Annie's Project Empowers Women in Agriculture

Bob Wells, Field Specialist Farm Management and Agriculture Business, SE Iowa
Gene Mohling, County Extension Education Director, Johnson and Washington Counties

Situation
According to the 2002 Census of Agriculture, women as primary operators of farm businesses is one of the fastest growing classes of farm operators in Iowa. As important as the number of farm women operators are the women who marry into farm operations with little or no farm background. Farm women, as principal operators or involved business partners, are seeking to understand modern farm business practices and gain competence in making critical firm level decisions. Farm women want to learn, but there are barriers: (1) formal education processes are too lengthy or too difficult to fit into a schedule that already includes off-farm employment and family and farm duties, (2) Farm women confess that their husbands or immediate family members are not good teachers of the kinds of information they need to be effective business partners, (3) Professionals such as lenders, merchandisers, insurance agents and market advisors, while knowledgeable and dedicated to their professions, have limited time to educate.

Off-farm employment has generated opportunities for farm women to be better managers. Many farm women who hold off-farm employment learn skills that can be used in managing both, large and small-scale operations. Some of these skills involve using computers, databases, spreadsheets, Internet, e-mail and financial software. Farm women want to transfer these skills to farm management operation and are very open to qualified, targeted guidance.

Some farm women have no computer experience and would like to develop these skills. Some farm women have no farm business skills and would like help in developing these skills. Farm women who possess computer skills can be helpers in small group settings to those who lack such training. Farm women who have lifetimes of experiences can serve as mentors to those beginning in the business. Group dynamics and interaction will be an important part of developing effective networks around the state. In general, many educational opportunities exist but are not well coordinated in delivery.

Response
Annie,s Project works on the premise that there are many learning avenues and abundant technologies to help manage a farm business. Annie,s Project coordinates the educational process to encompass the most practical, broadest vision of farm business management. Annie,s Project works on targeting subject matter in order to keep it relevant to farm business, building upon group dynamics to develop support networks and making the best use of available technologies to control the complexities of managing Iowa farm operations.

Farm women receive training in managing information in the areas of:

(1) Financial records, software, analysis of cash flow, income statements and balance sheets

(2) Production records, spreadsheet and database training and the types of information to keep

(3) marketing plans and risk management

(4) Legal/Regulation records and documentation

(5) Human resources and time management, including balancing the home and business.

Impact
Annie's Project was a multi-county collaborative effort co-sponsored by Iowa State University Extension, Washington State Bank and the North Central Regional Risk Management Education Center. Thirty-three southeast Iowa women from 13 counties attended the six-part series designed to empower women to manage information systems used in critical decision making processes.

At the programs end, farm women learned how to use or improved their skills for using: (1) the computer and personal digital assistant (organization skills), (2) the internet (data retrieval), (3) e-mail (communications), (4) FAST Tools, (farm analysis solutions tools) to assist in firm level critical decision making, (5) spreadsheets and data bases to organize large volume of information, (6) financial record keeping software, (6) marketing plans and crop insurance for cash flow and income protection, (7) evaluation skills (determining what is important), (8) the importance of goal setting, to stay focused on important items, (9) their personalities, and how they affect relationships with others and (10) how to work with professionals to meet goals.

Comments from class participants included the following: „I have completely enjoyed Annie‚s Project. It made me realize that I am on task with some aspects of my record keeping and that I need to improve on others. These meetings have sparked a drive in me to challenge myself „to do better. Jane Janeck, Washington County. This project has opened up communication and information shared between my husband and myself. I work full time in town and I have learned so much from this project that it will help me help my husband with our farm business. Luetta Green, Crawfordsville, IA. „I can carry on an intelligent conversation with my husband. Mary Miller, Winfield, IA.

Annie‚s Project is designed to take life experiences and share them with other women in agriculture who are living and working in a complex, dynamic, business environment.

 

Page last updated: July 8, 2006
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu