Women have always been a vital part of the farm family – historically, often serving as the primary homemaker, caretaker and bookkeeper. And as agriculture has evolved, so have women’s roles. While they often face unique educational and leadership barriers that inhibit their ability to fully participate in their farm business, women have a program known as Annie’s Project to support their educational needs.
Annie’s Project participants learn about topics such as human resource issues, business planning, financial documentation, property titles, cash and crop share leases, marketing plans, retirement and estate planning and insurance. That’s why Farm Credit has long been a proud sponsor of this educational program that empowers farm and ranch women by strengthening their professional skills and exposing them to a network of local agricultural experts.
During a typical class, a local professional addresses the women in his or her area of expertise. This structure both exposes students to knowledge from a variety of teachers and provides them with a network of experts to whom they can reach out for more information in the following years.
Annie’s Project fills an important business education gap for farm and ranch women, and its unintended consequences are even more remarkable. Many of the women who complete Annie’s Project courses gain the skills needed to help their farm business succeed in addition to the knowledge and confidence needed to become leaders in their community or in their state, local or national agriculture organization.
Susan Wall is one of those women. Susan has lived on a farm her entire life, gaining practical experience that by any other measure would make her an expert in agriculture. However, it wasn’t until completing an Annie’s Project course that she considered herself qualified to take on a leadership role in the industry. Susan now serves as immediate past president of the Illinois Agri-Women. She said, “Starting with Annie’s Project and Illinois Agri-Women has given me a lot more in my life than I ever expected.”
Diane McDonald, a farm woman from North Dakota and the national president of Women Involved in Farm Economics, agrees. “Annie’s Project touches me, whether I realize it or not, every day,” she said.
Arlis Kafka, a farmer from South Dakota, also manages a 57-unit elderly housing complex. “Every time we went [to Annie’s Project], there was always a positive feeling…it was always uplifting,” Arlis said. She went on to describe how it was as if the underlying message of each Annie’s Project class was, “You can do this. You’re strong enough and you know what you’re doing.”
Farm Credit proudly supports women’s leadership and a more inclusive and diverse agricultural industry through our partnership with Annie’s Project. In the next few weeks, we will explore more stories of women like Susan, Diane and Arlis, and how Annie’s Project is building a new generation of ag leaders across the country.