Program planning and evaluation frameworks for programs serving farmers with disabilities: Lessons learned from AgrAbility

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Virginia Tech

One substantial vision of maintaining agricultural productivity and sustainability is to improve farmers' and communities' well-being and quality of life. Offering disability-inclusive programs can ideally improve agricultural producers' social, environmental, and economic conditions. In turn, it has the potential to accelerate efforts to achieve social justice across varied environments and contexts. Thus, the study explored AgrAbility as an agricultural assistance program serving people with disabilities. A mixed-method approach (survey and interview) was employed to (1) explore and aggregate frameworks used by different State and Regional AgrAbility Projects (SRAP) for planning assistance programs, (2) examine the common types of evaluations used for assessing AgrAbility program impact, and (3) identify good practices for maximizing self-report tools' usability in program evaluation. Sixteen AgrAbility states were included in this study (Iowa, West Virginia, Alaska, California, Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin). Two states (Iowa and West Virginia) represent affiliated projects; the other states represent state/national projects. The planning survey was completed by 16 respondents, followed by interviews with 7 of them. The evaluation survey was completed by 11 respondents, followed by interviews with 7 AgrAbility participants (i.e., clients). Three integrated planning models (the Targeting Outcomes of Programs [TOP] model, Sork's planning domains, and Cervero and Wilson's planning model) were used as a conceptual framework to guide the study questions. The study findings offered a framework that could serve as a guideline to answer the following question: "To what extent is the ethical and social-political domain (i.e., power, interests, negotiation, and responsibilities) addressed or enacted within planning programs serving people with disabilities?" Also, the study findings revealed that self-report tools are very frequently used in evaluating AgrAbility outcomes. Ten recommendations were shared by AgrAbility evaluators and program participants with disabilities to improve self-report tools' usability and response rates, specifically in the disability context.

Program Planning, Evaluation, Self-Report Tool, Disability, Farming, Social Justice