Source: CLEMSON UNIVERSITY submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Sep 30, 2022
Project End Date
Sep 29, 2024
Grant Year
Project Director
Beecher, L.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Non Technical Summary
South Carolina is an agriculturally rich state which prides itself on various goods and production systems, comprising over 25,000 farms spanning over 4.7 million acres of farmland. Of that number, around 2,600 of those farms are minority-owned. Agricultural production in the state exceeds $46.2 billion, and the top ten commodities include broilers, turkeys, greenhouse nurseries, cotton, corn, cattle, soybeans, peanuts, eggs, and wheat. Agribusiness employs approximately 247,000 individuals throughout South Carolina, making it one of the essential contributors to the overall economy. In addition to the farming opportunities throughout the state, South Carolina has a higher than the national rate of adults with disabilities making up 26.3% of the total population. One growing concern in South Carolina agriculture is the aging of farmers and their ability to continue to farm or those who may acquire a disability. Handling everyday tasks becomes troublesome, and some farmers are eager to find helpful solutions to overcome the barriers to farming. Disabled individuals interested in agriculture also face the same challenges and seek resources that may offer solutions.Many programs throughout South Carolina help those with disabilities enter the workforce or offer support with creating devices to assist disabled individuals with activities related to their jobs; however, few relate to farming or other agricultural activities. Therefore, Clemson Extension Service, South Carolina State Extension Service, and Able SC will bring all relevant stakeholders to the table. Able SC has extensive statewide experience with program development and systems change. Able SC provides leadership on issues affecting people with disabilities like accessibility, public accommodations, employment, and transportation. For example, Able SC started the Hire Me SC initiative in 2016, built on the SC Disability Employment Coalition foundation in 2012. The work has resulted in Employment First legislation, statewide resource mapping across multiple state agencies, model resources housed on a centralized website, disability employment awareness campaigns shared at the national level, and deepened collaboration to address existing service gaps.The Clemson and South Carolina State Extension Service can reach out to all of South Carolina, serving all 46 counties and seven extension regions in the state. The AgrAbility team will initially assess the need for an AgrAbility program and then create necessary educational materials to deliver to any individuals interested in participating. The project director and his team will leverage assistive technologies such as the aquaponics platform and high tunnel production systems to disseminate information and begin advertising AgrAbility and the program's opportunities at major events throughout South Carolina. Able SC works closely with the broader disability community throughout South Carolina as their staff comprises the very people they serve. They are the leaders in innovative disability programs and sustainable change. They help disabled individuals statewide. Other disability organizations via the Advisory Committee will also help reach out to socially disadvantaged and underserved farmers and potential farmers with disabilities.Launching an AgrAbility Program in South Carolina would provide current farmers and prospective farmers with disabilities the opportunity to develop barrier-free farming via a collaborative effort of the Clemson University Extension Service, South Carolina State Extension Service, Able South Carolina, South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department, South Carolina Department of Education, University of South Carolina Assistive Technology Program, and Upstate Warrior Solution, to conduct training workshops, and team up with engineers to create innovative solutions for overcoming the barriers to farming.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
The goals of the South Carolina AgrAbility program include:The team will initially begin to assess the state's farming population's needs related to disabilities by using a team of trained extension agents and the AgrAbility team. The team, along with extension agents, will do this through seminars and workshops held throughout the state to educate farmers with and without disabilities, prospective farmers with disabilities, family members, service providers and educators, and the agricultural community on what AgrAbility is and the possibility of the services helping selected participants. After assessing potential interest, the AgrAbility team will schedule quarterly sessions in strategic locations throughout South Carolina to reach out and directly recruit and assist approximately 10 to 15 new and 20 returning farmers per year. These sessions will offer information and sign-up opportunities to the new farmers interested in the program, meet with returning farmers for updates, offer assistance for any further concerns, and provide updated opportunities to pursue. Networking will occur with the Extension's New and Beginning Farmer Programs, Able South Carolina, the Farmer Veteran groups, and other interested parties seeking information and training opportunities.Farmers will be identified and recruited through activities the AgrAbility team will implement throughout the project. Initially, promotional materials will be distributed at various events throughout the state, and information will be offered to introduce the program and help with enrollment. Able SC and Advisory Committee members will also supply promotional material to reach potential farmers. Information from farmers will be collected, and the team will evaluate and prioritize those in need of assistance. Workshops and information sessions will be offered throughout South Carolina in year one. The purpose of these activities will be to introduce the AgrAbility program and the available opportunities to provide to disabled farmers. Introduction seminars will be accessible to new and beginning farmer groups, interested veterans' groups, and those who are socially disadvantaged and have limited resources. The AgrAbility team will develop a set of requirements farmers need to meet to participate in the program. The Extension programs will work with Able South Carolina to create a guide with conditions and qualifications for recruiting farmers in South Carolina and accessible marketing materials for the project.The Clemson and South Carolina State Extension Programs can reach out to all of South Carolina, serving all 46 counties and seven extension regions in the state. The AgrAbility team will initially assess the need for an AgrAbility program and then create necessary educational materials to deliver to any individuals interested in participating. The project director and his team will leverage assistive technologies such as the aquaponics platform and high tunnel production systems to disseminate information and begin advertising AgrAbility and the program's opportunities at major events throughout South Carolina.With the addition of Able SC, the AgrAbility team will be able to work closely with the broader disability community throughout South Carolina as their staff comprises the very people they serve. They are the leaders in innovative disability programs and sustainable change. They help disabled individuals statewide. Other disability organizations via the Advisory Committee will also help reach out to socially disadvantaged and underserved farmers and potential farmers with disabilities.
