AgrAbility News for March 2020
Boots to Bushels (B2B) started in January 2020 with sixteen students attending classes on the VA Togus campus in Augusta, Maine, with plans for four months of classroom training covering topics from soil health to crop planning to marketing. In May, six months of practical fieldwork training was planned at the Togus community gardens with the goal of developing a CSA, and building a supportive cohort of beginning veteran farmers. Then, as with the rest of the world, COVID-19 struck, and the VA had to focus on the health of their at-risk veteran population and canceled all recreational therapy programs, including B2B. In an attempt to salvage the learning opportunity, Zoom classes will continue through April and starting in May, seven out of the 16 participants are going to finish out the program at veteran-owned farm, Chase Stream Farm. The students will get the same benefit of getting weekly CSA shares, and gain practical farm and marketing skills. Chase Stream Farm is owned by Anne Devin (AgrAbility outreach coordinator) and her husband Tim, both retired USMC.
Maine AgrAbility’s Kelley Spencer exhibited agricultural information and assistive technology ideas at the 2020 Brain Injury Association of America, Maine Chapter, Brain Injury Resource Fair on March 2, 2020. This event was part of Brain Injury Awareness month activities. We recently shared this resource on Facebook and Twitter, the message may be helpful to other AgrAbility clients across the US. The #13DayswithBIAA campaign to support members of our community who are feeling isolated or anxious.
On March 5-7, 2020 Maine AgrAbility exhibited FishAbility at the annual Fishermen’s Forum. Many great conversations were had about stress and available resources. We revised our farm stress display to represent fishing industry topics. It was a great conversation starter- What Stresses You Out? and the responses were consistent; the ‘Under 30’ age group said ‘everything’ stressed hem out, whereas the ‘Over 50’ age group just chuckled at the question, and said ‘not much stresses me out anymore’. Must be true then, that with age, comes wisdom.
We shared a new success story on our website about a double amputee farmer in Central Maine. After two seasons adjusting to a “new normal,” Bill is a full partner with Carol on the farm again. “We are a team,” she said. “Maine AgrAbility got Billy back on his feet. Now he has all the tools he needs—it’s been tremendous.”
We’ve been networking with our USDA partner NRCS to schedule AgrAbility presentations and increase disability awareness as part of their annual training meetings. The second week of March, we had a Husson University OT student complete their Level 1 fieldwork experience with our AgrAbility team. She was able to spend a few days with different AgrAbility specialists exploring their roles and participate in a staff and advisory council meetings. While a lot of our planned AgrAbility exhibit and education opportunities have been postponed, we are continuing to meet weekly as a team via Zoom, keeping client discussions moving forward and working on developing webinar and presentations for future events.