Saturday, January 14, 2012

Women In Agriculture - Annie’s Project - Two Local Conferences

Many farm women in several Midwestern and southern states are hearing about a program called Annie’s Project. In a couple of sentences many women relate to the
mission of Annie’s Project, which is to empower farm women to be better business partners through networks and by managing and organizing critical information. Annie’s Project is based on the life a of farm woman in Illinois.

Annie was a woman who grew up in a small town in northern Illinois. Her goal was to
marry a farmer and she did. Annie spent her lifetime learning how to be an involved
business partner with her farm husband. Together they did great things, but it wasn’t

Challenges Annie faced included three generations living under one roof, low
profitability, changing farm enterprises, and raising a family. Annie faced pressure from brother and sister-in-laws, and mother-in-law. New regulations for selling processed food directly to the consumer forced many changes. Low profitability did not leave a lot of money to raise a family of four children even though the family worked hard. Annie had to make many painful sacrifices that tested her conviction to be married to a farmer. There were days of tears, anger and sorrow. There were days of laughter, contentment, and accomplishment.

Through it all, Annie kept records. She kept the farm business running, she kept the
family running, and she kept her marriage. Annie knew deadlines, reporting
requirements, tax issues, and did the little management jobs that kept big management
jobs under control.

When big decisions had to be made, Annie was there with her records. To increase cash
flow, Annie sent her husband to work off-farm while she milked cows and kept an egg
route in Chicago. Eventually, her records guided them to discontinue an egg laying
enterprise, a seasonal turkey enterprise, and the dairy business. Other farmers with larger equipment and more resources could better run the farm. So Annie became the landowner renting to other farmers. She paid expenses, and marketed corn and soybeans.

When others looked upon decisions Annie had helped to make, their opinions were not
always kind, and that was very hard on Annie. But she stuck with her decisions. She
corrected mistakes, and learned from experience. As an ex-school teacher Annie had
never ending patience, and ability to weather bad times.

Annie was married to a farmer for 50 years. She died in 1997, a wealthy woman, and
doing things her way. One of Annie’s daughters, Ruth, married a man from a farm. And the story starts all over. One exception to the story; while Annie would never dream of working off-farm, Ruth works for University of Illinois Extension as a Farm Business Management and Marketing educator.

Annie’s Project was founded out of need, observed and lived, by daughter Ruth.
Farm women have diverse backgrounds, some which prepare women well for the
responsibilities of running a farm business. Other farm women come into farming
operations by way of marrying men who happen to be farmers, or by means of their
spouse or family members dying and leaving them in charge. Being married to a farmer
or being a woman in a male dominated business has its challenges. Some women have
learned to handle this responsibility very well and are valuable mentors to women who
have not had it so easy. Through Annie’s Project, Ruth takes the skills instilled in her by her mother, and mentors and educates farm women. Farm women find answers, strength, and friendship, in Annie’s Project. Farm women grow in confidence, business skills, and community prestige.

Other women and men equally skilled, educated and impassioned for the role of farm
women have expanded the program into surrounding states and southern states. Describe
Annie’s Project to farm women and watch their eyes light up. Instructors as well as
students seem to find a piece of Annie in his or her lives.

As much to fill an educational need for risk management, Annie’s Project is dedicated to the life of Annette (Kohlhagen) Fleck (1922-1997.)
Creator of Annie’s Project Ruth Fleck Hambleton Mother, wife, and educator.


Wednesdays January 25-March 14, 2012

WorWic Community College


$75.00 registration (includes dinner each evening & all course materials)

Univeristy of MD Extension Lower Eastern Shore will offer Annie's Project during the winter of 2012 at WorWic Community College. Annie's Project focuses on the many aspects of farm management and is designed to empower women in overall farm decision making and to build local networks throughout the state. The target audience is farm women with a passion for business, agriculture, and involvement in the farm operation. Topics for the sessions cover the five areas of risk management - production, marketing, financial, legal, and human resources. This course is open to anyone interested in farm management practices.

The cost of the course including meals and materials is $75. Registration is required in advance before January 18 - register early as space is limited! For more information, visit or call 410-758-0166. If you require special assistance to attend the classes, please contact UME Worcester County office at least two weeks prior to the class.

Annie's Project has been approved for FSA Borrower Training. If you require training through the FSA loan process, you can attend Annie's Project and complete a follow up workbook for your training requirement. There will be an additional $100.00 fee for the FSA Borrower Training.



Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center, Dover, DE

February 9-10, 2012

This conference is geared at educating women involved in agriculture by providing a framework for networking and continuing education. Pre-registration is required. For more information, contact Laurie Wolinkski at 302-831-2538 or by e-mail.

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