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ATU553 – AgrAbility with Paul Jones and Chuck Baldwin (Part 2)

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Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Special Guests:

Paul Jones – Manager of National AgrAbility Project at Purdue University

Chuck Baldwin – Project Manager for the Indiana AgrAbility Project at Purdue University

website: www.agrability.org

Phone: 800-825-4264

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—- Transcript Starts Here —-

Paul Jones:
Hi, this is Paul Jones and I’m the manager of the National AgrAbility Project at Purdue University.

Chuck Baldwin:
And this is Chuck Baldwin, Project Manager for the Indiana AgrAbility Project at Purdue University and this is your Assistive Technology Update.

Josh Anderson:
Hello and welcome to your Assistive Technology Update. A weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs. I’m your host, Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to Episode 553 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on December 31st, 2021. Happy New Year listeners. On today’s show, we’re super excited to have Paul Jones and Charles Baldwin from AgrAbility back to continue talking about all the great services that they can provide and the amazing things that they do. No use in keeping you waiting, let’s go ahead and get on with the show.

Josh Anderson:
Maybe you’re looking for some new podcast to listen to. Well, make sure to check out our sister podcast Accessibility Minute and AT FAQ or Assistive Technology frequently asked questions. If you’re super busy and don’t have time to listen to a full podcast, be sure to check out Accessibility Minute, our one minute long podcast that gives you just a little taste of something assistive technology based. Hosted by Tracy Castillo, this show comes out weekly. Our other show is Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions or ATFAQ. On Assistive Technology Frequent Asked Questions, Brian Norton leads our panel of experts, including myself, Belva Smith and our own Tracy Castillo as we try to answer your assistive technology questions.

Josh Anderson:
This show does rely on you. So we’re always looking for new questions, comments or even your answers on assistive technology questions. Check out our sister Accessibility Minute and at FAQ, wherever you get your podcast now, including Spotify and Amazon music.

Josh Anderson:
Chuck, when you kind of introduce yourself, you talked a little bit about underserved populations or maybe individuals who may need the program but not really kind of know about it. So how do you get the word out to those underserved populations and make sure that they know these things are available to them and can assist them when they’re in need?

Chuck Baldwin:
I don’t know if everyone is aware of what underserved populations means, at least with respect to the US Department of Agriculture but basically they’re talking about what used to be to as minorities in agriculture. It would include African Americans, native Americans. It includes other people groups in the United States, as we become increasingly international among and others. It also includes women in agriculture. It includes military veterans that are involved in agriculture and if I can just go to a couple of those working with African Americans and native Americans, we normally start out working through the land grant institutions that Paul referred to. The land grant institutions are kind of named by years. The ones were familiar with Purdue, Ohio State and many of those were established in 1862 and in 1890, the federal government brought in the historically black colleges and universities, a number of them and those became the 1890 land grant institutions.

Chuck Baldwin:
They are still referred to as HBCUs, Historically Black Colleges and Universities as well and then in 1994, a number of native American colleges or universities were brought into the land grant system and so there’s are called 1994 Land Grant Institutions and AgrAbility partners through the land grant system, through their extension services to try and reach out to the particular farmers and ranchers that they serve. So in the South, for instance, where South and East, where the majority of the 1890 or historically black land grant institutions are, we have conducted a number of workshops, AgrAbility workshops among them and via that means we get word out through both their farmers, through their educational institutions and also through the extension service that serves them. We do the same thing among the native American institutions. We started an emphasis that direction about three years ago.

Chuck Baldwin:
We now have an AgrAbility project in South Dakota that’s working primarily on a native American reservation there and the work is difficult. It’s slow going. Many of these people groups have not heard of AgrAbility before and so there’s a lot of sharing to be done to win their trust, to help them to see that we are there to serve them and that it doesn’t cost anything for them to make use of AgrAbility services. In addition to working through the land grant institutions, we work at training extension workers in the different states because they’re often the ones who know these farmers well and who know whether or not they’re dealing with some kind of impairment and by word of mouth from one farmer with a disability to another, that’s probably our most effective means of outreach, word gets around.

Chuck Baldwin:
We do also put articles in magazines from time to time. We have done television spots when asked or radio and podcasts such as this one when we’re invited to do so. We have a website @www.AgrAbilityy.org and that is also increasingly known and as such, it contributes a lot to getting the word out. We have some monthly online publications that people can access and we offer webinars on a regular basis that deal with a wide variety of situations, giving helpful information to farmers and ranchers with disabilities. Paul, are there others that you can think of?

