AgrAbility

Carla Wilhite (Assistant Professor with the UNM Occupational Therapy Program), Paul Gutierrez (with the NMSU Cooperative Extension Service), and Sonja Koukel (Community & Environmental Health Specialist with NMSU) visit the garden at Mandy’s Farm.

Mandy’s Farm, through a federally-funded grant from the USDA, is part of the first AgrAbility Program based in the State of New Mexico, as well as the first AgrAbility Program, nationally, to focus on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In partnership with NMTAP, the Cooperative Extension Office at NMSU, and the Occupational Therapy Program at UNM, AgrAbility creates opportunities for disabled farmer to enter, or return to, agriculturally-based employment.

As an AgrAbility partner, Mandy’s Farm offers an Agri-Learning Program designed specifically for people with developmental disabilities who wish to access education and vocational supports around farming. Through the Agri-Learning Program, up to 10 participants complete a year-long apprenticeship designed to prepare them to work on an existing farm or start a micro-business of their own. Apprentices obtain daily hands-on experience in growing vegetables, cultivating fruit and mushrooms, caring for small livestock, exploring aquaponics, and working with bees.

Produce from the Mandy’s Farm agricultural operations is harvested and weighed before being taken to sell at local Farmer’s Markets.

Following apprenticeship graduation, individuals have access to growing space provided by Mandy’s Farm in order to launch their own micro-farming business. Acting as an agricultural incubator, Mandy’s Farm will provide ongoing support and technical assistance as participants explore farming with all of its potential risks and successes.

Are you interested in getting involved with AgrAbility or applying for the program? If so, please contact our AgrAbility Specialist, April Cox, at april@mandysfarm.org. You must have a disability to be eligible for apprenticeship, but we welcome people of all abilities as volunteers.