Penn State offers risk-management education for women in farming

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Of the 3.3 million U.S. farm operators counted in the 2007 Census of Agriculture, about 30 percent, or more than 1 million, were women. Despite the numbers, women farmers are an underserved audience, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Responding to a critical need for education specifically designed to help women manage business risks and enhance the financial viability of their agricultural operations, Penn State Extension will offer a workshop series to be held at six locations across Pennsylvania.

Annie's Project is a national Cooperative Extension educational program designed to strengthen women's roles in farming. Workshops provide educational tools needed to make critical business decisions and develop a local network of support for continuing education.

Extension will offer Annie's Project over five sessions beginning Monday, Nov. 7, and continuing on Nov. 21, Dec. 5, Dec. 19 and Jan. 9, 2012. All classes will take place from 6 to 9 p.m., except for the double session on Dec. 5, which will run from 3 to 9 p.m.

Classes will be held at Penn State Extension offices in Lancaster, Mercer and Allegheny counties and at AgChoice Farm Credit offices in Chambersburg (Franklin County), Yeagertown (Mifflin County) and Lewisburg (Union County).

Education covers five general areas of risk management: production, marketing, financial, legal and human-resources risk. Instruction is tailored to women's learning preferences and combines lectures, discussion, guest speakers, and individual and small group activities.

Topics include financial statements, recordkeeping, farm business planning, marketing plans, estate planning, exploring alternative enterprises, insurance and more.

"Annie's Project education can benefit every farm businesswoman, whether she is new to agriculture or wants new ideas to reinvent a farm venture that has been in her family for generations," said Winifred McGee, extension educator and state program coordinator for Annie's Project in Pennsylvania.

"The course supplies the conversations and experiences women in farming need to handle today's risk issues and take charge of their business success."

Cost of the workshop is $75 per person. To register, visit the Web at or call toll-free 877-489-1398. Participants who complete the program will qualify for six SmartStart credits through AgChoice Farm Credit, a program sponsor.

Annie's Project is based on the life of Annie Fleck, an Illinois woman who spent a lifetime learning how to be an involved business partner with her farmer husband. Typical of women in farming, Annie faced farming challenges, kept the business running and managed family life. Her daughter, Ruth Hambleton, founded Annie's Project out of women farmers' need for education and information. Those needs and the skills instilled in her by her mother and mentors shaped Annie's Project.

For more information, visit online or call Penn State Extension at 717-270-4391.

Last Updated September 27, 2011