With the COVID-19 pandemic gravely impacting farmers, AgriSafe has hosted weekly think tanks to disseminate resources and ideas rapidly to help farmers. Staff has been participating in these weekly webinars to stay informed on how to support farmers and farmworkers in California. One of the sessions highlighted the impact on rural communities. According to the National Rural Health Association, there have been nine rural hospitals that have closed so far. It is important to acknowledge this deficit and bring a telehealth infrastructure for individuals in this community to receive care. Companies such as Apple and Google have also created apps to help with contact tracing to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. These new virtual channels are vital for the health and safety of agricultural workers.
AgrAbility staff have been busy providing face coverings for farmers and farmworkers. With the pandemic, Cheree Schiele, from Extension's Master Food Preservers, started making face coverings for local and regional hospitals. When Schiele connected with staff, she realized the great need for farmworkers to have personal protective equipment as well. Many farmworkers continue to work while living with a pre-existing condition that puts them in the high-risk category. Coming from a farming background, Schiele was compelled to help the essential workers who harvest crops to feed America. Schiele quickly pulled her friends Diana Sumrow and Sally Emslander in on the project. Together they donated over 150 face coverings to AgrAbility. Staff was able to mail and drop off the face coverings to program participants, the local farming community, and clinics.
Staff also participated in the "AgrAbility's Smart Technology for Agriculture and the Home" webinar. Different smart assistive tools such as smart thermostats, smart lighting, smart televisions, door locks, and more were discussed in an AgrAbility applied context. Each item would be able to assist an individual living with a disability to live more independently. For example, an individual living with a spinal cord injury or stroke may have difficultly regulating body temperature. With a smart thermostat, individuals can adjust the temperature from their phone, enabling them to live more comfortably. There are many smart devices for the farm as well. Drones are common, as farmers can check the farm without having to be present in the field.
Submitted by Sara Wat