AgricultureNews

Annie’s Project Inspires Additional Women in Ag Programs

Learning opportunities continue for women in agriculture, long after Annie's Project

When Loretta Reimers first took Annie’s Project in 2013, it was one of many women in ag programs she would go on to complete.

The 86-year-old Crawford County farm owner has spent her life learning more about the farming industry and ways to improve her 400-acre crop farm. She’s been involved with decision-making from the start, working in partnership with her husband, the late Clifford Reimers, who died in 1996.

She keeps detailed, hand-written records on her farm and says women need to be just as involved with the farming operation as men.

“They need to know what the banker is telling them, what the prices are for the buying and the selling of inputs, how to establish fair rents and so forth,” said Reimers. “Without knowledge and education, you have no idea what your land is worth, what the soil needs, or the other things that need done.”

Reimers said she feels at home when she attends programming for women in ag, and she learns from people from different backgrounds.

“To me, these ladies are like-minded and it’s easier to talk to people who are like-minded,” she said. “I enjoy the presentations and the time to interact with the other participants.”

After Annie’s Project

Like thousands of women who have taken Annie’s over the years, her educational experience only continued. She has since taken a wide variety of courses commonly referred to as Annie’s-inspired programs, geared toward agricultural risk management.

In all, there are 10 Annie’s-inspired programs offered by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s Women in Ag Program. These include Women Marketing Grain, Advanced Grain Marketing, Women Managing Cattle, Women Managing Farmland and Women Managing Farm Finances.

Each Annie’s-inspired program goes more in-depth on topics that are covered in Annie’s Project courses. This allows women to seek out the type of information that pertains specifically to their situations and educational needs.

Annie’s Project courses cover all five areas of agricultural risk management: financial, human resources, legal, marketing and production. While it’s never a requirement that women complete Annie’s Project first, many often do, according to Madeline Schultz, current president of the national Annie’s Project board of directors and manager of the farm management team’s Women in Ag Program.

“Once women are finished with Annie’s Project, they find themselves wanting to learn more,” said Schultz. “As their desire to learn continues, they often enroll in one or more of the Annie’s-inspired courses.”

Gathering the tools

Tim Christensen, farm management specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach, enjoyed having Loretta in several programs he has offered. “It’s nice to see women of all ages learning with and from each other,” he said.

Christensen has facilitated multiple Annie’s programs and offered “Women Marketing Grain” as well as “Advanced Grain Marketing for Women.” In 2024, he plans to also offer “Women Managing Cattle.”

“I’ve had great experiences offering Annie’s over the years and the women always tell us what they want to learn next,” he said. “The Annie’s-inspired programs are often smaller and more specialized, so there’s more opportunity for the women to network and learn from each other.”

Mandy Maher, ISU Extension and Outreach Fremont County director, co-facilitated an Annie’s Project in 2014 with Tim Eggers, a previous farm management specialist, and again in 2022 with Christensen.

Fremont County is located in the southwest corner of Iowa, with a population of only 6,500. The county has not yet held the Annie’s-inspired programs but has continued to connect the local Annie’s Project audience by being an active supporter of Women, Land and Legacy, a USDA education and outreach program for Iowa farm women.

“Annie’s and Annie’s-inspired programs are ideal for building community and relationships and that’s really what I’ve seen,” said Maher. “Many of these women develop lifelong friendships and an appetite to continue learning.”

One course, then another

Charles Brown, a farm management specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach, offered his first Annie’s Project course about 10 years ago. He said the interest grew from there, and he has since offered many of the other Annie’s-inspired programs as well.

“Once you hold one program, you end up offering another one, and then another,” he said. “We keep offering these programs every year and we get new participants and repeat participants. It’s been a valuable program and women continue to get a lot of benefit.”

Brown said women enjoy the closeknit community that women in ag programs provide. “Women feel a lot more comfortable when they learn together,” he said. “The Annie’s Inspired courses are giving them information that is probably available, but in this case, they can come to in-person meetings that are typically three or four in a series and work through the process as a team.”

Carol Remick, a retired bank marketing director from Hillsboro, Iowa, completed Women Managing Farm Finances in 2021 facilitated by Charles Brown.

Along with starting a small herd of Belted Galloway Cattle, Remick’s role on the farm now includes farm record keeping and “keeping the home fires burning” while her husband, Joe, and adult son, Carson, concentrate on the row crop business. She said all of the topics have been useful.

“The class helped fill in the gaps for me and opened the door to conversations with my husband and son,” said Remick. “As we are coming into a different time in our lives, the class has given us an appreciation for how far we’ve come, starting with nearly nothing and learning more each year.”

The classes reminded Remick that farming is not an easy business. The financial statement discussions, as well as those about accrual accounting, were especially helpful.

“There is no one that is ‘just’ a farmer anymore,” stated Remick. “It’s fun to ride in the tractor or watch the baby calves, but more and more I appreciate all that my husband knows and does from planter calibration to taxes, and how much it takes for both of us to run a successful business,” she added.

Staying relevant

Over the past two decades, Annie’s Project has been offered in 38 states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands, and it continues to be offered in new places each year.

To date, more than 19,000 people have completed the program, with more than 2,200 from Iowa alone.

According to Schultz, Annie’s Project is as relevant today as when it first began, and because there are so many Annie’s-inspired programs, women can find a learning opportunity that appeals to them and meets their goals.

“The topics and the presenters change because life around us changes, but in reality, the focus has always been the same – empower women to be successful in agriculture through education, resources and networks,” said Schultz. “The risk management topics covered remain relevant today, and we do our best to listen to women and keep the programs relevant for the future.” Some of the new topics covered are cybersecurity, family living benchmarking and mental health.

Detailed descriptions about the programs offered for women by the farm management team are available on the program website. Another way to stay informed about course offerings is to sign up for the Women in Ag newsletter.

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