Ohio AgrAbility hosted "Building Independence Through Agriculture" February 26. This statewide conference focused on how agriculture can be a viable work opportunity for individuals with developmental and cognitive disabilities. The conference was attended by participants from a variety of state and county organizations, as well as Ohio AgrAbility clients, Extension educators, and Master Gardener volunteers. Presenters included Andy Londo, the assistant director of Extension - Agriculture and Natural Resources, and farmers and farm managers from farms that focus on employing individuals with disabilities. The keynote speaker was Eric Metzger, the director of Innovation and Advocacy for Hamilton County Developmental Disability Services. He gave an inspiring speech on serving individuals with disabilities, listening to their goals, and overcoming barriers to find and retain employment. Other presentations addressed industry credentials and training, designing custom assistive technology, and Employment First - an employment initiative from Ohio Department of Disabilities.
While the conference provided many resources and networking opportunities, it also highlighted the need for more information, workshops, and training about connecting employers in the agricultural and horticultural industries to the disability community. Ohio AgrAbility is working with several of the presenters and advocates from the conference to explore ways to continue promoting the connection between agriculture and disability.
Submitted by Laura Akgerman