Paul Jones:
I’d mentioned, working with veterans and we do have a dedicated staff member for that purpose. Our veteran outreach coordinator, she was a 30 plus year military veteran. She also had an Animal Science degree from Purdue and a family farm. So she met about every qualification you could have for that type of an outreach position and she does a lot of work with groups like the farmer veteran coalition, which is headquartered out in Davis, California, but they’re establishing chapters all around the country including an active one in Indiana. So I think that’s an important group that we’ve been working with a lot. One group that Chuck didn’t mention is the old order Amish and older order Mennonites.

Paul Jones:
We’ve got connections with them through multiple communities, both in Indiana and other states. So they have a whole different range of technology than what we typically see and so they need different types of assistive technology. We try to make them aware of what’s available and there’s sometimes a reluctance to accept help that might be perceived as coming from the government from those groups but as Chuck mentioned, we provide them with whatever assistance we can and we’ve seen kind of a growing receptivity to help from those old order groups.

Josh Anderson:
You know, I never thought about that group either but I imagine that does present some challenges. I know occasionally we work with the Amish community just because there is a pretty big community here in Indiana and sometimes you really have to kind of not adjust your service delivery but maybe adjust your recommendations just because you have to kind of stay within the confines of what they can use, what they’re comfortable using and that kind of stuff but it sounds like you guys are doing some great work to really get all those underserved populations and make sure that everyone has access to the resources that you guys can offer and kind of speaking of that, I want to talk a little bit about some other resources you have available. Could you tell us about the toolbox AT database?

Chuck Baldwin:
That seems to be favorite among many people. The toolbox is an online database of agricultural tools, equipment, machinery, buildings, other things for farmers and ranchers with physical disabilities. It’s a resource that contains assistive technology solutions for farmers, ranchers and other agricultural workers. The toolbox, when you access it online again at our website, it’s easy to find there, can be searched either by category or just by typing in a search word and we have a number of categories that include such things as crop and materials handling and storage. Gardening. Lawn care, orchards, nurseries and vineyards. Outdoor recreation. Safety and health. Shops and shop tools. Tractors and combines. Utility vehicles. Vegetables, small fruit and flower production. It’s quite a list and under each one of those headings, you can find the different tools and ideas that have made farming easier and safer for a number of our clients but you can imagine that even for those who don’t have disability, if there are things that make it easier to farm for those who do have functional limitations than it also works for other people, as well as many of us have found out.

Chuck Baldwin:
I have a several of those items at my own home that I like to use. So, it’s a wonderful resource. One of the things that we like about it is that being online it’s unrestricted as far as who gets to access it. We have had a number of hits in the toolbox from China, from Africa, from South America, really from all around the world and that seems to be growing as people look for better ways or safer ways to do their farming. The toolbox looks at first glance, something like a catalog but I need to say that you cannot order toolbox items from or through AgrAbility.

Chuck Baldwin:
We don’t sell anything at AgrAbility. Instead, a person needs to obtain those items through the manufacturer or the supplier, which is listed at the bottom of each toolbox information page. So all the information is there, including some pricing inform and the context for those that a person would need to contact in order to purchase or find more information out on. So it’s easy to use. It’s enjoyable to look through and I’d recommend that anybody take the time to go online and take a look at it someday, if they’re involved in anything from gardening to farming to ranching. It really has some great things to offer.

Paul Jones:
A little background on the toolbox. It actually started in the 1980s as a collection of fact sheets that were put in a big binder and the main purpose was to help farmers know what was available out there and to not reinvent the wheel. Farmer Jones in Indiana wants to do this and he didn’t realize that farmer Smith out in Nebraska already done it and this was a good way to do it. That was kind of the main idea. So from the 1980s till about 2000, we produced basically three additions of that big binder but part of the problem was that only the people with the book could be able to know what was in, you had either buy it or you had to go to a library or an extension office that had the book.

Paul Jones:
So in the early 2000s, we started thinking, “Well, we need to make this electronic.” So we made three CDs, 2003, 2006 and 2009 and then the obvious jump, the next phase was to put it online and it’s turned out to be, as Chuck has mentioned, one of the most, well, it is the most visited section of the database of the website. So, Chuck mentioned that some of the different categories, there are actually 15 separate categories. Main categories under that there’s 47 sub-categories and under that, there’s over 180 headings which we would call sub subcategories. So for example one of the main headings is Livestock Handling and Housing under that the subsection might be Fencing and Gates and then under that, there would be a heading called Manual Gate lathes and fasteners and then finally you’d get to a product like the one that’s called Gate Hands, two gate latch system.

