Easter Seals Wisconsin FARM Program (Farm Assessment and Rehabilitation Methods) works with community partners to serve Wisconsin farmers.
Easter Seals Wisconsin partners with UW-Cooperative Extension to form AgrAbility of Wisconsin, which is funded by the US Dept of Agriculture. AgrAbility supports case management for all farmers requesting service, outreach at farm shows, and Neighbor-to-Neighbor on-farm events. It also supports efforts to educate others about options to help physically and mentally challenged farmers stay in farming, including training programs for other AgrAbility staff, University physical therapy and occupational classes.
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The State of Wisconsin’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) helps people with disabilities find or maintain employment. DVR is an important source of referrals to the FARM Program, as well as a recipient of referrals from AgrAbility. DVR determines the eligibility of farmers for state funding for assistive technology and other workplace adaptations. FARM staff work with referred farmers to identify disability-related barriers to farm tasks, recommend assistive equipment or modifications, and develop a full report and collection of cost estimates for use by DVR. DVR makes final decisions about funding for equipment or modifications.
The Otto Bremer Foundation has nearly doubled its support for Easter Seals Wisconsin’s FARM Program. A $30,000 grant award – the largest private contribution in the program’s history – will underwrite the costs to serve 18 farmers with disabilities, host a Neighbor-to-Neighbor outreach event and further develop the CALF Project in Northwest Wisconsin. Easter Seals Wisconsin is thrilled to expand its partnership with the Otto Bremer Foundation to meet our mutual goals of empowering people to thrive and participate in their communities.
The Wisconsin Farm Center provides financial analysis and counseling, legal information, mediation services, an information clearinghouse and volunteer farm management advisers.
The National Farm Medicine Center partners with FARM to exchange information about the medical side of a disability as it relates to the agricultural community. Farm Medicine Center staff offer guidance on outreach efforts and program services and participate in FARM’s Advisory Council.
Rural Insurance Companies, part of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, provide the FARM Program with advice and assistance with outreach. They publish articles about FARM and AgrAbility services in their promotional materials and facilitate the printing of the Plowing Ahead newsletter and brochures.
Farmers who have been served by the FARM Program are powerful advocates for it. They host Neighbor-to-Neighbor meetings, offer their farms for training sites, and, through the Speakers’ Bureau, discuss their experiences with their peers.
WisTech, the Department of Public Instruction and the Wisconsin FFA bolster the success of this project by providing additional services. DPI offers advice and support. Wisconsin churches and state FFA chapters have contributed generously to the FARM Program.
The Easter Seals Wisconsin FARM program was awarded a grant in 2015 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture for a three-year project, Securing Beginning Farmers Through Succession Planning. The project addresses the need of Wisconsin farmers who do not have succession plans in place, estimated at 56% of farmers over the age of 55, to ensure the successful transition of farm operations to the next generation of beginning farmers. The FARM program will partner with the Wisconsin Farm Center Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, to provide succession planning for farmers and farm families. The farmers and farm families will be provided guidance, information and assistance throughout the succession planning process, which may include on-farm site visits, individual and family discussions, matching with potential beginning farmers when there is not a named successor, and assistance with retirement plans, tax and inheritance issues. This project will be promoted through AgrAbility of Wisconsin, an Easter Seals Wisconsin – UW-Extension partnership, dedicated to helping farmers with a disability continue to farm.