US (AK): New project supports disabled agricultural workers

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service has received a four-year $679,000 grant to help Alaska farmers and other agricultural workers with disabilities.

The grant is one of 14 awarded to Extension projects around the country as part of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s AgrAbility program. A NIFA announcement said, “The projects focus on increasing independent living and the quality of life for agricultural workers with disabilities by providing them and their families with farm safety education, assistive technology help and networking support enabling them to return to/remain active and successful in agriculture production.”

Extension energy specialist Art Nash, who will coordinate the Alaska project, said agricultural vocations could include farming, fishing and wood harvesting. The program may provide assistance to individuals with arthritis, spinal cord or brain injuries, amputations, cerebral palsy, and visual, hearing, respiratory and back impairments.

Nash said Extension will work with state and federal agencies and disability service providers about meeting the needs of farmers and veterans interested in agricultural employment, and will refer to other agencies as needed.

Extension will partner with Access Alaska, a nonprofit organization that provides independent living services to people with disabilities. Access Alaska will assess what modifications are needed to perform certain tasks and will fabricate or provide some of the needed modifications.

“It could be building raised beds for vegetable growers or making an adaptive modification to a fishing boat,” Nash said.

Part of the program is to raise awareness of the possibility of agricultural careers. Extension agents will also teach individuals about the fundamentals of growing and selling crops and raising livestock. Those could range from individuals trying to grow gardens and sell at farmers markets to larger enterprises, he said. For more information on the program, contact Nash at 907-474-6366 or DeShana York will serve as the main point of contact for clients. She may be reached at 907-786-6330 or

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