Paul Jones:
So you work your way down to the actual product descriptions through those categories and you’ll get a description, you’ll get the photo of a product. You get a video link if one’s available and as Chuck said, then you would get supplier information so that you could actually find out how to purchase it. I think it’s important to emphasize as Chuck did this is not just for farmers, anybody that’s working outside. If you’re into recreation, outdoor recreation, we have a whole section on outdoor recreation for people with disabilities, outdoor mobility. A lot of interesting devices out there to get people around and gardening lawn care shops as was mentioned before. Just a lot of handy tools and a lot of them are not specifically made for somebody with a disability. They’re just things that make tasks easier and can often benefit people with disabilities.

Josh Anderson:
And Chuck said, you kind of brought up internationally. I know that farming’s a big push in a lot of developing countries as food independence is, maybe one of the most important things that a nation can really achieve. How’s AgrAbility helping outside the US?

Chuck Baldwin:
Obviously as Paul just pointed out, the toolbox reaches the world and as people look at that and see things on there, often they will contact us and once they’re on our website, they see other things that we’re doing and conversations ensue and we have had a number of people that end up coming to our national training workshop from other countries. When people do that, when they attend the national training workshop, they go back with a vision of what they can do in their own country to help folks in agriculture that are dealing with disabilities and it’s highly rewarding to see that happen. There are also people that come to our universities in the United States that are introduced to AgrAbility through those universities that have AgrAbility projects and a number of those who’ve gone back to their home countries and have started something similar to our AgrAbility projects in their own countries. That happened recently in the country of Uganda in Central Africa and the entity called ‘AgrAbility for Africa’ was started there.

Chuck Baldwin:
There is work going on in India. There’s some in Australia, in Sweden I believe, in Ireland. In at least one Latin American country and a number of other places that were started by people who became familiar with AgrAbility either through visiting here in the States or through our online products and website. So we have [inaudible 00:16:55] project visit a number of countries to help conduct workshops there or to be a speaker to those who are trying to start something in those countries and we are receiving an increasing number of invitations to participate in workshops that these countries are putting on, as well as communications asking us for ideas and suggestions as to how they can get something started. Paul, would you like to add to that?

Paul Jones:
One of the things that we’re doing to help people in developing countries is to construct or modify the toolbox database to focus on some low tech solutions that could be fabricated locally. We’ve got a consultant who is an assistive technology professional, certified through [inaudible 00:17:50] and he kind of specializes in developing or cataloging some of the low tech devices. He’s invented some himself just based on needs these heard about. So there are things that could help farmers, ranchers, other people in any country but we’re going to add a feature to the toolbox that kind of distinguishes the low tech solutions from the other higher tech solutions that might not be available everywhere.

Paul Jones:
So we’re hoping that that will expand people’s capacity in more developing countries to be able to continue to function in agriculture. In a lot of cases, that’s their way of life. I mean, literally that’s how they survive, is through subsistence agriculture and we know that the rate of disability in other countries is high and so it really is important for us to get as much information out there as possible and information that’s valuable and usable to the people that are in the countries that may not have all the technological opportunities that we do in the United States

Josh Anderson:
Guys, I’m sure we could fill an entire show with this but could you tell me a story about someone who’s been assisted by AgrAbility and just kind of the positive impact that it made on their life?

Chuck Baldwin:
There are so many stories and they are great and let me just say this before I forget it. If you go to the main page of our website, on the right hand side, you will find some videos, something called, ‘What AgrAbility Means to Me’ and these are two to three minute, sometimes a little shorter than that, video clips of farmers that have been helped through AgrAbility. Simply sharing what their story is and how AgrAbility helped them out and I would encourage anybody to go to that resource and take a look of it at. It’s encouraging for anyone. One of those farmers is a gentleman by the name of Mark Hozier. He’s a farmer from Alexandria, Indiana and a number of years ago, he had an accident in which a 2000 pound bale of hay fell on him and broke his back.

Chuck Baldwin:
It was a T11, T12 break that paralyzed him. He had a 1500 acre farm in Indiana, still does. At the time he was taking care of about 50 head of breed cows and he was feeding all the calves and he had show pigs and today, after that accident, he still takes care of the farm. He did decide to sell the cattle. Although he makes this statement somewhere that if he had known more about AgrAbility and what he was going to be able to do early on, he might have kept the cattle but he sold the cattle and he still has his show pigs, still working it. He mentions that when that happened, when the accident took place, he thought that his life was over. He stated that without AgrAbility’s help, he might not have been able to continue farming at all. Today, he has a special journeyman scooter, it’s a kind of three wheeled powered wheelchair with which he can open barn doors.

