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October 2015

National AgrAbility Project

Tuskegee AgrAbility Workshop Group PictureBill Field and Chuck Baldwin helped out with the Tuskegee University 1890s AgrAbility workshop held October 7-8 in Tuskegee, Alabama. "Helped out" because the Tuskegee staff on the planning committee, Robert Zabawa, William Hodge, Prosper Doamekpor, Decetti Taylor, and Carmalita Pollard, accomplished the major tasks of inviting, preparing, and hosting the fifty-plus people who attended this exciting event. Good collaboration from Tuskegee University's Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center was also helpful, providing good lodging, great conference facilities, and delicious food.

Ruby Davis and Bill Begley with TracChairParticipants came from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, and North Carolina. They enjoyed Bill Begley, of Life Essentials, who created a great deal of interest in, and further understanding of, assistive technology with his truck lifts and motorized wheel-chairs.

Dr. John Wheat, director of the the University of Alabama's Rural Medical Scholars program, a program focused on rural community medicine, agromedicine topics and leadership in building healthy communities, sent two of the program's medical students, Caleb Mason and Jeremy Watsen, who did a wonderful job of sharing their vision for helping people in agricultural settings in Alabama and beyond.

Helen Baker (speaking) and Stephanie Johnston from AL Dept of Rehabilitation ServicesThree staff representing the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services shared how they could help clients with disabilities directly, or work with those supplying services to ag workers with disabilities, in the areas of onsite assessments, assistive technology, and financial help for assessed needs.

Randy Alexander and Ruby DavisPerhaps the high-point of this workshop was, once again, the farmer panel. Ruby Davis, from Georgia, and Randy Alexander, from Mississippi, were the two farmers who shared their stories of working their small farms with disabilities. Both were excellent communicators, answered a lot of questions from the attendees, and added some real adrenaline to the idea that we can all be more involved in enabling people with disabilities, who want to work in agriculture, to be fruitful in their passion for that work. You can see videos of Ruby and Randy produced by Farm Again (AgrAbility affiliate in GA), by clicking here.

The workshop ended with Tuskegee University making a verbal commitment to pursue an AgrAbility Project; pledges from the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services and the University of Alabama's Rural Health Program to support Tuskegee in that effort; and an invitation from Tuskegee for AgrAbility to come and share as a major participant in their Farmers Conference in February of 2016!

Dr. Bill Field (NAP) and Dr. Fletcher Barber (PI - North Carolina AgrAbility Project)In addition to the good work from Tuskegee personnel, the National AgrAbility Project would like to thank the staff of Farm Again/Georgia AgrAbility for their help in getting Ruby Davis to the workshop. Thanks go to North Carolina AgrAbility's Dr. Fletcher Barber (PI), John Paul Owens (Co-PI), and Dr. Paula Faulkner, for their help and participation in the workshop as well. Thanks also to the many SRAPs and AgrAbility partners contacted for referrals and help in the planning of this workshop. The cooperative efforts of all helped to make this workshop a resounding success!

This workshop and the workshop held at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in May of this year were both made possible by the CHS Foundation. Two further 1890s AgrAbility workshops are planned for the coming year 2016.

Submitted by Chuck Baldwin