Leadership means speaking up for what you believe in. Annie’s Project provides women with both the confidence to speak out about agriculture and the communication skills they need to do so.
The first step in becoming a leader is to recognize that your voice matters. Diane McDonald, a farmer and the national president of Women Involved in Farm Economics, described how Annie’s Project helped her embrace her opinions and perspectives as a woman and as a farmer: “This is not our grandmother’s farm anymore. Women are involved and should be involved in the farm.”
Sharon Perry, a farmland owner and an active member of agriculture leadership network The Chicago Farmers, agrees. “Annie’s Project gave me the confidence to know that we as women can step up to the plate and be a responsive, informed and intelligent partner in the farm relationship,” Sharon said. Annie’s Project makes space for women, demonstrating the value of women’s voices to the agriculture community.
The communication skills taught in Annie’s Project classes empower women with the confidence to share their stories with others. South Dakota participant Arlis Kafka said Annie’s Project taught her that “no one’s going to be able to read my mind. They don’t know what I’m feeling. If I’m going to go somewhere in life, I have to express myself.”
As fewer people grow up on the farm and understand agriculture, farmers like Arlis, Diane and Sharon understand the importance of sharing their stories with the public. Diane said, “The majority of people don’t understand where their food comes from other than Whole Foods or Safeway. So it’s up to us [to educate them]. If we don’t tell our story, someone else is going to tell it for us and they’re not going to get it right.”
For effective leaders, knowing your story’s value is just the first step. You also need the communication skills to effectively share your story with others, and that’s where Annie’s Project can play a role. Small group discussions during Annie’s Project classes help women learn how to expand their speaking skills beyond one-on-one conversations. For example, Susan Wall learned public speaking skills from Annie’s Project that followed her into her role as president of Illinois Agri-Women, where she once shared a stage with Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.
Annie’s Project also taught Susan how to leverage email and the internet as business and leadership communications tools, something she was afraid to do prior to taking the course. Wall said that her new technological capabilities gave her the “courage to reach out to people.” Farm Credit proudly supports an organization with a proven record of supporting women leaders who know the value of their experiences and are prepared to communicate them with others.