The RURAL Program gives participants a chance to work, learn, live, and thrive in their community.
The Disability Action Center and The Homestead Farm Center are dedicated to supporting individuals with disabilities by providing them agricultural based job training and experiential learning through RURAL (Rural to Urban Agricultural Learning).
Not only is there is a shortage of post-secondary training and employment services for individuals with disabilities in North Central WV, there are no nature based learning programs and none that combine sustainable agriculture, urban gardening, job training, and environmental stewardship.
The construction of the 40 x 60 outdoor classroom will include a kitchen and restroom area for preparation and preservation of crops harvested through the program, as well as, hands on farm to table lessons. The classroom is vital to the expansion of the RURAL Program and is the essential structure on the 100 acre farm which is home to a polycarbonate greenhouse, raised bed garden area, and six stall livestock barn utilized for training and education.
This one of a kind program provides an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to be trained and employed in agriculture, farming, and gardening; and to experience nature and learn by doing, which has been proven more beneficial for individuals with intellectual, developmental, or sensory disabilities than the traditional classroom or learning environment.
RURAL meets the needs of the community by: a) allowing participants to be trained in sustainable agriculture through farm to table hands-on classes, b) integrating participants with the general public through volunteer service projects and farmers market operation c) encouraging future employment and entrepreneurship of individuals with disabilities in related fields such as farming, landscaping, greenhouse operation, and food production, and d) creating an accessible outdoor classroom learning environment for individuals of all abilities promoting inclusion through integrated programs with the community at large.
As the main education and training structure on the 100 acre farm, the classroom pavilion style structure will be the hub of learning and doing, fellowship and planning, and is the epicenter of the RURAL job training program.
The outdoor classroom will also make possible environmental education workshops in gardening, livestock management, environmental conservation, woodworking, farm crafts, and more for other community organizations such as senior groups, 4-H clubs, FFA, and schools and universities.
At present, all program instruction takes place in a "stall classroom" in the livestock barn. This grant will be the catalyst for true connectivity and integration of the RURAL program with the community at large. The classroom will allow for RURAL program expansion and increased farm production further promoting self-sufficiency through sales to local restaurants and farmer's markets, impacting not only the disability community, but the entire community.