Project Methods
The methods and procedures the South Carolina AgrAbility team will use for the program include:EducationThe team will provide interactive presentations and exhibits at commodity meetings, state and county fairs, and Able SC events that reach the rural and agricultural communities.Cross-training between Able SC and Extension agents from Clemson and South Carolina State will be used. Able SC will lead the training exercise and instruct the team about disability, accommodations and accessibility, disability sensitivity and awareness, and disability rights laws and resources. Evaluations will ensure all team members can communicate effectively with the program participants.Workshops will be implemented to attract interested participants in the subject areas of aquaponics and high tunnel production. The participants will be involved with training programs and offered solutions to food production that might fit their needs. NetworkingThe South Carolina AgrAbility program team will actively participate in activities established by collaborators to share unique cases of the SC AgrAbility customers.The South Carolina AgrAbility PartnershipAdvisory Committee will be formed consisting of Able SC, Clemson Extension, South Carolina State Extension, SC Department of Agriculture, SC Vocational Rehabilitation Department, SC Department of Education, University of South Carolina Assistive Technology Program, the Farmer Veteran Coalition, and the National Veterans Agriculture Association to provide consultation around all goals of the program. Having these partners included will also develop support, resources, and sustainability.The team will reach out to Clemson and South Carolina State University student groups and offer partnerships to further present AgrAbility activities throughout South Carolina. The Department of Agricultural Sciences at Clemson University will be solicited to allow students in the Agricultural Mechanization program to provide their seniors with an opportunity to develop and construct projects that might benefit a disabled farmer.At South Carolina State University, junior and senior students in Agribusiness major will be introduced to a farmer with a unique problem and marketing requests and then allowed to create a marketing plan that the Clemson AgMech team can offer a mechanical device that could increase the farmer's daily activities efficiency.Identify and contact financial institutions in the state such as the SC Vocational Rehabilitation Department, University of South Carolina Assistive Technology Program, and South Carolina Farm Bureau to participate in financial assistance to create supportive technology AgrAbility customers.Identify and contact other organizations in the state that can provide resources to veteran farmers, women in agriculture, farmworkers, and other minority groups.Direct AssistanceThe team will explore a case-by-case basis to identify South Carolina participants farming with a disability. Once identified, those associated with farm service agencies, local Cooperative Extension offices, community health centers, and other rural service providers refer individuals farming with a disability to the team. Additionally, the South Carolina AgrAbility team aims to provide opportunities for those with disabilities to obtain a career or enter the agricultural workforce.Able SC will connect farmers and prospective farmers with disabilities with others who have successfully become farmers with and without accommodations. They will serve as peer mentors to explore options to further recruit and educate others about AgrAbility while offering ongoing support. Lastly, Able SC will work directly with farmers and prospective farmers with disabilities to assist them with job readiness skills and determine accommodation needs to eliminate any farming barrier.A report will be created for individual participants containing an assistive technology assessment and recommended technology to complete essential work and daily living activities. The team will also help the farmer locate financial resources to apply for assistance in purchasing the recommended technology.MarketingNon-conventional methods will focus on defining outlets where general information can be delivered and potential clients can be identified and recruited to the program.To quickly start promoting AgrAbility within South Carolina, the team will plan with the aquaponics program and schedule time when workshops will be performed and aimed at promoting the AgrAbility program.The team will promote the program at four significant South Carolina events; the SC AgriBiz and Farm Expo, the South Carolina State Fair, Sunbelt Expo, the SC Farm Bureau Convention, and the state convention of the South Carolina Farmer and Agribusiness Association.The AgrAbility team will design and construct a mobile display to exhibit the benefits of AgrAbility to farmers, along with a collection of special ongoing or completed AgrAbility projects that encompassed the Extension Service and students participating in the Agricultural Mechanization program. The display will also attract those interested in obtaining information and linking up with sources to help find solutions for present challenges, which may occur later in their farming endeavors.Managemedia outreach by developing a web and Facebook page, joining Twitter and Instagram, and creating a YouTube account.Data CollectionThe AgrAbility team will conduct a series of data and information collection techniques for all