Tag Archives: AgrAbility

AgrAbility project helping Michigan agriculture

Michigan State University Extension and Easter Seals Michigan have received a four-year, $720,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture AgrAbility program to assist farm operators and workers with disabilities. Like any job, farming has its dangers including many health and safety hazards, such as:

  • Chemicals and pesticides
  • Machinery, tools and equipment that can be dangerous
  • Hazardous areas, such as grain bins, silos and wells
  • Livestock that can spread diseases or cause injuries

AgrAbility provides education, networking, assistance and marketing to facilitate services to Michigan farm operators and farm workers with disabilities. The project will provide education to not only farmers but also healthcare providers, farm equipment dealers and government service providers. The overall aim is to help agricultural workers with disabilities overcome challenges and work efficiently in their farming and ranching careers.

“MSU Extension is an organization that continues to look for new ways to include every member of the public through groundbreaking research and communication,” said Steve Lovejoy, MSU Extension specialist and professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics. “Through this AgrAbility grant, MSU Extension, along with the MSU College of Human Medicine and Michigan Easter Seals, will be able to help keep farmers who are disabled employed and strengthen the Michigan farming community that so many thrive in and rely on.”

This is a fantastic opportunity to work with Easter Seals Michigan to continue this mission, and find new ways to make agriculture accessible.

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Extension educators and specialists educate Ag Expo visitors

This year’s Ag Expo July 17-19 offered a prime example of MSUE doing what it does best, helping people solve problems and meet real-life challenges.

Despite the extreme heat, this year’s Ag Expo boasted the highest attendance in 10 years –18,250 people showed up for the annual event. They met with close to 250 commercial exhibitors, and of course, demonstrations and educational sessions presented by our educators and specialists.

Extension had a real and meaningful presence at the show. In the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) tent, MSUE staff members and volunteers offered visitors a slice of our popular Breakfast on the Farm program. Our Master Gardeners and consumer horticulture educators talked about growing and preserving that great Michigan produce. Other presentations and displays featured Firewise, the Product Center, members of the Farm Information Resources Management Team, AgrAbility, 4-H Youth Development and information about food safety. (Read my June 28 Spotlight article for more details.)

MSUE’s representation wasn’t confined to one location. Ag Expo visitors could find MSU Extension Bookstore publications and Michigan Fresh fact sheets in another tent while AABI educators and specialists were on hand to answer farmers’ questions about dealing with the drought. Others offered a biodiesel processing demonstration.

Off site, our staff members were involved in hosting demonstrations on mortality composting and field tillage.

As usual, I hesitate to make a list of people to thank for their participation because of the possibility that I’ll leave someone or something out. If I missed mentioning your program or area, please feel free to mention it by leaving a comment under this article on my blog.


Extension educator Gretchen Voyle speaks to an attentive audience at Ag Expo about protecting tomatoes from four major diseases

Extension educator Gretchen Voyle speaks to an attentive audience at Ag Expo about protecting tomatoes from disease. The event took place July 17-19, 2012, in East Lansing, Mich.


A standing-room-only crowd listens to a session at Ag Expo in the CANR Tent July 2012, East Lansing, Mich.

A standing-room-only crowd listens to a session at Ag Expo in the CANR Tent July 2012, in East Lansing, Mich.


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Extension will wow participants at Ag Expo with new information and experiences in CANR Tent

Michigan State University Extension looks forward to having a big presence at the 33rd Ag Expo this year. The event runs July 17–19 at the corner of Mt. Hope and Farm Lane on the MSU campus.

Faculty, educators and specialists will be on site, offering educational sessions and demonstrations. The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Tent will brim with educational exhibits and demonstrations from the Master Gardener Volunteer Program, Firewise, the Farm Information Resources Management Team, AgrAbility, 4-H Youth Development, the Health and Nutrition Institute and others.

Master Gardener staff members and volunteers will present gardening sessions: Gretchen Voyle on tomato diseases, Hal Hudson on drip irrigation and Jarred Morris on cucurbit downy mildew.

Breakfast on the Farm, led by Extension educators Mary Dunckel and Nancy Thelen, will present a large walk-through experience showcasing what Extension is doing to educate consumers about modern food production.

Joyce McGarry, Extension educator, will present food preservation tips.

James Whaley, a Bryon 4-H’er and entrepreneur, will educate visitors about raising poultry.

And to answer any other visitors’ questions, Extension experts will staff the “Ask an Expert” booth.

Don’t leave the Expo without your free MSU Dairy Store ice cream. Donations for the ice cream go to the CANR Alumni Scholarship Fund.

Ag Expo, Michigan’s largest outdoor farm show, gives us another opportunity to reach out to Michigan residents.

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Michigan AgrAbility session takes place at Ag Expo

Kelly Ewalt, Michigan State University Extension AgrAbility educator, will present a session at Ag Expo this year, explaining the program, “Michigan AgrAbility – What is it?” at 2:30 p.m. on July 19 and 20 and at 9:30 a.m. on July 21 in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) tent.

 AgrAbility is a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant-funded partnership of MSUE, Easter Seals Michigan, United Cerebral Palsy of Michigan and Michigan Farm Bureau, as well as Michigan Rehabilitation Services. Michigan AgrAbility helps people with disabilities who are employed in agriculture to continue to farm and to live independently.

 Clients’ needs can vary widely. For example, through AgrAbility, clients with amputations might have additional steps put on their tractors. They might install drive-through gates so they don’t have to mount and dismount their tractors when entering pastures, and they may put in squeeze chutes to help control their animals. A client who doesn’t have the strength to push the brake or clutch petals down might receive advice on putting hand controls on tractors. One may need specially designed stairs to safely access the cab of a skid steer over the bucket.

 AgrAbility staff members will make an on-site farm assessment, locate the equipment, help with installation and assist the farmer with learning to use it.

 At Ag Expo, Kelly will demonstrate some common equipment modifications and discuss the services that AgrAbility offers.

 Visit the Michigan AgrAbility website to find out more about the program: www.michiganagrability.org

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