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National AgrAbility Team Members

Project Director: Bill Field

William Field Responsibilities: The PD is directly responsible for oversight of the NAP, including management of Purdue personnel involved, fiscal management, reporting, accountability issues, and liaison activities with funded affiliates and USDA-NIFA Project officer. He is available to all of the state and regional AgrAbility projects (SRAPs) for program consultation and acts as liaison to the evaluation team at the University of Illinois. He reviews all NAP resources prior to release and participates in the National Training Workshop and other training/networking activities. He chairs the National Project Advisory Committee and ensures that strategic planning findings are incorporated into annual project renewal plans.

Qualifications: Professor Field established the Breaking New Ground (BNG) Resource Center in 1979 and has provided leadership for it over the past 33 years. He has been involved in all aspects of BNG's programming, including the developing resources, conducting research, designing adaptive aids, and providing on-site services to farm and ranch families dealing with disabling conditions. Between 1990 and 2000, Dr. Field was the PD for the NAP, prior to its relocation to the University of Wisconsin. During that period, the AgrAbility Program grew from 8 SRAPs to 18. Over the past two decades, Dr. Field has managed over $10 million in grants, contracts, and gifts relating to rural disability issues. These include grants from Deere and Company, NIDRR, RSA, USDA-CSREES, CDC, Indiana Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, and NEC Foundation of America. He has participated in rural disability-related events in nearly 30 states, four Canadian provinces, and several foreign countries.

Project Manager: Paul Jones

Paul Jones Responsibilities: The NAP project manager is responsible for day-to-day management of operations and Purdue staff and for project coordination with the staffs of Goodwill of Finger Lakes, the Arthritis Foundation-Indiana Chapter, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, unfunded collaborators, and each of the SRAPs. He seeks to ensure good working relationships between the NAP, SRAPs, and all NAP collaborators and stakeholders. He coordinates annual reporting activities of the NAP, the design of new educational resources, webinars, and the NAP's online presence in collaboration with the NAP IT specialist.

Qualifications: Paul Jones has been an AgrAbility staff member since 1998 and manager of the BNG Resource Center since 2000. As manager of the Resource Center, he has been involved in the development of all resources over the past 13 years, including several that have received national awards. He also managed grants from NEC Foundation of America that allowed for the distribution of assistive technology resources to every county Extension office and FFA chapter in the U.S. Mr. Jones holds a split appointment between the NAP and the Indiana AgrAbility Project.

Assistive Technology Specialist: Steve Swain

Steve Swain Responsibilities: The assistive technology specialist helps promote RESNA certification of SRAP staff members in order to enhance the level of services being provided, assists with the development of new resources on self-employment for AgrAbility customers utilizing VR resources, coordinates the Assistive Technology Community of Interest, and acts as the NAP liaison to RESNA.

Qualifications: Mr. Swain has more than 12 years of experience providing direct services to farmers impacted by disabilities. He is a member of RESNA, a RESNA-certified Assistive Technology Practitioner, and has worked directly with Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation Services to develop self-employment business plans for farmers exploring alternative sources of income.

Engagement Coordinator: Kylie Hendress

Kylie Hendress Responsibilities: The program engagement coordinator is responsible for coordinating public awareness activities, helping to plan and conduct training events, and facilitating publications. In addition, she helps coordinate relationships with Indiana AgrAbility partners, providing some direct services to customers, and helping to facilitate our youth-oriented initiatives.

Qualifications: Kylie Hendress started with AgrAbility in August 2010. Most recently she worked in the seed business as a sales representative for corn and soybeans. Kylie graduated from Butler University in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing. In addition to marketing, Kylie has a strong farming background and participated in numerous 4-H projects, and she continues to stay involved by helping with her local 4-H club. She also stays involved with her community by serving on the planning committee for her town's annual festival.

Special Populations Outreach Coordinator: Chuck Baldwin

Kylie Hendress Responsibilities: The Special Populations Outreach Coordinator (SPOC) is responsible for identifying and maintaining contacts with underserved populations in agriculture and with organizations that assist them. Such populations include African American, Native American, and Hispanic/Latino agricultural workers. The SPOC represents AgrAbility at events geared toward these populations. This staff member also encourages participation by underserved populations in AgrAbility events. The SPOC works closely with Extension professionals representing such constituents, including 1890 and 1994 land-grant universities.