education, networking, and marketing events throughout the years of the project. Presently, Extension collects demographic and contact information from participants in any sponsored event and follows up with a survey asking them about the event. The Extension service has provided paper and digital surveys with data analyzed through Qualtrics, a data analysis software application. The AgrAbility team will document events through photos, videos, and guest interviews. Every month, all the data will be compiled and shared with the National AgrAbility program. The AgrAbility team will work with the Extension IT team to create videos and visual summaries of events to display on the official South Carolina AgrAbility website and other social media sites set up through the partnerships.Oversight and EvaluationDr. Susan Guynn (director of assessment and scholarship, Extension Administration Office) will be the external evaluator. A blend of formative and summative evaluation will be applied to assess and monitor the progress, quality, and effectiveness of the activities and products implemented and produced. She will review project activities and methods, including the design of data collection tools, analyses, and communication of findings. Process evaluation and monitoring will be used to establish how well the project activities are conducted concerning the project's plan.EnsureProject sustainabilityUpon conclusion of the project, the decision support system will be maintained by Beecher through the Clemson Extension Program, where we will continue to measure outcomes from the project. Each component of this project was developed with sustainability in mind. The resources created will be hosted on Able SC's website, which they will continue to maintain and update after the financial assistance has ended. Additionally, through the Advisory Council and the agricultural education curriculum developed from Clemson, information and services will continue to be provided so farmers and prospective farmers with disabilities will still have opportunities in agriculture. Documentation of all good and bad results for the AgrAbility project will help potential future projects funded by private, state, or federal funds. Maintaining team collaboration by pursuing additional funding from private and public sources will be a priority.

Progress 09/30/22 to 09/29/23

Target Audience:No agency or organization is currently assimilating data for farmers with disabilities in South Carolina. Few groups in the state offer information and resources for those with disabilities interested in farming. Aging farmers is one of the most critical groups in South Carolina that the AgrAbility team has focused on in the program. Of almost 39,000 producers, only 7% are 35 or younger, and nearly 36% are 65 or over. These numbers show an aging population of farmers who would generally be aware of other extension efforts and would directly benefit from an AgrAbility program. Beginning and Experienced Farmers with Disabilities are another groups the team has focused on throughout the program. South Carolina numbers show about a third of the farming population are beginning farmers with little experience. Clemson and South Carolina State Extension programs combined with Able SC's ability to reach the general disability population interested in farming, the project would identify and serve beginning and experienced farmers who have acquired a disability. Military Veterans (5,000) contribute to the interest in farming. The South Carolina chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition is an adviser to that group. Additionally, the National Veterans Agriculture Association in South Carolina is recruiting disabled veterans interested in assistive technologies for leafy greens and vegetable production under high tunnel production systems. Youth interested in farming is the beginning group we have focused on thru Agricultural Safety Days throughout South Carolina. Able SC has also recruited youth and young adults with disabilities working in agriculture or interested in farming through its pre-employment transition services in schools across the state. Changes/Problems: Nothing Reported What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?There have been multiple opportunities for training and professional development thus far. This includes disability-specific and agricultural-specific training. Able SC conducted a disability culture training session for agricultural-specific organizations. The training was in-person at the South Carolina Water Resources Center (Pendleton, SC), with the option of attending via Zoom video conferencing to accommodate participants' preferences and circumstances. The training session covered three key topics to increase awareness and promote inclusivity within the agricultural community: Understanding disabilities, disability etiquette, and myths and misconceptions about disability and employment. Clemson Cooperative Extension and Clemson academic community members held a training at the Able SC headquarters to educate the Able SC participants on what agriculture is and the types of agriculture throughout South Carolina. The Agricultural Safety Program at Clemson University aims to increase awareness of agricultural safety procedures, maintenance operations, and safety operations for all ages and provide training resources for South Carolina farmers and rescue teams. Currently, the program offers at least four field days conducted and targeted for students aged 