The Breaking New Ground Resource Center at Purdue University has been awarded a four-year, $1.9 million National AgrAbility Project grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to continue its work in helping farmers with disabling injuries or illnesses continue to live productive lives in agriculture.

AgrAbility, founded in 1991, is funded by the USDA's National Institute for Food and Agriculture and provides education and support to farmers, ranchers, seasonal farm workers and their families who have been affected by an injury, illness or lifelong disability.

"AgrAbility has been a key to increasing employment opportunities for rural Americans with disabilities involved in agriculture," said Paul Jones, manager of the National AgrAbility Project. "The people we serve have been able to make positive contributions to their families and communities through relatively small investments in technology and other accommodations. We look forward to another four years of increasing awareness of disability issues and helping reduce barriers to people with disabilities in rural areas."

AgrAbility Projects operate in 25 states, each a collaborative effort between the land-grant university Cooperative Extension Service and nonprofit disability groups. The new National AgrAbility Project is a partnership between Purdue, Goodwill of the Finger Lakes (New York), the Arthritis Foundation-Heartland Region and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Breaking New Ground has provided assistance to farmers with physical disabilities since 1979 and was a model for the AgrAbility program. More than 12,000 farmers, ranchers and farm family members have received personal, direct services from AgrAbility since it began operations in 1991. It has helped thousands more with less intensive assistance, such as telephone consultations, referrals and workshops.

The work plan for the new National AgrAbility Project contains a variety of new initiatives, including the development of core competency training for AgrAbility staff members across the country, a series of regional workshops to enhance services to agricultural workers with disabilities, and an expanded effort to measure the impact of AgrAbility services.

The National AgrAbility Project also will enhance its presence on the Internet by tripling the number of webinars it presents and continuing to expand its website (http://www.agrability.org). One of its most widely used resources is The Toolbox Assistive Technology Database,  containing information on nearly 1,000 commercial and homemade technology products for farmers, ranchers, other agricultural workers and gardeners with disabilities. The Toolbox is available at http://www.agrability.org/toolbox

The National AgrAbility Project also will continue to sponsor the annual National Training Workshop that explores a range of topics related to disability in agriculture. The next national workshop is scheduled for April in Minneapolis.