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July 2016

West Virginia

West Virginia State University combined several of its programs in early June to conduct field research while harvesting broccoli. These programs looked at broccoli production in a high tunnel, cold storage during harvest, and use of assistive technology.

Various methods of field-cooling broccoli were tested to find the most effective way for farmers to cool their produce prior to packing and shipping for sale. The rapid cooling of the product in the field provides higher quality produce for the consumer. Four methods were tried to see which would cool the internal temperature of the broccoli the quickest.

  1. The first was to harvest the broccoli and place it in the packing boxes as it was cut and then place the box in a cooling trailer. The trailer's refrigeration is run by a generator so the farmer can take it directly to the field.
  2. The second method was to place the packing boxes in a cooler and blow air across them. This method would be more difficult for the farmer to reproduce in the field.
  3. The third method was to place the packing boxes in a cooler lined with ice bricks.
  4. The fourth method was to place the broccoli directly in the cooler on the ice bricks and layer ice bricks on the broccoli as it was harvested.

The fourth method was found to cool the broccoli the fastest, but there was concern about needing to handle the crop several times prior to shipment. Most farmers work alone and do not have the time to handle the crop several times.

Also during the harvest, various gardening scoots and benches were tested for ease of use and decreased stress on the body. Both individuals harvesting tried both devices and both individuals found a different device to work best for them. This reinforced the notion that even when doing the same task, people are different and require the equipment they use to fit them, rather than the individual changing to fit the equipment.

An observation was noted prior to the beginning of the harvest that the handle of the harvesting knife appeared to be awkward and would leave the harvesters hands fatigued. Both harvesters thought that would not be a problem as they began the harvest, but after all the broccoli was harvested, they stated that their hands were tired and had sore spots where the knife became hard to hold. Even though the knife blade was very functional and helpful during the harvest, the handle made the tool hard to use.

Pictures and videos of the broccoli harvest and testing can be viewed on the WV AgrAbility Facebook page.

This year the annual ISASH (International Society for Agricultural Safety and Health) Conference was held in Lexington, Kentucky, June 26-30. WV AgrAbility staff attended this four-day training for the agricultural safety and health community. This conference is a clearinghouse for research and intervention ideas and brings together engineers, educators, insurers, physicians, nurses, veterinarians, statisticians, communicators, anthropologists, business leaders and many others - all of whom play an influential role in agricultural safety and health. Sessions highlighted farm safety systems, youth safety, medical responses in agricultural safety and health, and many others. Various committees offered an opportunity to participate in focus areas.

A West Virginia University Extension agent sought out the assistance of WV AgrAbility staff to conduct an assistive technology assessment and to make recommendations for one of their 4-H members who wanted to show pigs at the county fair. The county fair board was concerned that the individual's disability would not allow her to show the pig during the showmanship and market show. The assessment was completed and recommendations were made. Education on the abilities of people with disabilities and a cooperative effort of the fair board, cooperative extension, the parent, and the 4-Her provided a young lady with a disability the opportunity to show her pig alongside of her peers. More on this story to follow after the county fair.

During the recent flooding in West Virginia, several AgrAbility clients were affected, displaced, and/or experienced a loss of livestock, hay, and produce. When one client was concerned about his remaining livestock, WV AgrAbility staff organized a crew and assisted with building temporary fencing to contain his remaining herd and secured hay and feed to assist with their care. While some onlookers could not understand his obsession with securing his herd since he had just lost his house, barn and all of his hay, he stated that those cows were the only income he had left to help him start over.

West Virginia AgrAbility continues to provide information and resources to farmers requesting assistance. During the month of June, WV AgrAbility staff conducted two farm site assessments and are working with West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services on securing funding for the needed agricultural modifications. Additional advocacy was provided to a farmer in securing the needed funding for farm site modifications from West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation.

Submitted by Tiffany Salamone