As a member of the New Mexico AgrAbility Project, or NMAP, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service along with the New Mexico Technology Assistance Program, Mandy’s Farm and the University of New Mexico Occupational Therapy graduate program are supporting efforts to promote accessible agriculture.
NMAP was created to support success in agriculture for people with disabilities and improve quality of life through participation in agriculture production. NMAP collaborated with the National AgrAbility Project and the 1994 land-grant, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, to host a regional AgrAbility workshop, Sept. 27-28, at SIPI’s campus in Albuquerque.
The free two-day event provided presentations on how existing, new and prospective tribal farmers and ranchers and others with disabilities and other functional limitations can remain or become successful in small-scale farming and gardening.
“It was early in 2022 that I received an email from Chuck Baldwin with the National AgrAbility Project wanting to know if NMAP would be interested in a collaborative effort to offer a regional workshop with a New Mexico 1994 land-grant institution,” said Sonja Koukel, NMSU Extension specialist and NMAP director. “We quickly formed a planning committee composed of individuals from a variety of organizations, including NMSU Tribal Extension. SIPI graciously accepted to host the workshop. It took monthly meetings over six months to finalize the details.”
With 69 workshop participants representing five states, including New Mexico, Indiana, Texas, Colorado and Washington, attendees had the chance to join presentations from 16 individuals from at least 29 different agencies. Workshop topics included physical rehabilitation issues of farmers and ranchers; microscale farming; adaptive tools and technology; and worksite assessment.
“I am personally excited about the outcomes of the workshop, the networking that was done, and the relationships that were built. Kudos to all of you who helped with the planning and execution of this important – even groundbreaking – event,” said Baldwin, who is the National AgrAbility Project Underserved Populations Outreach coordinator at Purdue University.
Koukel said she heard many encouraging comments from attendees, including “I learned so much about resources available to ranchers in our community;” “This was such a wonderful conference. From the presentations to the food, everything was amazing. Loved hearing from veterans, new farmers, and assistive technology for folks with disabilities;” and “This is nice to see resources being focused on farmers with special needs and it is very nice to hear their stories.”
A United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture-funded project, AgrAbility provides assistance to farmers, ranchers, other agricultural workers and farm family members impacted by disability, illness or chronic conditions. Currently, one national and 21 state projects have been established.
Robert Hagevoort, NMSU Extension dairy specialist and incoming NMAP director, hopes the workshop has a significant impact for the state’s residents.
“SIPI has recently hired an Extension director responsible for providing leadership and strategic direction for the planning, delivery, reporting and evaluation of researched-based culturally relevant Extension and continuing education programming related to agriculture, natural resources and community development for tribal communities and stakeholders,” Hagevoort said. “At the workshop, we heard from SIPI administrators and faculty who expressed interest in building upon the NMAP relationship formed at the workshop. NMAP plans to keep the conversation going and working together to help bring much needed resources to our farmers and ranchers with disabilities.”
CUTLINE: Robert Hagevoort (left), New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service dairy specialist and incoming New Mexico AgrAbility Project director, tests an Action Trackchair as Norm Bearden, Action Trackchair representative, assists during a regional AgrAbility workshop in late September. (Courtesy photo)
CUTLINE: New Mexico AgrAbility Project client Tiffany Sanchez (seated) participated in the farmer panel during a regional AgrAbility workshop in late September. Sanchez’ husband, JJ (left), also attended the event. (Courtesy photo)