Qualifications: Chuck Baldwin has spent the majority of the last 32 years in cross-cultural work, primarily in western and central Africa. His responsibilities involved public speaking, fund-raising, teaching, leadership development, mentoring of leaders, and fostering relationships across a wide range of national and ethnic lines. For 16 of those years he was an organization’s regional director over 12 countries.

Farmer Veteran AgrAbility Coordinator: Cindy Chastain

Kylie Hendress Responsibilities: The Farmer Veteran AgrAbility Coordinator (FVAC) is responsible for networking with SRAPs and other relevant organizations to improve opportunities and outcomes for farmer veteran AgrAbility clients. The FVAC represents AgrAbility at various veteran- and agriculture-related events, assists in planning and conducting AgrAbility’s veterans’ initiatives, and serves as a consultative resource for SRAPs. This staff member is also responsible for coordinating an AgrAbility Community of Interest related to veterans’ issues.

Qualifications: Cindy Chastain has a strong background in both the military and agriculture. She grew up on a family farm in Indiana and later earned a bachelors degree in animal sciences from Purdue, where she participated in ROTC. Cindy then served as an Army officer for more than 31 years, including service as Deputy Commander of the 1-19th Agribusiness Development Team from 2008-2010, which was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009-2010. She continues to function as president of Chastain Farms in Crawfordsville, IN.

Information Technology Specialist: Clifford Racz

Clifford W. Racz Responsibilities: The information technology specialist is responsible for developing the NAP website and performing other internet-related tasks. These include developing the NAP listserv, assisting with training through web-based seminars (webinars), creating and maintaining the web-based assistive technology database, and monitoring traffic on the various websites to gather feedback on usage and improvements. The ITS is also the primary liaison with the eXtension community of practice on farm safety and health.

Qualifications: Clifford Racz has an M.S. in agricultural systems management, in which his research was conducted on the preferences of SRAP staff and AgrAbility customers on receiving technical information. Mr. Racz has an undergraduate degree in physics, and has worked for a company that develops web-based resources for people with disabilities.

Project Assistant: Denise Heath

Denise Heath Responsibilities: The project assistant provides information management services for the project, including report preparation, mailing list maintenance, and data management.

Qualifications: Denise Heath has served as the information processing systems operator for the Breaking New Ground Resource Center for more than 25 years. She has carried out numerous responsibilities, including the design of brochures, fliers, pamphlets, newsletters, and other materials; created complex documents, including technical research articles, proposals, and manuals; and served as the main receptionist for BNG.

Farmer Liaison: Ed Bell

Ed Bell Responsibilities: The farmer liaison will be available to the SRAPs for media interviews, awareness presentations, and marketing opportunities. He would also be available to SRAPs and agriculture-related organizations/agencies for training, education, and support, such as staff training, consumer workshops, trade shows, and other areas where his expertise would be advantageous.

Qualifications: Ed Bell has been associated with the Breaking New Ground Resource Center since 1992 as a client and farmer-consultant, Barn Builder Peer Support Network member, and owner/operator of Bell's Strawberry Farm. He is founder and former executive director of a rural independent living center, a professional public speaker, and a consultant/account executive for The Standing Company. Mr. Bell has conducted professional trainings and presentations on both the state and national levels.

Arthritis Foundation, Heartland Region AgrAbility Coordinator: Amber Wolfe

Amber Wolfe photo Responsibilities: The AgrAbility coordinator for the Arthritis Foundation, Heartland Region is a national resource for rural arthritis issues. The coordinator provides training to AgrAbility staffs at the NTW and supplies arthritis-related information to SRAPs and consumers via telephone and electronic means. The coordinator conducts multiple rural arthritis workshops in states having SRAPs and those states not having projects. The coordinator also assists in developing resources related to rural arthritis and coordinates the Arthritis Community of Interest.

Qualifications: Amber is an agricultural education graduate of Purdue University, and she spent six years as an agricultural science and business teacher and FFA advisor. She raises American Quarter Horses and is a 4-H horse and pony leader.

