Mississippi State University partnered with the Annie’s National Network Initiative for Educational Success (ANNIES) housed at Iowa State University, as well as, Alcorn State University to build the capacity of Extension educators to provide risk management courses for farm and ranch women in Southern states. Two 2-day professional development programs (PDP) were held in Mississippi, reaching 63 Extension educators, in addition to selected community partners and farm and ranch women.
National Annie’s Project leadership team members, including Ruth Hambleton, the program founder, led both PDP sessions, training Extension educators to use best practices and tofacilitate the development of a strong networks of local women farmers and ranchers in their states or counties. Participants from 11 states representing 12 universities (including 3 Historically Black Colleges and Universities) received travel scholarships to encourage participation. Extension educators from 22 counties in Mississippi participated, 16 of whom implemented Annie’s Project Programs in their local areas as a result of this project.
The overall goal of this SARE PDP was to support and expand an existing network of ANNIES educators; building their capacity to teach, mentor and empower local women farmers and ranchers to improve agricultural sustainability.
New and experienced ANNIES educators participating in 2 days of training will:
- Show awareness of sustainability issues and how they affect the target clientele of women in discussion groups with local women farmers during small group training.
- Demonstrate knowledge of how to plan and teach risk management skills in small-group role play session planning activities and worksheets.
- Participate in national network conference telephone calls, and attend face-to-face national meetings when possible.
- Deliver greater numbers of effective and efficient agricultural risk management courses and reach more women farmers and ranchers than prior to the regional PDP meetings.
- Serve diverse clientele and meet demands for small, start-up, value-added, organic and other business sectors identified by women farmer and rancher stakeholders.
- Show evidence of addressing sustainability issues in the farm community following training (follow-up reports/evaluation)
- Facilitate the creation of active local networks of empowered women farmers and ranchers who continue to learn together beyond their participation in Annie’s Project courses (end of program follow-up and beyond).
- Document changes in the social aspects of sustainability as a result of the women farmer’s and rancher’s participation in Annie’s Project.
Extension educators and county directors who are interested in meeting the needs of women farmers and ranchers may not be familiar with unique needs of this underserved group and may not have the skills to plan programs for them. This professional development project was designed to develop Extension educators’ expertise in programs to help women manage agricultural risk, thus improving the financial, social and environmental sustainability of their farm and ranch businesses.
Annie’s Project, an 18-hour program created in 2003, meets these unique needs and uses proven methodologies to teach risk management skills and provide networking opportunities for farm and ranch women. ANNIES educators have delivered courses on to more than 8,000 women farmers and ranchers in 26 states to empower women farmers and ranchers to be better business owners and partners through networks and by managing and organizing critical information. The course teaches women how to manage financial, human resource, legal, marketing, and production risks.
This project introduced Southern Extension educators to the Annie’s National Network which provides resources for educators through a website, monthly topic calls, newsletters, technical assistance, and partnership opportunities. It brought together educators from states not previous reached by Annie’s Project with experienced educators and national leadership team members to expand the Annie’s Project network and to increase skills of experienced educators.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Two 2-day professional development programs were planned and implemented for Extension educators in Southern states, teaching them to use tested Annie’s Project Program methodology to teach risk management programs for farm and ranch women.
Technical support was also offered to educators implementing Annie’s Project Programs in their local states or communities. Technical support methods ranged from telephone advice and emailed resources to face-to-face co-teaching.
(See further details about methods used in accomplishments section)
Outreach and Publications
Activities were developed for planning local Annie’s Project programs.
A handbook for educators was provided to PDP participants.
A series of news articles on women farmers and ranchers in Mississippi is available online. (see articles attached)
New and experienced ANNIES educators participating in 2 days of training:
- Showed awareness of sustainability issues and how they affect the target clientele of women by participating in discussion groups with local women farmers during small group training, and showing increased knowledge on written evaluations/ post-tests.
- Demonstrated knowledge of how to plan and teach risk management skills in small-group role play session planning activities and by completing planning worksheets in small groups during training.
- Increased awareness of best practices on post-tests.
- Participated in national network conference telephone calls, and attend face-to-face national meetings after being introduced to national Annie’s Project resources. Technical assistance was secured through the national website, as well as by phone calls with PDP organizers in Mississippi, and Iowa State Universities. Three new Annie’s Project state coordinators were identified in Alabama, Arizona, and Louisiana.
- Applied what they learned by delivering more, and more effective agricultural risk management courses to reach women farmers and ranchers as a result of the PDP. Several local courses were offered for women farmers in each of the new states added to the Annie’s Network: Alabama, Arizona, and Louisiana. Mississippi Extension educators offered programs in 15 of the 22 counties represented in training sessions. They also improved the quality of programs in MS by adhering to Annie’s Project core principles which recommend offering the 18 hours over a number of small-group weekly sessions to encourage relationship-building among farm women, as opposed to a one-shot large-group conference-type approach previously used in Mississippi Annie’s Project programs.
