Kirk Ballin has been the Program Coordinator of the AgrAbility Virginia Project since 2005. Kirk, as a staff person of Easter Seals UCP NC/VA, and in partnership with Virginia Tech University, oversees the implementation of AgrAbility Virginia. In addition to overseeing the administrative side of the Project, he works closely with the AgrAbility Service Coordinators, and the AgrAbility Rural Rehab Partners to ensure that services are provided to those in need. Kirkâ€™s academic background includes degrees in Anthropology (Colorado College; University of Virginia), and a Master in Divinity (Harvard University), as well as training in counseling, and numerous agricultural courses over the past ten years. He is an ordained minister, having served numerous congregations, and has worked as a Trauma Unit Chaplain (Carilion), Executive Director of the National Conference for community and Justice, and ran his own counseling service, before joining AgrAbility Virginia.
Dr. Kim Niewolny
Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist
Dr. Kim Niewolny, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education at Virginia Tech, is the Project Director (PD) overseeing the AgrAbility Virginia Program. Kim’s academic work centers on participatory forms of community education and development in agrifood systems. Current funded research and extension initiatives center on beginning farmer training and program development, community food security, and farm-to-school program development. In addition to AgrAbility Virginia, Kim also serves as the Director of the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Program, a state-wide and coalition-based Extension program that aims to improve opportunities for viable farm start-up and sustainability. In addition to extension and research responsibilities, Kim teaches a number of undergraduate and graduate courses in community education and development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.
Tristan Robertson, a Roanoke native, has been with the Easter Seals family since 1996. She holds a Bachelor’s in psychology and a Master’s in Education. Tristan has held numerous positions within Easter Seals including Child Development Specialist, Early Intervention Program Coordinator, Director of Programs and currently Community Director. Tristan’s roles and responsibilities include program oversight, public education, developing community collaborations, implementing new service programs, and program fiscal management. Her experience has resulted in successful implementation of new programs serving individuals with disabilities in Virginia, including the AgrAbility Virginia Program and its partnership with Virginia Tech, since 2001.
Steve Bridge is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University, with a B.S in Health and Physical Education. Living in Augusta County, Steve has been around and involved in farming all of his life. He also worked as a recreational Therapist at Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center from 1977-2004. Steve walks-the-talk in being able to bridge the connection between therapeutic needs and farming! He joined AgrAbility Virginia, in 2005, as a Service Coordinator (caseworker), primarily serving the Shenandoah Valley.
Jim Sheppard is a graduate of Virginia State College with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Agri-Business. Jim has been around agricultural all of his life. His most recent professional ventures in the agricultural world have been with the USDA/Farm Service Agency and Virginia State University / Virginia Cooperative Extension, Farm Management Agent, Petersburg, VA. Jim joined AgrAbility Virginia in April, 2017.
Graduate Research Assistant
Crystal Kyle, is a second year PhD student at Virginia Tech in the Agriculture Leadership Community Education department. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental and Earth Sciences along with two minors in Waste Management and OSHA. She graduated in 2014 with a Masters in Agriculture Education with both Gamma Sigma Delta and Golden Key honors. Crystal works as a Graduate Research Assistant under the mentorship of Dr. Kim Niewolny. As a veteran herself, Crystal hopes to support other veterans in agriculture through reliable research.
Don Ohanehi is a mechanical engineer and teaches classes at Virginia Tech; he has been with AgrAbility Virginia for about 6 years. Prior to coming to Virginia Tech, Don worked for Inland Motor/Kollmorgen Corporation, Radford, Virginia and Magnetic Bearings, Inc., Roanoke, Virginia. In conjunction with other Virginia Tech team members of AgrAbility Virginia, Don develops educational materials to be offered to AgrAbility current and potential clients. He has primary responsibility for the development of assistive technology devices through student design teams. Don is currently advising a senior student team working on a second-generation human-powered lift product. Don also assists the Project Director in the development of progress and final reports for AgrAbility Virginia.