Goodwill of the Finger Lakes Team: JoBeth Rath, Tess McKeel, Judy Gillis

Responsibilities: In 2012, Goodwill of the Finger Lakes (GWFL) assumed leadership of Goodwill's role on the NAP, which began in 2008 with Goodwill Industries International. Although it is a local Goodwill affiliate, GWFL represents the NAP on a national scale. The GWFL team will continue the work to connect SRAPs with the nationwide network of Goodwill affiliates and will lead the NAP Networking Committee to help SRAPs develop mutually beneficial relationships with a wide variety of organizations. Other significant initiatives include planning and conducting of regional AgrAbility workshops, coordinating at least two webinars per year, and providing AgrAbility staff with expert information on visual impairments, one of the specialties of their organization. The GWFL 2-1-1/LifeLine Contact Center will answer the phones for those seeking AgrAbility assistance and information outside of traditional business hours, providing a 24/7 live answer for NAP callers.

JoBeth Rath Qualifications: JoBeth Rath is the workforce development manager for GWFL. As such, her main goal is to connect individuals who have barriers to employment with the training and support necessary for them to become employed, positive contributors to their families and communities. JoBeth studied business management at Purdue University and human resource management at SUNY Empire State College, becoming a senior professional in human resources. JoBeth is a facilitator for the BEST Center at Genesee Community College, and leads the GWFL workforce development initiatives, including participation in the National AgrAbility Project.
Tess McKeel Qualifications: Tess McKeel has been with Goodwill of the Finger Lakes for two years. In her role as a store manager, she helped to employ people with barriers to employment, and she has now joined the workforce development team as a workforce navigator. She received her bachelors and masters degrees in education from SUNY at Geneseo and spent many years in the early childhood education field. Prior to coming to Goodwill, Tess was a specialist in Pennsylvania for the Keystone STARS program where she had a caseload of several early childhood education centers. Her job was to help the centers develop and maintain continuous improvement plans and to monitor their grant monies received from the state.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Evaluation Team: Chip Petrea and Bob Aherin

Responsibilities: The UIUC evaluation team provides external accountability to the NAP by conducting a variety of assessments on program effectiveness. These include an annual needs assessment completed by SRAP staffs, a conference evaluation of each NTW, an assessment of NAP products and services, and a summary of demographic data from each SRAP.

Dr. Chip Petrea Qualifications: Dr. Chip Petrea grew up on a registered Jersey dairy farm outside Luka, Marion County, Illinois. He returned to the family farm following graduation from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in dairy science in 1976. He participated in all aspects of production and management of the family farm until 1987 when he returned to UIUC. Dr. Petrea holds both a M.Ed. and a Ph.D. in agricultural education from the University of Illinois. He led the evaluation of a W.K. Kellogg Foundation funded community development program as well as the evaluation of the nationally available Teaching Ag Safety to Kids program. He is currently using factors underlying occupational behaviors as the basis for evaluating safety training programs administered to surface mining staff and personnel working in Illinois.
Dr. Bob Aherin Qualifications: Dr. Bob Aherin has been the project director for the Illinois AgrAbility program since its inception in the early 90s when Illinois was funded as one of the ten initial projects by the USDA. He has been involved in almost all aspects of developing the AgrAbility program in both Illinois and nationally. Dr. Aherin has also hosted the National AgrAbility conference in Illinois. He has a strong educational background in program evaluation through both his Ph.D. degree in education and being involved on a continual basis of evaluating the Illinois AgrAbility program and at various times assisting with evaluating the national program. He also directs the University of Illinois Agricultural Safety and Health program in the areas of Extension, teaching, and research.

Colorado State University Extension Quality of Life Program Impact Study: Bob Fetsch

Responsibilities: The CSUE Evaluation Team will collaborate with 15-plus SRAPs to collect pretest-posttest McGill Quality of Life (MQOL) data and Independent Living and Operating Survey (ILOS) data from 200 AgrAbility clients to identify changes they make during their time with AgrAbility. The CSUE Evaluation Team will partner with the UIUC Evaluation Team to identify and collect pretest-posttest MQOL and ILOS data from at least 100 farmers and ranchers with disabilities who do not receive AgrAbility services. Fetsch will analyze the data and will provide leadership in reporting, presenting, and writing comparison group results for publication in refereed journals.

Dr. Robert Fetsch Qualifications: Dr. Robert J. "Bob" Fetsch grew up on a small Holstein dairy farm in North Texas. He earned a Ph.D. in Guidance and Counselor Education from the University of Wyoming. He has conducted numerous Extension program evaluation studies and has published 46 refereed journal articles. He has served as project director for the Colorado AgrAbility Project for 15 years and has served as Chair of the NAP Evaluation Committee for 6 years. He is deeply committed to the AgrAbility mission which is to enhance and protect quality of life and preserve livelihoods.