Women’s involvement in the farming business is increasing in Iowa and across the nation. Their knowledge and comfort level with that involvement is also increasing, thanks to Annie’s Project, a program led in Iowa by Iowa State University Extension farm management specialists.
More than 1,400 Iowa women have attended Annie’s Project workshops since the first one was held in 2004. Annie’s Project covers five areas of risk management — production, marketing, financial, legal and human resources. The program is typically composed of three-hour classes held weekly for six weeks. In groups of 15 to 25, women explore critical decision making processes of farm business while building a local network with other participants and presenters. At each of the 53 programs presented in Iowa, many participants come from the hosting county, but there are always some that drive as far as 45 miles to attend the program.
Annie’s Project helped me realize what I needed to know, made me want to know more, gave me links to resources and built a network with classmates that made it possible to continue learning.
-Nancy Adrian, Washington County participant
Part of the draw is the need or desire to learn; another factor is the course structure. Bob Wells and Tim Eggers, ISU Extension farm management specialists and Iowa coordinators for Annie’s Project, have developed some best practices for presenting the program that include the farm management specialist providing leadership at each course session, local women practitioners presenting session topic materials, and participants sharing their experiences and questions about the topic each night. It is a comfortable environment, one where women know they can ask a question and not feel embarrassed because at least five other women in the room want an answer to that question too.
After Wells completed the first offering of Annie’s in Iowa, he contacted colleagues in several states, encouraging them to offer the program. He and Eggers say the demand for the program continues to grow, in Iowa and other states. They have made Annie’s Project best practices presentations in 20 states — 17 of those states have gone on to present the program. They work with Ruth Hambleton, creator of Annie’s Project and University of Illinois Extension farm business manager, to expand the circle of empowered farm women through the Annie’s National Leadership Team.
“As Annie’s Project spreads across Iowa and into other states, more people want to be involved—as participants, sponsors, and presenters,” Eggers said. “We are also seeing participants increase their community involvement following the program. They present a very professional image with their Annie’s portfolios and acquired organizational skills and knowledge.”
Watch the video "Annie's Project Empowers Farm Women"
Learn about Annie's Project — how and why it was started and how it continues to help women become better farm managers.
For more information about Annie’s Project contact:
Bob Wells, ISU Extension farm management specialist, 641-673-5841, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Eggers, ISU Extension farm management specialist, 712-542-5171, email@example.com