Ruth Writes on Speakers with Audience Empathy
Here is a question for all educators working on Annie's Projects. When you are preparing for a program, where is your focus? Is it on
yourself and how you are going to appear before your audience, or are you looking past yourself and straight into educational needs your
audience may have? Educators who can become selfless and truly adapt to think like an Annie's participant thinks, will have unlocked the
key to what it means to be a part of Annie's Project. What does your audience think? It runs the full range from women afraid to open
their mouths for fear of being judged as stupid all the way to women who can see themselves as competent instructors. Regardless of the
knowledge level, each group of local participants is going to have a unique set of common concerns that good speakers will recognize.
Annie's Project speakers can not just unload a full set of slides and handouts, without ever once stopping to see if there is any connection
between the topics and the concerns of the audience. Sometimes this happens, but in that case, the instructor has failed the participants
of Annie's Project. Good instructors understand women's style of learning. Great instructors can turn a program on a single question,
imparting experience, and sharing wisdom on subjects the women are eager to learn about.
Annie's Project works because of your ability, as class facilitators to find a group of instructors who are selfless, experienced and
show empathy for their audience in professional and uplifting ways. Instructors may worry how they will appear, but Annie's Project is
a program about farm women, not the instructor. With great leadership from Jennifer Hunter, Kentucky has become a shining example of
this philosophy. An Extension Professor, Lee Meyer, worked on a livestock marketing program and submitted it to me for my opinion. I
told Lee that it was a great program for another audience of 50 producers expecting to sit silently until the end of the program. He
understood what I had said to him, and revamped his topic for an Annie's Project audience. His program was basic with lots of interaction.
With instructors like these, who are willing to adapt and empathize with the audience, Kentucky has become just one of many states doing
what it takes to truly educate and empower farm women. For a list of other state contacts like Jennifer check out our website at
www.extension.iastate.edu/Annie. Click on the state contacts link.
Madeline Looks at History in the Making through Missouri's Annie's Project
Spreading Across State Lines
Annie's Project conversations in Missouri naturally bring a little history to light. Ruth Hambleton, then with University of Illinois
Extension, received a $3,000 NC-Risk Management Education challenge grant to help support development of a new course for women. She taught
the first Annie's Project in February 2003 in Centralia, Illinois. At an RME Conference, Bob Wells, an Iowa Extension Farm Management Specialist,
talked with Ruth about this new Annie's Project course and thought it might be something that could meet the needs of farm women.
So, Bob arranged a meeting with Ruth in Quincy, IL in the spring of 2004. He invited Tim Eggers, his Iowa Extension colleague and his former
Missouri Extension colleagues Karisha Devlin, Kelly Dyer, and Mary Sobba to learn more about Annie's Project. Bob recalls Ruth only brought 8
ppt slides and the educators were not immediately convinced since 'no program could be good without a lot of slides!', but Ruth brought them
around and her mentorship that day turned into the first Annie's Project Educator Training.
Karisha and Mary went to work right away. They conducted their first class in Missouri in the fall of 2004 and became hooked on the program.
Over the past five years, the Missouri Extension team conducted 52 Level I and Level II classes and taught about 546 women in agriculture. They
constantly update information and try new methods of teaching. "We had a good response when we tried interactive video conferencing to reach
small remote audiences and capitalize on outstanding speakers," notes Mary. The farm women in Missouri have been very receptive to Level II
courses including Women Marketing Grain and Livestock, Estate Planning, and Leasing. "Hands-on activities are a must," say this experienced
team, "This helps the farm women learn new skills and breaks up the monotony of PowerPoint presentations and lectures." A lot of learning
and network building takes place when women have time to share with each other and discuss common issues. Guest speakers add much to the
classes. They suggest choosing experts in their field who can relate well to women in the audience and understand the learning environment.
Since its inception, Mary and Karisha have served on the Annie's National Leadership Team. Both agree this has been a learning role.
Karisha remembers feeling overwhelmed by all the interest from other states at first and struggling to organize the team so they could help
others. At times it seemed like the water was very muddy while they tried to figure out what was needed to help other states. Mary is pleased
with the progress and feels ANNIES is becoming more organized and defined as the National Leadership Team moves forward. She feels the expanding
resources such as the public and educator web sites, DVDs, and print materials all make it easier to share information with other states.
