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New Initiative Focuses on N.D. Agricultural Operators

Rehabilitation Consulting and Services Initiative Aimed at Farmers and Ranchers

September 22, 2004

BISMARCK, N.D. – Realizing that agriculture is at the heart of the North Dakota economy and a heritage for so many North Dakota families, the North Dakota Department of Human Services’ Rehabilitation Consulting and Services (RCS) unit is striving to assist farm and ranch operators who may experience difficulties in maintaining their operations due to a permanent illness, injury, or impairment. RCS Rural Services will be launched statewide on October 1 to inform farmers, ranchers, and individuals living in rural communities about the vocational rehabilitation services available to them.

For Trina Gress, RCS consultant and rural services specialist, the initiative represents an opportunity to positively affect lives. As a farm woman and daughter of a farmer, she understands the challenges facing today’s agricultural operator.

“North Dakotans are fiercely independent. They value the freedom that comes from operating their own farms or ranches. For most, farming and ranching are a family tradition, and they want to stay on the farm no matter what. It’s not just a job; it’s something they love doing,” Gress explained. “With so many challenges facing them, they need to know who they can turn to if this way of life is in danger because of a permanent illness or injury.”

Gress and Bismarck RCS Regional Administrator Tom Schiwal are responsible for the unit’s efforts to aid the state’s farmers and ranchers. They developed a successful pilot project one year ago in the 10 counties served by the Bismarck office.

“Rural services have always been an important part of what we do, but we have never done a good job of building awareness about our services. This initiative is a new way of informing the agriculture community about available vocational rehabilitation services,” Gress explained.

RCS Rural Services staff work individually with farmers and ranchers to identify problem work areas and explore potential solutions, and then they provide follow-up to ensure that solutions are achieving the desired result. The relationship between the farmer or rancher and the RCS consultant is the key to success, Gress said.

According to Schiwal, the outreach initiative will also focus on rural communities.

“The economies of rural communities are directly related to success of the farmers and ranchers surrounding them. Rural Services is attempting to have a positive impact on those economies by keeping farmers and ranchers in operation,” he said.

To learn more about Rehabilitation Consulting and Services, visit www.nd.gov/dhs/services/disabilities/vr/ or contact the regional office in your area: Bismarck 328-8800, Devils Lake 665-2200, Dickinson 227-7600, Fargo 298-4459, Grand Forks 795-3100, Jamestown 253-6388, Minot 857-8643, or Williston 774-4600.


Harley Engelman, N.D. Department of Human Services, Rehabilitation Consulting and Services, (701) 328-8957; or
Heather Steffl, Public Information Officer, N.D. Department of Human Services, (701) 328-4933


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