Annie's Project provides busy women farmers with the skills needed to start a farm-based business.
Twelve Mississippi businesswomen completed 18 hours of training through Annie’s Project, a national program designed for women interested in agriculture-based enterprises.
The training was held in late-winter at the Lincoln County Extension office through Mississippi Women for Agriculture and the Mississippi State University Extension Service. The curriculum is designed to empower farm women of all ages to be better business partners by utilizing networks and by managing and organizing critical information.
Rachael Carter, project manager for the Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development and guest speaker at a recent session, took participants through the Real Colors Personality Instrument to address the importance of human relationships on the farm. Carter also introduced attendees to the Cashing In on Business Opportunities curriculum.
“This material walks entrepreneurs through the entire process of building a business plan,” Carter says. “Whether you start a business with your own money or get outside financing, you need to have plan. The curriculum is available online through the Southern Rural Development Center at no charge. It is broken down into an easy-to-understand format so people can learn at their own pace.”
Carter says the women participating in Annie’s Project are eager for information.
“Some of these entrepreneurs have been in business for a while and want to expand or change the family farm,” she says. “A couple of women there were just starting out. They’ve figured out what they want to do, and now they’re trying to figure out how to do it.”
Sylvia Clark, vice president of Mississippi Women for Agriculture, says the program is practical, as it was written by an extension agent in Illinois who grew up in a farming family.
“She thought back on what her mother had learned through hardship, and as an Extension educator, she put together a program so other women wouldn’t have to learn the hard way,” Clark says. “We became very interested in the information because it covers everything you face as a farmer, a farmer’s wife, a farm partner—and women farmers are an underserved audience.”
Annie’s Project offers 18 hours of training by extension-service and business experts on such topics as women and money; interpersonal skills; developing a vision, mission and goals; developing a business plan; interpreting financial statements; computer record-keeping; insurance; marketing; and farm succession and estate planning.
“We partnered with other organizations to offer these educational sessions and give participants information about what is available in their counties, from organizations such as the Extension Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Bureau and the farm credit system,” she says. “It’s a true partnership with our communities to help women find the resources they need. Farm women are hardly ever doing just one thing—they have their hands in two or three things at once, so maybe we can save them some time by sharing what we know.”