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January 2016

West Virginia

In the interest of WV State University veteran and minority farmers, WV AgrAbility attended the Professional Agriculture Workers Conference at Tuskegee University, December 6-8, 2015. The conference title was, "Beyond the Veil-Agriculture, Families, and Communities of the Future". Featured topics included:

A session titled, "Innovative Programs for Youth, Families and Communities", focused on agricultural jobs and programs for "returning residents", formerly known as "ex-convicts." Programs similar to the GI Bill could facilitate reintegration of returning residents into society and the workforce. Other sessions attended by WV AgrAbility included "Sustainable Production Methods," the use of "High Tunnels for Pest Exclusion," and "Record Keeping and Tax Planning for Small Farm and Agricultural Communication, Social Media, and Technology." Overall, this conference provided WV AgrAbility with an opportunity to increase its knowledge of various methods that impact agriculture and minority farmers and to share techniques and programs which are effective among agricultural workers in WV. For additional information, visit this URL:

WV AgrAbility visited a WV farm site location where the owner is an individual who wants to begin her agricultural business. WV AgrAbility assisted the farmer as she began working on a business plan to present to the WV DRS as part of her "school to adult life" transition plan. The inclusion of a business plan in the transition plan for WV DRS will support the farmer's desire to enter an agriculture endeavor as her occupational priority, rather that receive training in other occupational areas as proposed by the WV DRS.

In ongoing discussions, WV AgrAbility worked with a bee hive supplier from Kentucky who has agreed to provide demonstrations of an accessible bee hive at the Welch National Guard Armory incubator site as well as for an individual farmer. In the near future, this assistive technology demonstration will assist WV Vocational Rehabilitation in making decisions about purchasing a device for the local farmer as well as serve as a model for future agricultural producers.

WV AgrAbility is developing a Beginning Farmer/Rancher Development Program grant proposal which, if funded, would extend educational opportunities provided to agricultural workers. The future training efforts would be based at two or more armories in WV. Tangible results of developmental efforts, including draft documents, should be available soon.

Submitted by Jan Della-Giustina