National AgrAbility Project

AgrAbility: Creating Opportunities for Veterans and Other Agriculture Workers with Disabilities, was organized by GII and hosted by Goodwill of the Finger Lakes in Rochester, New York, May 15-17. Thirty-nine professionals from fourteen states attended, including AgrAbility professionals from several cooperative extension offices, other agriculture-related organizations, veterans groups, and Goodwill members, who were all anxious to hear how they can be better prepared to provide services to veterans.

Michael O'Gorman, Farmer Vet Coalition (FVC) ( Executive Director, explained, "Farming offers a clear mission veterans can believe in." He continued, "Growing and giving back to their communities fits the need of many veterans to continue their service. That is what is missing when they return to civilian life." Tia Christopher, also of FVC ,used her passion and experience as a veteran to contribute first hand experience to the workshop.

Steve Swain, assistive technology specialist with Purdue University's Breaking New Ground Center, helped workshop participants gain understanding of the role assessments can play in helping veterans and other farmers understand and plan for success in their farm operations. The group visited the organic dairy farm of James and Cristin Glasner in Portageville NY to experience how to approach a farm operation and work with a farmer to develop a plan for success.

In a keynote talk on GII's white paper, From Deployment to Employment, Seth Turner, GII public policy director, said that while many issues are unique for returning veterans, others, including unemployment, disability, and poverty, are challenges that Goodwill centers confront every day. He suggested that State and Regional AgrAbility Projects can seek ways to support veterans returning home.

Shye Louis, Goodwill of the Finger Lakes 2-1-1/LIFE LINE Manager, represented one among many Goodwills that are providing critically needed services for veterans. Through a partnership with the Veterans Administration, the Rochester Goodwill operates a 24/7 Veterans Crisis Hotline, 800-273-TALK. Shye explained that veteran suicide is twice as high as the general population. Among female vets, the rate is three times as high.

Submitted by Eric Olson

Amber Wolfe presented a free community-based educational workshop on arthritis and agriculture in Alabama and Montana. The session in Montgomery, Alabama on April 5was hosted by the Arthritis Foundation Southeast Region and ALFA Insurance. Amber presented another full-day workshop in Missoula, Montana on May 17. This workshop was hosted by the Arthritis Foundation Montana office and MonTech.

Submitted by Amber Wolfe