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It’s called annie’s Project —

By Staff | Mar 13, 2009

Sessions at all Annie's Projects have as their catch phrase, "come share a meal with us, then push the plate away and learn." Here at the Plymouth County Extension office, Annie Project participants listen intently as John Schneider explains the differences and importance of financial documentation.

To empower farm women to be better business partners through networks and by managing and organizing critical information.

-Mission statement,

Annie’s Project

LE MARS – Eighteen Plymouth County farm women, ranging in ages from 22 to 67, have marked off six nights on their March calendar, committing themselves to three, hourlong sessions each night to partake in a risk management program for farm women called Annie’s Project.

These women come from different backgrounds fir the first meeting March 3. Some have never lived on a farm in their life, some have off-farm employment, others work side-by-side with their husbands on the farm. Other dates will be March 5, 10, 17, 24 and 31.

Learning takes place in many different ways at an Annie's Project session. Here participants in a small group work on a human resource project.

Some grew up in town, but married a farmer similar to Annette (Kohlhagen) Fleck who’s life serves as the foundation on Annie’s Project.

Growing up in town, but visiting her grandparent’s farm often, Annette determined that she wanted to be a farmer’s wife. That goal was accomplished when she married Frank Fleck on July 20, 1947. Through many hard challenges, that at times caused hard, difficult decisions and sacrifices, Annette kept her determination to learn the basics of running a farm.

That she did, learning to keep farm records, dealing with increased government regulations, even sending her husband to work off the farm, while she milked cows and kept an egg route to Chicago. She learned to market corn and soybeans.

When her daughter Ruth married a farmer, the cycle of learning the basics of running a farm started over. Ruth Hambleton worked off the farm for the University of Illinois Extension as a farm business management and marketing educator.

She saw the need for developing a program that teaches women in a safe learning environment the skills and knowledge essential to meeting their goals of being a better wife and partner; and, in some cases, managing the farm on their own.

Learning takes place in many different ways at an Annie's Project session. Here participants in a small group work on a human resource project.

Identifying with Annette, town girl Tammie Milbrodt married a Hinton area farmer. She attended last week’s meeting with the objective of learning more.

“The program fits for where I am right now,” said Milbrodt. “I do the book work for the farm, but I want to know more about marketing and depreciation.”

To Linda Bohenkamp the reason for attending is similar, but with a different motivation. Statistics show that 75 percent of farm wives will outlive their husbands. When Bohenkamp’s first husband died, she virtually knew nothing of the farming business.

“I had no clue what was going,” said Bohenkamp. “Marrying a farmer again, this time I knew I wanted to be involved. Taking this class will help with that.”

The six sessions of Annie’s Project are intended to do just that, with topics like financial documentation, time management, financial records, FSA commodity programs, government programs, computer software use, legal issues, retirement planning and insurance, crop insurance, business planning and marketing.

It doesn’t matter if attendees have been farming for 50 years, or starting their farm life.

This program is geared to bring practical advice to aid in making smart business decisions. Learning takes place through lectures, discussion, small group work and individual assignments.

“One of the extra benefits that happens from participating in Annie’s Project is the friendships that are made,” said Carol Schneider, Plymouth County Extension director. “At the end of last year’s Annie’s Project, a special bonding had taken place among these farm women. We hated to see it end.”

The program costs $50, but with the software, resources that each participant walks away with the value of the class exceeds $300. More programs will be offered this summer and fall, Schneider said.

To learn whether the program is in your area or request that it would be, contact a local county extension director or visit www.extension.iastate.edu/Annie/

Contact Renae Vander Schaaf by e-mail at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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