Annie’s Project, the national program that empowers farm women to solve problems and make decisions, has taken root in Iowa.
One Annie’s Project participant started growing pumpkins and painting them after attending an Annie’s Project session a few years ago. She now hosts a pumpkin festival each year and returned to an Annie’s Project course in Ames, Iowa, that combined the core curriculum with the writing of a business plan. She wanted to take her business to the next level.
Madeline Schultz, Iowa state coordinator of Annie’s Project, loves to hear these stories from her Annie’s Project participants. After reviewing the new farm bill in the fall, another participant went to her county Farm Service Agency to reallocate her base acres — with all the necessary paperwork in hand.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offers Annie’s Project in multiple counties. Six educational sessions cover five key farm management areas: financial, legal, human resources, production and marketing. Annie’s Project Phase II: Managing for Today and Tomorrow also is available in several Iowa counties.
You can even like the Annie’s Project-Iowa Facebook page. And Iowa farm women are showing their pride with the ISU Extension T-shirt — “Farm like a Girl.”
The results of Annie’s Project are two-fold: education and networking.
“Women see the big picture of the farm business,” said Schultz. “They really appreciate building a local network of other farm women who share similar concerns, passions and joys.”
Participants also meet local ag professionals from lenders to the FSA executive director, she said.
“We know this program is making huge differences,” said Schultz. “They gain confidence to take on new challenges with the farm business and attend other courses or programs on the farm business.”
In 2014, 321 women attend 20 programs in Iowa, which included Annie’s Project and four other curriculums developed by the ISU Extension team.
One of these programs was Moving Beyond the Basics. Annie’s Project participants wanted more in-depth information on farm finances.
So Kristen Schulte, ISU farm and ag management specialist, teamed up with colleagues in Iowa and Ohio and received a grant for a four-class session on money attitudes and goal setting; balance sheets and income statements; financial record keeping in a computerized system; and cash flow and financial ratios.
Like Annie’s Project, the program was designed specifically for women with the goal of building a network among women and creating a safe learning environment.
“We developed this program because we know they have a different learning style and learning needs than the typical male or large educational audience,” said Schulte. “Women typically learn better in smaller groups where they can socialize and be comfortable asking questions.”
After conducting two pilot programs, she offered the program free of charge in Floyd County last November. The participants gained a better understanding of financial statements and using online tools to project prices and assess their financial position.
“Women generally have positive feedback from the course,” said Schulte.
ISU Extension also hosts the Women in Ag learning network, a website that connects women farmers and ranchers nationwide with each other and land grant university educators. For more information visit http://www.extension.org/womeninag.
Visit http://www.extension.iastate.edu/annie/ to learn more about Annie’s Project in Iowa.