Knowing what you know, what you don’t know, and how to narrow the gap between the two poses a challenge to any professional. The solution seems easy: ask a question. But for women in fields like agriculture that have been traditionally dominated by men, the solution can be more complicated.
Women in agriculture may face real or perceived barriers to gaining the knowledge they need to be successful farm business owners – barriers like the fear of being seen as uninformed, unprepared or undereducated. Annie’s Project works to create confidence through a safe, inclusive community in which all queries are welcome.
As farmland owner and agriculture leader Sharon Perry said, “Annie’s Project gave me the confidence to know that I wasn’t alone in my situation – that there were resources to be used to help me work through whatever challenges arose.”
Working together in the all-women environment of Annie’s Project creates a more “level playing field,” as Diane McDonald, national president of Women Involved in Farm Economics, described it. South Dakota participant Arlis Kafka added, “We had questions and we weren’t afraid to ask them…because if you don’t know and you don’t ask the question, how will you ever learn the answer?”
This confidence soon expanded beyond the confines of the Annie’s Project program. Diane said, “Now I ask questions [outside of class] because I finally figured out that they [men farmers] don’t innately know the answers to all these questions. They must have had to ask somebody, too. …Just because I’m a woman shouldn’t make any difference. I’m a farmer.”
The Annie’s Project community teaches women that questions are not a marker of incompetence or weakness. Instead, questions are the first step towards gaining knowledge and improving oneself. In the words of Arlis, “We are all out there to learn. Not everybody knows everything. You learn as you go.” Not only does Annie’s Project provide women with new information, but it also teaches them how to learn from their peers so that they may continue gaining knowledge beyond the confines of the classroom.