- Developed new community partners, particularly in Mississippi and Louisiana. One of the two PDP was offered at the Farm Bureau Office in Mississippi. In Louisiana, Annie’s Project is being sponsored through a partner, rather than a university. Many local partners participated in reaching farm women in their communities.
- Reached diverse clientele from young new farm women to older experiences producers, both White and Black, rural and more urban participated in programs in Mississippi. Two historically Black universities, Alcorn State in Mississippi and Southern University in Louisiana, held their first Annie’s Project program.
- Allowed farm women participants to drive the content of local programs, by meeting needs for information requested on small start-up, value-added, organic and other businesses. Some participants opted not to begin a business, or to forgo “organic” farming, which was just as an important an outcome as deciding TO become involved.
A number of farm women participants took steps toward transferring their family business to sustain it through estate planning and family communication activities.
- Built state networks. Mississippi Women for Agriculture, began a new program to learn together beyond their participation in Annie’s Project courses by statewide monthly First Friday video-conference programs, hosted in Extension county offices where local Annie’s programs had been offered.
- Facilitated growth of individual women farmers and promoted social acceptance of the group as a whole. In Mississippi, women farmers gained confidence in their skills (measured by end of course evaluations) and statewide recognition for their businesses in a series of news articles on the MSUcares.com website (which were also published in local newspapers).
The first two-day professional development program attended by 24 Extension educators from 8 states (Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Iowa) was held August 22-23, 2012, in Biloxi, Mississippi at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center.
The second professional development program attended by 35 Extension educators from 6 states (Mississippi, Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, North Carolina, Texas, and Iowa) was held in Jackson, Mississippi at the state Farm Bureau office on May 7-9, 2013.
Since 2013 was the 10th anniversary year of Annie’s Project programs and the leaders of the national Annie’s Project team were in the state, farm and ranch women graduates of previous Annie’s Project programs in Mississippi were invited to meet the national leaders at a special 10th Anniversary Celebration and Reunion honoring Ruth Hambleton, Annie’s Program founder, also held at the Farm Bureau office. Mississippi Women for Agriculture members, including the MS Department of Agriculture, private farms, and others hosted the event, providing food and decorations for the reception event which featured one state commodity group at each table. Ruth Hambleton, the national team members, and former leaders of Mississippi Annie’s Project programs received special recognition at the event. Women farmers enjoyed the state and national networking opportunity.
During the same week, while educators were together in the Jackson, MS area, the national Annie’s Project team took advantage of the opportunity to leverage resources and provide training for an additional new farm transitions program, Managing for Today and Tomorrow. At least 25 educators from 6 states stayed an extra day, or came back for this additional day of training on May 9. Materials were provided by a separate grant. This program was subsequently offered in Mississippi by video-conference hosted at four selected sites by county coordinators who had been trained.
Two historically Black universities, Alcorn State University in Mississippi, and Southern University in Louisiana, provided their first Annie’s Project session. One additional HBCU, the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff (UAPB), also participated in professional development training.
Kandi Williams of UAPB attended the national Women in Ag Conference in Indianapolis in 2014, as did trainees from several other states, including three of us from MS. We were happy to see the continued involvement of those trained in our PDP workshops.
Local Annie’s Project programs reached farm women in Louisiana, Alabama, and Arizona for the first time, as well as, several counties in Mississippi: Lincoln, Yazoo, Hinds. Several more programs are being planned for MS and other states as a result of training and technical support offered by this project.
The Annie’s National Network Initiative for Educational Success was expanded to include new Southern states, new Land-Grant Universities. New state coordinators were identified, trained, and began implementing ANNIES methodologies to serve farm and ranch women in their states.
New coordinators also sought additional training and development opportunities by registering for the national Women in Ag conference in April 2014, as well as, first-time Annie’s Project conference to be sponsored at Iowa State University in July 2014.
This project’s principal investigator, Bobbie Shaffett, a family and consumer sciences family economics specialist recruited her counterparts/specialists from Alabama, Texas, and North Carolina to participate in programs for farm women. Family Economics specialists from Tennessee and Kentucky registered, intended to participate before conflicts arose. Southern FCS family economics specialists were encouraged and educated to work more closely with programs farm women, who had more often been served primarily by agriculture educators.
Experienced educators learned how to improve programming in their states and communities and made changes to better meet needs of the women farmers and ranchers they serve, and to implement best practices.
National ANNIES leaders heard and responded to educators’ needs, as well.
Partners, including Alcorn State University Extension educators, learned to use interactive video-conferencing technology for teaching several hosted groups in various areas of the state at one time. These new skills and access to technology resources will help partners to save time and travel dollars for statewide training.
Program evaluations showed that Extension educators gained benefitted particularly from networking with the Annie’s Project program founder, Ruth Hambleton, and the national leadership team. Their years of expertise and passion for the program both inform and motivate potential or experiences educators. Networking with other educators in the region was also identified as a benefit of the program.
We recommend that the National Annie’s Project leadership team be encouraged to provide at least one professional development program in each SARE region each year to build further on education and relationships that can foster programming to meet the needs of women farmers and ranchers.