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Oregon AgrAbility: Developing Infrastructure for a Statewide Agricultural Assistance Project

1 January 2010


Approximately 200,000 farm injuries occur annually with 65% of these acquired by owners, operators, or family members. These estimates do not include cumulative trauma, such as arthritis, that impair farmers and ranchers’ function and agricultural production. AgrAbility, a project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), aims to support the agricultural lifestyle and production of farmers and ranchers impacted by disability (AgrAbility, n.d.; Goodwill Industries, 2009). AgrAbility seeks to improve quality of life and ensure continued production for those involved in agriculture via three main objectives:

1. Improve or develop “service capacity” through education related to technology, resources, and health.

2. Network with local agencies and organizations to ensure access to resources and information.

3. Provide direct services to farmers and ranchers with disabilities (AgrAbility, n.d.).

Authorized in the 1990 Farm Bill, AgrAbility projects consist of collaboration with a non-profit disability service organization and the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Services (CSREES) at a land-grant university. Two branches comprise AgrAbility: the National AgrAbility Project (NAP) and State/Regional Projects (SRAPs). NAP currently operates from Purdue University Breaking New Ground Center in a partnership with Goodwill Industries International. It provides education and resources for SRAPs. SRAPs engage in networking, direct services, and education locally (Goodwill Industries International, 2009). Eight SRAPs and the NAP were established in 1991. Currently, 22 AgrAbility SRAPs operate with USDA funding (AgrAbility, n.d.).

In 2008, Mr. Eric Olson, Project Coordinator at Goodwill Industries International, and Dr. Nancy Krusen, OTR/L, Associate Professor at Pacific University School of Occupational Therapy, connected to initiate an AgrAbility project in Oregon. Shari Juhasz and Elizabeth Scanlon, both third-year students in the School of Occupational Therapy, joined the effort in January 2010 to complete their Innovative Practice Project. From January to May 2010, Elizabeth and Shari determined the priority for the project was USDA funding application in 2011. The long-term vision of for Oregon AgrAbility is to establish a self-sustaining ArgAbility project. Although Oregon is an agriculture-rich state, unmet service needs are not documented. Additionally, the Oregon AgrAbility project stakeholders shared a loose network without a formalized plan of action.

Shari and Elizabeth focused on several areas: infrastructure development, networking and education, and needs assessment. The related documents are included in their Innovative Practice Project. Through collaboration with Laura Dimmler, PhD(c), MPA, the students determined the appropriate means to address infrastructure development. A logic model and gantt chart outline necessary actions for project stakeholders as well as the time frame in which these should be completed. These documents are standard for obtaining federal grants. Shari and Elizabeth collaborated with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselors, Pennie Hartley and Renee Smith, to determine the most efficient ways of educating other VR personnel about AgrAbility. Elizabeth and Shari created the Service Provider Survey to be distributed to VR and other service providers as an education and needs assessment tool. Elizabeth and Shari communicated with multiple service providers to include them in project planning.

Oregon AgrAbility gained momentum and includes several additional stakeholders who see a need for the project. Future actions for AgrAbility include those outlined in the Logic Model. Jill Peacock, OTS was selected as the recipient of a stipend from Goodwill Industries to attend the National AgrAbility Professional In-Service Training. Her subsequent role is to support communication between stakeholders and assist in the coordination of their actions. Shari and Elizabeth envision that Oregon AgrAbility will be a visible and valuable resource within the state of Oregon.


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