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Annie’s Project will empower Ohio women to manage farms

By DOUG GRAVES
Ohio Correspondent

DAYTON, Ohio — The program is Annie’s Project, and it’s a six-week course for women involved in agriculture. Annie’s Project, a statewide and national program, will provide farm women the tools to improve their risk management skills in the often complex world of agriculture.

The first stop of this six-week program will be at the Miami Valley Career Technology Center in Clayton, Ohio, on Feb. 23, with five more classes to be held March 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30.

“This program is very useful for the woman on the farm,” said Julia Woodruff, co-coordinator of Annie’s Project in Ohio, along with Doris Herringshaw, Ohio State University extension specialist from Wood County. “It combines lecture, discussion, individual assignments, small group work, computer work and audio and visual support.
“The mission of Annie’s Project 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 of a northern Illinois farm woman named Annette (Kohlhagen) Fleck. Annie, as she was called, was born in 1922 and spent her lifetime learning how to be an involved business partner with her husband.

And she learned about many things, from changing farm enterprises to low profitability. She learned about the hardships involved with farming, the tasks of marketing and the difficulties entailed in having a business involving turkeys, cows and chickens.
Annie was married to a farmer for 50 years and became quite wealthy before she died in 1997. One of Annie’s daughters, Ruth, also married a farmer. But Ruth also worked for the University of Illinois extension for 30 years before retiring a few years ago.
At that time she started a not-for-profit program called Annie’s Project. To this point in time, 189 women in Ohio have participated in the program.

“This program is great for fiancées ready to marry a farmer, or even a widowed landowner,” Woodruff said. “Women will learn about risk management, balance sheets and operating capital. Women need to have a better understanding of their profitability and their balance sheets. These classes will also help them understand crop insurance, grain marketing and so much more.”
Woodruff and Herringshaw will speak at the Feb. 23 gathering in Clayton. Other presenters include Peggy Hall, director of Agriculture Law at OSU; Donald Breece, OSU extension specialist from Marion and Delaware counties; Chris Bruynis, extension educator from Wyandot County; Pat Holmes, extension educator from Preble County; John Yost, extension educator from Fayette County; and Suzanne Mills-Wasniak, OSU program assistant from Montgomery County.

The panel will be discussing such things as financial risk management, marketing plans, pricing options, retirement and farm business transition, legal risk management, health and wellness contacts and managing production risks. There are five Annie’s Projects scheduled for Ohio this winter and spring.
“There’s a government program advantage to being a woman in agriculture,” Woodruff said. “They’ve been designated by the USDA as an underserved population. That makes some of the farm loans more readily accessible through the farm loan programs.”

For more information about the Annie’s Project gathering in Clayton, contact Mills-Wasniak at 937-224-5110 or e-mail mills-wasniak.1@osu.edu

2/17/2010