14 to 18 and one teacher in-service. A 30-minute station with the topic of "AgrAbility Awareness" was developed, which every participant must complete. This goal is to prevent injury and aid in options for those with disabilities, allowing continued work in the agricultural industry. In the 2022-2023 reporting year alone, these field days were delivered to over 560 South Carolina students and 50 agricultural educators. The program was not limited to these events, and interest has exceeded initial expectations. AgrAbility SC proudly sent four staff members to the National Training Workshop held in Spokane, WA. The team included Lance Beecher, Dale Layfield, Aaron Turner (Clemson University), and Cali Sandel (Able SC). The workshop commenced on Monday, March 20th, and proved an excellent opportunity. The AgrAbility SC team actively participated in several sessions to enhance their knowledge and capacity. They attended a three-hour new staff training session on Monday, March 20th, providing a solid foundation in their roles. Other sessions they attended covered topics such as promoting positive mental health outcomes in farming communities, understanding AgrAbility in areas experiencing persistent poverty, exploring alternative and value-added agriculture enterprises, promoting resiliency using SAMHSA's 8 Domains of Wellness, suicide prevention, and the role of the project director. The team also attended sessions on assistive technology, beekeeping, reintegration of farmer veterans into the community and heard a keynote speech by Laurie Hayn, who shared her perspective on living with an acquired disability and how AgrAbility changed her life. Moreover, they gained insights into partnering with vocational rehabilitation, working with health sciences students, cultural humility, funding assistive technology, strategies for memory and organization, and safety considerations for on-site assessments to ensure staff safety. In year two and beyond, we plan to develop training that mergedisability and agriculture. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?The activities of SC AgrAbility have been broadly communicated. During year one, we formed an advisory committee that included several disability and agricultural partners. We meet with the advisory committee quarterly to inform them regularly of SC AgrAbility activities and results and collaborate on engaging them with our activities. An SC AgrAbility website, Facebook, and Instagram page have been developed, which features current information on the project and contact information for those interested in learning more. We will expand the website in upcoming years as more activities and resources are created. Lance Beecher and Cali Sandel from Able SC presented to the SC Disability Employment Coalition, a statewide initiative to decrease employment barriers in South Carolina, in June 2023. The Coalition includes over 40 state and local organizations. The presentation included information about SC AgrAbility, an overview of SC agriculture, and ways for Coalition members to stay connected and informed about activities. The SC Agrability website consists of a space for individuals to sign up for our mailing list, in which we plan to send out regular communications to keep individuals informed and engaged in our work. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?The team plans on having information from the assessment to distinguish who needs the AgrAbility program's services. The team will also like to be able to reach out to the farmers and offer the services of AgrAbility and Able SC to offer support through vocational education in South Carolina. The team would also like more in-service events to provide information to extension agents. Hence, they can identify disabled farmers or those in need of the services offered by AgrAbility. The team would like to expand the events where information could be provided to those interested.

What was accomplished under these goals? A needs assessment is being drafted to determine what is present in South Carolina concerning disabled farmers and farmers. It has been challenging to locate farmers that require services provided by AgrAbility. Exposure to both disabled farmers has been expressed at many events, but the difficulty of getting disabled farmers to understand what AgrAbility is has been a challenge. One such group we have had luck with is the veterans' farmer groups within South Carolina. Those veterans who participated in the Veterans Coalition were very receptive to what AgrAbility stood for and the opportunities the team offers. The most challenging part of the program is finding candidates to provide the services of the AgrAbility program. Most of the responses have been from those who think we can fund and offer assistance to start a farm. We encourage them to reach out to other organizations for this opportunity. Promotional items are in the works, and the team hopes to use them to further educate the public on the definition of AgrAbility and what it has to offer. Able SC and Advisory Committee members will also supply promotional material to reach potential farmers. One such activity will be a workshop planned for July in South Carolina. This workshop will first act as an in-service program for agricultural agents from Clemson and South Carolina State Universities and also a seminar for underserved and disabled farmers in the community. The workshop will allow these farmers to explore topics such as high tunnels and aquaponics seminars.