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Money Boosts Project’s Outreach To Farmers With Disabilities

National AgrAbility Project

Purdue University’s National AgrAbility Project has received more than $2 million in funding this spring, with an additional $720,000 for Indiana’s local version. AgrAbility is a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-sponsored program with a base on Purdue’s campus that helps farmers and agricultural workers with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. The money will help the AgrAbility Project reach out directly to farmers who live with a disability, visit these farms for an assessment, and provide helpful technology for the farmers who need it.

Traditionally, the project focused on physical disability issues such as amputations, brain injuries, arthritis, and spinal cord injuries. However, the latest research has led Purdue to emphasize assistance for farmers affected by stress-related impairments, behavioral health issues, and mental health. The project is designed to eliminate obstacles preventing farmers from successful agricultural production.

Photo Courtesy National AgrAbility Project 

“Having the USDA award both the National and the Indiana AgrAbility Project grants to Purdue in the same year is a strong indication that the staff behind these proposals is on the right track when it comes to the vision and work plan for AgrAbility that they have projected,” said Chuck Baldwin, Indiana AgrAbility’s project manager.

AgrAbility provides help for numerous veterans and caregivers across the country, with a special focus on states that do not have similar programs.

The project also offers educational programs to farmers who need to learn how to use the latest technology, including wheelchair support for combines and other farm equipment and networking opportunities for agricultural workers with disabilities. This sense of community can help participants face their health conditions in a more nurturing, supportive environment while supporting farmers’ businesses.

Photo Courtesy National AgrAbility Project 

“Improving and enhancing the quality of life for our farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers to help them continue to enjoy agricultural work is incredibly important,” said Carrie Castille, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. It contributed to the Indiana state grant.

The funding will help the 30-year-old National AgrAbility Project reach more constituents across the U.S. — close to 650,000 farmers are estimated to be living with disabilities in America.

With a critical focus on reaching underserved agricultural populations, the program will target farmers and caregivers in previously-neglected communities, including many Native American, African-American, and Hispanic communities, and female agricultural workers.

“We share nationwide agriculture resources and success stories with those with a disability already working or interested in agriculture. The project has changed and continues to change as we add new educational resources and support for the challenges farmers face today,” said  Paul Jones, AgrAbility project manager.

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