Mary and Karisha were excited to see the establishment of a program home at Iowa State University for ANNIES one year ago.
Reaching Women in Agriculture
It is rewarding for the Missouri educators to see Annie's Project gain name recognition in the state and the excitement for it continues
to build. Karisha commented, "Now a lot of women have heard about ANNIES, so I have had women approach me about doing a program in their area.
It's a great feeling to have people calling the office asking for the program."
Reaching women in all parts of the state has been a challenge because of the scarcity of Extension Ag Business Specialists. Missouri plans
to implement more distance education and are also looking at other ways to address this issue. Another challenge has been scheduling classes
early enough for effective statewide advertising, but they are getting better at this. Evaluation is still one of their biggest challenges.
The Missouri team is being pressured to create evaluation tools that clearly demonstrate impacts. They are working on making some changes to
ANNIES evaluation tools to help satisfy Missouri Extension administrators. "Administrators do not see the impacts as much as we do simply
because they are not on the frontline," explained Mary. The team says administrators see the worth of the program, but they want some hard
numbers. Missouri is working to capture those numbers with new evaluation methods.
Past participants generally have two types of stories. First, there are women whose eyes have been opened to the business - either they
were new to the farm or had not been involved. Mary recalls one participant who had married a farmer and had a degree in accounting but knew
nothing about the farm. The class helped her see how she could use her talents to become a helpful farm business partner, while also keeping
her off farm job. The second type of story is from participants who want to share how they used a particular piece of information. Karisha
tells about a lady who used the information she learned in class to negotiate a lower interest rate with her banker. Her husband was amazed.
Another woman realized their bulls were not insured and when a loss occurred, she was very thankful she had insured the bulls during the class.
Another participant was inspired to ask her husband's parents to enter into a written lease agreement, explaining she is treating the farm
like a business. One recent participant was terrified in the computer lab, but reports she is getting a new computer for Christmas.
Karisha and Mary held two Annie's Project educator trainings since beginning the program in Missouri and now they are planning a refresher
training to update the thirteen educators currently serving the state. They have been fortunate to receive funding for the trainings from
Missouri Extension. The RMA Small Sessions grant program also provided key funding and allowed the Missouri team to offer more courses. Mary
said, "The comments we hear from past participants and the continued interest keep the Missouri team energized and eager to offer more classes."
Karisha added, "Everyone that teaches Annie's really enjoys it. I think that new educators see this, and want to be involved in the program."
Networking with other organizations, good publicity and "word of mouth" from past participants helps keep momentum up and gain interest from
women (& men) all over the state.
Moving into the Future
Lynn Hambleton Hines is one of the new Annie's Project educators in Missouri. She taught her first class this fall after joining Missouri
Extension about a year ago. Lynn shares, "I was very nervous for the first program but it went very well. It helped that I had an excellent mentor
to answer all my questions. Mom helped me introduce the program in the first session and I thought that was very special! I definitely felt proud
when I saw first hand what this program does for farm women." Lynn says the scariest part was not being familiar with some of the topics, like
estate planning and property titles. She found she didn't need to stress out at all because the guest speakers did a great job and she was
able to learn a lot from them. Lynn says now that she knows what to expect, she won't be nervous about the next program. Going forward, ANNIES
will benefit greatly from the guidance and enthusiasm of both Ruth and Lynn.
Looking ahead, Mary plans to continue serving as the State Coordinator for Annie's Project in Missouri and strengthening the program, especially
the Level II offerings. This fall, Karisha began work on a EdD degree in Leadership and Policy Analysis. Annie's Project evaluation is the topic
of her dissertation and she hopes this work will help improve the program in the state as well as the nation.
In their roles on the ANNIES National Leadership Team, Mary and Karisha look forward to assisting the national network of educators in several
key ways. They are working on finding and sharing the best Level II programs to meet the needs of participants who complete Annie's Project Level
I classes and want to learn more. They also hope the work they are doing on evaluation (how and what data to collect and how to convey the information)
will be helpful to other states as they report impacts. Mary and Karisha attend in-person National Leadership Team meetings every few months and
enjoy being part of weekly team conference calls initiated last summer. This keeps them updated on what is happening and motivated to keep working
to expand the program. ANNIES is fortunate to have these dedicated leaders who hope to see Annie's Project expand to all 50 states.