Annie’s Project: Four Iowa Women Share Their Stories

AMES, Iowa — Sara Shepherd is taking over her family’s farm. Julie Van Waardhuizen is fully engaged in farming with her husband. Mother and daughter Rexanne Struve and Brandi Wiig are beginning to look at transitioning the farm from one generation to the next. Although their farming situations vary, these Iowa women all credit Annie’s Project with improving their ability to make sound risk management decisions.

Annie’s Project empowers farm women to be better business partners through networks and by managing and organizing critical information. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has been providing this educational program in Iowa for 10 years. Some 1,500 Iowans are among the 10,000 women nationwide who have participated in Annie’s Project.

Sara Shepherd: Running the Family Farm

Sara Shepherd, Stuart, runs a purebred Charolais cow/calf herd and corn and soybean row crop operation. She took over the family operation from her father.

“Annie’s Project gave me the opportunity to learn a little, but then go back and say, ‘now Dad, how does this work in our family’s operation?’” Shepherd said. “Annie’s Project gave me the opportunity to have really good conversations with my dad about more in-depth information about his farming operation.”

Shepherd’s father passed away earlier this year. “As he was declining we had many conversations about me taking over the family farming operation, me continuing the cattle herd. It’s about more than passing the land on to the next generation. It’s about passing that knowledge base and that wealth of information. That’s the true legacy,” she said.

Julie Van Waardhuizen: Farming with Her Husband

Julie Van Waardhuizen farms with her husband near Oskaloosa. They run a 4,800-head hog custom finishing site and a 900-head feedlot.

“I take care of our hog finishing site. I also calve the cows in the spring, basically everything with the cow-calf herd,” Van Waardhuizen said. She acknowledges that she is far more involved in the farm operation than are many farm women.

“I think it’s important that even if you aren’t involved a lot in the farm, you need to understand what your husband does … so you can understand the stress that farming has. By learning different things you can communicate a lot better with your spouse and know what he’s talking about — just having a broader knowledge of what farming actually is,” she said.

“The tools that I learned in Annie’s Project helped me put together a loan proposal for the bank with cash flows and payback analysis,” Van Waardhuizen said — and she received the loan.

Rexanne Struve and Brandi Wiig: Transitioning to the Next Generation

Rexanne Struve, Manning, is a practicing veterinarian and a farm wife. She enrolled in Annie’s Project along with her daughter, Brandi Wiig.

“It was very great training and it was a fantastic opportunity for us because I believe in transitioning the farm from one generation to the next,” Struve said. “It’s given me a better understanding of things like marketing, insurance, those type of things that I really haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to before. … I’m better informed as to how decisions should be made.”

“I started out being a farmer’s daughter, growing up on a family farm. I transitioned to a farmer and a farmer’s wife,” said Wigg. “Annie’s Project has given us a lot of information to look for the future, transitioning from Mom and Dad down to my husband and I.”

For more information about upcoming Annie’s Project classes, contact Marsha Laux, Annie’s Project state coordinator,


Marsha Laux, Annie’s Project State Coordinator, 319-796-4362,
Madeline Schultz, Annie’s Project National Co-director, 515-294-0588,,