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June 2016

West Virginia

Mountain Cap of WV is one of West Virginia's Green Thumb/Health Joints mini-grant recipients having received the mini-grant to assist with accessibility issues with some raised beds at the Buckhannon Manor. Lori Ann Hagi from Mountain Cap requested an accessible gardening seminar and WV AgrAbility staff provided a training and assistive technology demonstration to 23 residents on "Gardening As We Age - How Can AgrAbility Assist". Demonstrations of hay bale gardening, container gardening, and lasagna gardening were provided to give participants options in their garden medium. Many participants noted soil preparation as a major obstacle and could see where these methods would address that concern.

Various forms of assistive technology pertinent to gardening were also demonstrated. The participants were then given an opportunity to try the equipment for their own garden application. Several pieces of assistive technology were a huge hit since many participants had not seen or used such devices. Some of these devices were:

WV AgrAbility staff provided disability awareness to 520 youth during the Wood and Tyler County Progressive Farm Safety Day. Staff discussed People First Language, why "handicapped" should not be used to describe a person with a disability, and had the students imagine what it would be like to try and build a house using only a screwdriver - which is what it would be like for an individual with a disability if they did not have specific assistive technology. Students participated in a "hands-on" activity where they tried to guess various types of assistive technology and what disability it would assist. Students were also asked whether an individual with paraplegia could be a teacher, play sports, go to the movies, or be a farmer, and then what special "tools" each profession would need to be successful.

Huntington Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Center hosted the 5th Annual Lincoln County Farm Field Day. The field day included presentations from professionals around the state on beekeeping, high tunnel construction/management, growing mushrooms, raising blueberries, rain barrel construction, cooking with fresh veggies, and farm injury prevention. WV AgrAbility staff presented the Farm Injury Prevention session with approximately 75 farmers attending. Staff emphasized the ability of aging and disabled producers to continue farming while reducing the risk of secondary injury with the use of assistive technology, proper modifications, and good body mechanics. Various assistive technologies were demonstrated with the farmers trying and testing the devices to see if they would meet any of their particular needs.

Peterson Rehabilitation Hospital provides an accessible and soothing garden for residents and community members. Ohio County Master Gardeners provide the upkeep of the garden area, which is divided into several small areas, with some of them being a shade garden, native garden, sensory garden, herb garden, and table top gardens. WV AgrAbility staff provided a three-hour training to 25 Ohio County master gardeners titled "Using Proper Body Mechanics and Ergonomic Tools While Gardening". Topics included exercising and stretching along with proper lifting, body mechanics and frequent changing of tasks. Staff also spoke about various accessible gardening techniques including straw bale gardening, lasagna gardening, container gardening, and square foot gardening, along with a demonstration of various ergonomic gardening tools and how to make currently owned tools more body friendly. Participants also tried various recreational assistive technologies.

During the month of May, WV AgrAbility staff conducted one farm site assessment and worked with West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services on securing funding for the needed agricultural modifications. Additional advocacy was provided to another farmer in securing the needed funding for farm site modifications from West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation and they met with the rehabilitation engineers to discuss the needed modifications.

Submitted by Tiffany Salamone