Thursday, May 10th, in support of Trauma Awareness Month, Joseph Brajdich and Karen Funkenbusch, MU Extension AgrAbility Program; Kassie Oliver, Trauma Outreach/Injury Prevention Coordinator, University of Missouri Health System; Frank L. Mitchell Jr., MD Trauma Center, had a table in the front lobby of the MU Health Sciences Center (hospital) for employees, patients, and visitors to stop by. AgrAbility marketing materials, informational resources, and helps for prevention of secondary injuries were handed out from 9am to 4pm.
May is a busy month for nearly all of those involved in agriculture. The grass is greening up, vegetables and crops are going in the ground, and livestock are shedding their winter coats. Things were no different in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, which is home of the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, affectionately coined the "flagship of the delta", was host to an AgrAbility workshop organized by the National AgrAbility Project.
Numerous members of the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff Extension's Small Farm Program were in attendance. In addition three representatives from the Lincoln University Cooperative Extension traveled to south central Arkansas to take part in the event. Other attendees included several extension and administrative persons from Alcorn State University and Tuskegee University. There were also spokespersons from Vocational Rehab, Life Essentials, AR Rehabilitation Services, and a panel of three Arkansas farmers that have utilized the services offered by AgrAbility.
While the two-day meeting was full of attendees, it was also full of information and presentations. A handful of presentation topics were similar to the training event that the University of Missouri helped put on in 2014 at the Carver Farm just outside of the Lincoln University campus. Nevertheless, hearing different speakers present on the topics of AgrAbility and what it offers, a farmer panel, and client on-farm assessments, helped bring an additional perspective to light. The farmer panel was particularly insightful in helping further identify the struggles that farmers have during their injury and also during the healing process. LU Extension worker Jim Pierce noted that he gained new ideas for finding people that could benefit from AgrAbility but were unaware that a program like this existed. Based on how the farmer panel members stumbled upon AgrAbility and their suggestions, Jim believes putting up fliers in rehabilitation facilities, feed stores, and veterans organizations and educating the key people at those sites will really open the door for numerous farmers affected by disabilities.
Life Essentials, a company that builds assistive technology (AT) to allow farmers to continue day to day farm work with their disabilities, gave an enjoyable presentation. Several pieces of assistive technology that are built by or sold by Life Essentials were on display as well. Attendees found it very interesting to see the innovative pieces of equipment available for assistance to clients. Lincoln University's Susan Jaster commented, "The Life Essentials Company representative, Bill Begley, explained how their equipment is manufactured and how the owner of the company, who also designs the equipment, is paraplegic and understands farmers and ranchers with similar challenges. Getting to see the Assistive Technology (AT) equipment in action and how it allows farmers and ranchers to continue their way of life made me more aware of ways to present AgrAbility marketing material. "
AR Rehab Services also gave a presentation about the programs and services they offer and additional services that are offered to residents of Arkansas. These programs and services cover a wide range, from a specialized phone tax to help communication technologies, to programs that cover complete home remodeling for clients.
There was another presentation that covered the risks of clients getting a secondary injury. During this presentation it became obvious that some of the most common causes of secondary injury come from poorly constructed assistive technology. While some injuries are sores and pinch points on manufactured equipment, the most severe are from homemade equipment or modifications that end up failing due to poor construction and forethought. This presentation demonstrated the importance of bringing safe equipment to the farmers, and not just ideas for do-it-yourself projects.
The presenters did a great job of explaining what AgrAbility and other "sister" organizations have to offer farmers that are suffering from disabilities. While a network and support system are essential for client success, financial assistance is extremely important as well. Phillip Boydston, with Lincoln University's ISFOP program, noted additional financial resources to add to the list such as the Action Trackchair fund and the Veterans Assistance Hospitals that offer a multitude of assistance to people with disabilities.
Although the main topic was AgrAbility, the event offered several additional benefits. The workshop was held at another 1890 Land Grant University, which provided a great opportunity to look around and take in not only the differences between geographic locations, but also the variance between 1890 Land Grant Institutions. Having a chance to network with other faculty and staff was an opportunity that everyone seemed to take advantage of. Not only was it beneficial to hear their take on AgrAbility, but also to learn how they are involved with extension and their role with small and innovative farmers. It was also interesting to note that Arkansas does not currently have a state sponsored AgrAbility project. While they have had previously and plan to apply to do that again, it is not currently something that is around. It was also interesting to see that even in the absence of a state AgrAbility project their extension personnel were anxious to learn about avenues and groups to help their disabled farmers in their regions.
A final note and great summation of the workshop and the extensive ways extension can help their clients was offered by Susan Jaster: "Healing is not a singular event and individuals have a capacity to be diverse in their own healing process; which makes me believe this tool will have a bearing on their attitude and acceptance of AgrAbility and the help extension can bring to them now, and in the future."
Linda Geist, Kent Faddis, and Kyle Spradley are winners in the 2015 Heart of America Awards contest for the Zane Volkmann, Back in the Saddle, AgrAbility story. MU Extension communication specialists continue to recognize the best journalism by the best journalists in western Missouri and eastern Kansas for their AgrAbility stories about Missouri farmers and ranchers with disabilities.
During the month of May, David Middleton from Lincoln University presented at the Beginning Farmers Workshop about AgrAbility services. He also visited with Kevin Thiery, vocational rehab specialist at the Mt. Vernon, VA, clinic and coordinated a work day at the Missouri Veteran's Nursing Home in Mt. Vernon involving Greene County Master Gardeners and the Mt. Vernon FFA. Vegetable and flower beds were planted and the dementia unit garden and green area was refreshed and planted.
On April 26, 2015, the Brain Injury Association of Missouri Survivor and Family Seminar - Western Missouri featured Susan Jaster, AgrAbility partner representative from Lincoln University. Susan was a panelist and exhibitor, there to discuss productive agriculture with survivors of brain injury and their family members. Approximately 85 survivors, family members and professionals learned more about the Missouri AgrAbility Project.
Maureen Cunningham, executive director with the Brain Injury Association of Missouri, shared information about brain injury and services available for veterans and family members at the AgrAbility-hosted Beginning Farmers Seminar held at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. This well-attended seminar shared options of productive farming for survivors of brain injury as well as increased awareness about the cause and effects of brain injury in rural communities.
Networking with professionals to increase knowledge about the Missouri AgrAbility Project continued at the networking meeting of the Missouri Association of Rehab Facilities. Attendance at these meetings by Maureen Cunningham, Brain Injury Association of Missouri, continues to identify potential clients and partners for the Missouri AgrAbility Project.
Susan Jaster was invited by Dr. Nadia Navarrete-Tindall at Lincoln University and Darrell Brammer of UCM Warrensburg's Business Planning Center to talk about the Innovative Small Farm Outreach Program (ISFOP) and AgrAbility. She gave one presentation on "Ag Business Resources", and another on "What is ISFOP and AgrAbility".
The Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Group is directed by Eleazar Gonzalez of the USDA. They met with Susan Jaster in Marshall, MO, for about three hours. She provided an ice-breaker game prepared to get to know the members which helped a great deal. Susan was the last one of four people to speak and the only one who did not use a PowerPoint. Eleazar Gonzalez translated everything to the group.
Submitted by Susan Jaster