AgrAbility, Easter Seals, and Extension Celebrate 25 Years of Success in Wisconsin

The year 2016 marks 25 years of AgrAbility! As part of our celebration, we would like to thank our partner agencies and explain how AgrAbility, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, UW-Extension, and Easter Seals and the FARM team work together to keep our Wisconsin farmers on the farm through disabilities, injuries, and accidents.

AgrAbility has provided services to nearly 3,000 Wisconsin farmers, maintaining a 98% success rate in helping farmers stay on the farm. Between 2014 and 2015 alone, almost 600 farmers received this assistance.

AgrAbility assists all types of farmers, from rabbit, fruit, vegetable and orchard, to large dairy, beef, and grain operations. Some of the most common disabilities seen by the program are arthritis and back pain, and range from amputations to mental illnesses

AgrAbility exists as a partnership between the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Easter Seals Wisconsin. The AgrAbility project was a grant originally awarded to the University by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1991. The project has been renewed every year since, for a total of 25 years this year.

AgrAbility’s staff works out of an office located on campus at UW-Madison. They are UW employees and are considered part of UW-Extension. Being part of Extension allows special access to recent and relevant information and technology from agents and specialists in every agricultural discipline.

The AgrAbility staff is responsible for the marketing and outreach of the program, as well as the enrollment of new and re-opening AgrAbility clients. The AgrAbility staff are the voices you hear on the phone when you call the AgrAbility office, and the faces you see at trade shows and events around the state.

Easter Seals is the non-profit partner on the AgrAbility project, whose mission is to increase independence, maximize opportunities, minimize barriers, and enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities. FARM stands for Farm Assessment and Rehabilitation Methods, and is the division of Easter Seals that was developed in the early 90’s to provide vocational services to the rural population.

The Easter Seals staff are the ones you’ll see out on your farms and hear on the phones guiding you through the maze of resources available for farmers with injuries and disabilities. Rural Rehabilitation Specialists work with farmers all over the state to identify limitations affecting farm tasks and discuss accommodations for disabilities.

Some of the partner agencies and organizations we direct our farmers to include the Wisconsin Farm Center, the Farmer Veteran Coalition, and the Harvest of Hope Community fund. Farm transition and succession services are available through the Wisconsin Farm Center.

Collectively, AgrAbility, Easter Seals and the UW-Extension provide resources and ideas for farmers with disabilities and injuries. These resources include opportunities for networking and support, an on-farm assessment by a rural rehabilitation specialist, development of plans for accommodation, identification of suitable assistive technology, gathering multiple cost estimates for equipment, working with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) counselors to discuss farm issues, and case management to assure that the plan is successfully implemented.

 

Disclaimers

AgrAbility, Easter Seals, UW-Extension, nor the University provide the funding for modifications to farms or equipment, or directly items such as tractors, skidsteers, or utility vehicles and never have provided the funding Farmers that are seeking funding for assistive technology or equipment to address disabilities in order to remain employed may apply for other resources for an assessment to identify those needs. One such option is the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR).

There are two qualifications farmers must meet in order to enroll for AgrAbility services: 1) They must meet the USDA’s definition of farming, making $1,000 gross income per year from an agricultural operation, and 2) They must have some type of injury or disability.

For more information or to sign up for services, contact the AgrAbility office at 608-262-9336 or agrability@wisc.edu. Learn more on the AgrAbility and Easter Seals websites: http://agrability.bse.wisc.edu and www.farm.eastersealswisconsin.com.