Chuck Baldwin:
He can plow snow. He can herd pigs. He does so many things with that piece of technology. It blows me away. He’s got a number of other types of assisted technology on the farm as well. Certain types of lifts help with his trucks and other things. Basically, Mark’s continuing to do what he loves most. He attends all of the AgrAbility National Training workshops. He’s there almost every year. He’s a member of AgrAbility’s advisory and he would tell you, his life is full. His is one of the stories that you can watch on ‘What AgrAbility Means to Me’ and there are a lot of others as well. There’s one also, it’s not on our website but it is on Georgia AgrAbility’s website. A lady that I met when we were doing a workshop at one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She participated as one of our farmers on a farmer panel.

Chuck Baldwin:
Her name is miss Ruby, Ruby Davis and she has an organic garden. It’s a rather large one. It’s a truck patch that she feeds a lot of folks with and she has a pretty good case of arthritis and there were times she couldn’t do what needed to be done to work her garden and AgrAbility came alongside of her and helped her. They helped her to find a way of getting a hoop house so that she could have vegetables year round. They fabricated what’s called a ‘Chicken Tractor’ for her. A chicken tractor, it’s a frame basically on which is put chicken wire and you get a flock of chickens inside of that. It has handles on the front part of the frame, something like a wheelbarrow and a couple of wheels on the backside of it. So that by hand, you can just move this flock of chickens around to the fresh grass and places you want them to feed.

Chuck Baldwin:
It has a five gallon bucket hanging in the middle of it for water, with nipples at the bottom of the bucket and so she no longer has to do the hard work. That bucket idea is a simple one but it keeps her from having to clean out troughs and the smaller bottles and things that they often feed chickens with. She can just empty that bucket once a week or so, fill it with fresh water and it’s good to go for several days. So, she gives a lot of credit to AgrAbility for allowing her to continue to farm and garden. That’s what she likes to do and you can find a lot of other similar stories. Some of them just practically miraculous in terms of the turnaround that people have been able to make because of their not giving up spirit and a little bit of help from AgrAbility.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. That’s excellent and like you said, I’m sure you could probably fill an entire show with all the different ones. Well, guys, if our listeners want to find out more about AgrAbility, what are the best ways for them to do that?

Chuck Baldwin:
The first thing I would say would be that they should take alook at our website. Again, that website address is www.agrability.org, www.agrability.org or they are welcome to call our toll free number. Anytime that’s (800) 825-4264, once again, (800) 825-4264.

Paul Jones:
Well, to point out on the website, there is contact information for all the state projects. So if you want to find out if your state has an AgrAbility project and how to contact them, there’s a link to that. A lot of publications there. We’ve got over 130 archived webinars on the website and if you are interested in actually finding out some information about AgrAbility directly, we’re having our national training workshop in Madison, Wisconsin. This March, 2022 from March 14 to 17. So registration is open for that. You can find a link on the main page of the agrabilities.org website and so if your interest is peaked, you might want to consider that.

Josh Anderson:
I already am. I already am considering that Paul because that does sound like a darn good time. Well guys, we’ll put links to all that stuff down in the show notes for the phone number and everything else. Chuck, Paul, I want to thank you guys so much for coming on today. I feel like I learned a whole heck of a lot and hopefully our listeners did too about just some of the great things that can really be able to help them and some of the just amazing things that you guys do for AgrAbility. Thank you so much.

Chuck Baldwin:
Thank you, Josh.

Paul Jones:
Thank you, Josh.

Josh Anderson:
Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on an Assistive Technology update? If so, call our listener line at (317) 721-7124. Send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org or shoot us a note on Twitter at INDATA project. Our captions and transcripts for the show are sponsored by the Indiana Telephone Relay Access Corporation or INTRAC. You can find out more about INTRAC at relayindiana.com. A special thanks to Nicole Preto for scheduling our amazing guests and making a mess of my schedule. Today’s show was produced, edited, hosted and fraught over by yours truly. The opinions expressed by our guest are their own and may or may not reflect those of the INDATA project, Easterseals Crossroads or supporting partners or this host. This was your assistive technology update and I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. We look forward to seeing you next time.

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