Building the Capacity of ANNIES Educators to Help Women Farmers and Ranchers Improve Agricultural Sustainability
The Annie’s Project leaders began planning activities with the goal to provide professional development and technical assistance to educators that would improve the quality and quantity of Annie’s Project courses and strengthen state partnerships. Ultimately, our goal was to ensure more farm and ranch women across the North Central SARE region, and other regions, had greater access to Annie’s Project multi-session courses that could help these women improve their farm management skills and agricultural sustainability.
The general objectives of this project were to: a) build the capacity of educators to start or improve programs for women in their states through annual professional development programs; and b) encourage high quality programs through sharing of best education practices and sharing of emerging issues and needs assessment.
The July 8-10, 2014 Annie’s Project National Educator Professional Development Conference resulted in 53 well trained educators capable of delivering high quality Annie’s Project courses. The 2014 program was open to all educators across the country with travel assistance from NC SARE provided to those from our region.
Annie’s Project courses focus on whole farm/ranch management by identifying key decisions in financial, human resource, legal, marketing and production areas of agricultural risks. Women learn decision making processes and resources to help them manage the farm or ranch business for long term profitability, wise use and conservation of natural resources, and rural lifestyle satisfaction.
Regional professional development programs were previously offered in 2012 in Nebraska (28 participants); and in 2013 in Indiana (15 participants), and South Dakota (8 participants) through this grant project, reaching 51 educators in total. Our team decided to try to reach a broader audience in 2014.
So, for the first time, we offered a National Annie’s Project Educator Conference. This would not have been possible without the support of the NC SARE PDP program. We also partnered with the Farm Credit National Contributions program for support of attendees coming from outside of the NC SARE region. The conference was further supported by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
The three-day conference focused on different activities each day. Day One consisted of training on best education practices and course delivery, Day Two was all about needs assessment and program improvement, and Day Three highlighted partnerships among universities, private industry, and other public and governmental organizations. Educators not only learned about the Annie’s Project classic course, but also the farm transition course and the financial course. There were six panel discussions where many of the participants shared their expertise in key areas with everyone. The attendees were a mix of our most experienced Annie’s Project educators from across the country and those who have never held an Annie’s Project course before, which was very exciting for the participants.
As a result of this project activity, experienced and new educators demonstrated the following short term outcomes: a) were more aware of sustainability issues and how they affect the target clientele of women, b) were motivated to deliver high quality risk management programs to women, and c) were knowledgeable on how to teach farm management techniques to help women farmers and ranchers improve agricultural sustainability.
Experienced and new educators demonstrated the following long term outcomes: a) delivered greater numbers of high quality agricultural risk management courses and reached more women farmers and ranchers than prior to the PDP, b) served more diverse clientele and demands for small, start-up, value-added, organic and other production sectors identified by women farmer and rancher stakeholders, b) helped Annie’s Project course participants address emerging issues in the farm community through risk management skills and community networks, c) created active local networks of empowered women farmers and ranchers who continue to learn together beyond their participation in Annie’s Project courses, and d) documented changes in actions taken as a result of the women farmer’s and rancher’s participation in Annie’s Project.
In the NC SARE region, Minnesota made a commitment to reinvigorate Annie’s Project in the state. Amy Durand, AgStar Financial, took the lead as the new Annie’s Project state coordinator for Minnesota. We held discussions with extension and community college educators from the state who were previously involved with Annie’s Project and want to partner with Amy. We are excited to see the Annie’s Project getting new life in the state. Illinois selected conference attendee, Laurie George, as their new state coordinator. Nebraska began to offer Annie’s Project courses again, after a long break in being able to do so. Conference attendees from IA, MO, ND, OH and SD improved their Annie’s Project programs.
In other regions, New Hampshire began offering Annie’s Project courses for the first time. Three states renewed their commitment to providing Annie’s Project after a gap in programming: Florida, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. Conference attendees from LA, MD, NY, PA, SC and TX improved their Annie’s Project programs.
Many states developed stronger partnerships to help them deliver Annie’s Project courses on a regular basis. New friendships were formed with colleagues and everyone learned new ideas to help them provide the best educational programs possible for women in agriculture.
The Annie’s Project National Educator Professional Development Conference was attended by 53 educators. There were 39 (74%) participants from the North Central SARE region and 14 educators from other regions in the USA. There were 20 (38%) participants who were new educators, with little to no experience with Annie’s Project. There were 8 (15%) participants who were not affiliated with Extension; they were farm women assisting with local educational programs, industry representatives, or government agency professionals.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
We developed video reports from the PDP training. Please go to our Vimeo site to review two video reports from our National Educator meeting held in July. The ‘Highlights from Annie’s Project National Educator Conference July 7 – 10, 2014’ video is at https://vimeo.com/105728044. The ‘National Extension Educators Talk About Annie’s Project’ video is at https://vimeo.com/105715365.
Important lessons were gained through the Annie’s Project National Educator Conference. The conference set the stage for identifying program improvements, educator needs, and participant needs. Notably, evaluation must be easily accessed and reported and nationally applicable to a wide variety of farm and ranch situations; and curricula must be relevant and readily available, while still being locally adaptable.
Linda Naeve, Iowa’s state SARE coordinator was a guest presenter during the conference and encouraged attendees to develop new curricula, activities and program guidelines specifically designed to increase women farmer’s and rancher’s awareness of sustainability issues and to manage the associated agricultural risks. She shared many high quality SARE resources and publications which could be used by educators, classes and individual farm and ranch women.
In addition to course methodology, the educators discussed specific topics important to teaching farm and ranch women to manage for sustainability. Topics of importance included: a) helping farm and ranch women satisfy human food and fiber needs through knowledge of food safety, direct marketing, and using contracts to minimize price volatility (market and legal risk); b) teaching environmental quality and the natural resource management using USDA, SARE and state extension resources, including Web Soil Survey (production risk): c) incorporating lessons on manure management as a way to help farm and ranch women make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources that integrate natural biological cycles and help to increase crop productivity and improve water quality (production and legal risk); d) sustaining the economic viability of farm operations through financial tracking and management tools, lease agreement, alternative farm revenue sources, and development of business plans (financial risk): and e) enhancing the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole by implementing a farm succession plan, or properly managing and compensating employees (human resources and legal risk).
The support provided by NC SARE increased the number of and the professional capacity of a national network of Annie’s Project educators. In turn, these educators provided more and higher quality educational experiences for farm and ranch women. Women who participate in Annie’s Project are empowered to become better business owners and partners by managing agricultural risks and bringing greater financial security and well-being to their families. Farms, ranches and communities are sustained through more vibrant rural economies, improved natural resource conservation and enhanced food security.
A fourth and final Annie’s Project Professional Development Conference will be offered through this grant project on September 23-24, 2015 in Ames, Iowa. A no-cost extension was requested and approved which allowed us to offer this fourth-year program with funds we did not need to use for other programs.
Summary of the 2015 National Educator Conference: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is pleased to host the 2015 Annie’s Project National Educator Professional Development Conference in partnership with Annie’s Project Founder, Ruth Hambleton, and the Illinois based Annie’s Project Education for Farm Women 501c3. The event is open to educators from all states who are currently offering Annie’s Project farm management courses and to all others interested in offering any type of farm management program for women. The NC-SARE grant program provides partial travel reimbursements to educators in the North Central states. Those outside the North Central states may inquire about other available travel assistance. The two-day event features one track for educators with little to no prior training on Annie’s Project, and one track for educators with some or a great deal of prior training, with several general sessions. Topics covered include how to teach sustainability concepts and the rationale for offering courses to the target audience of farm and ranch women. The professional development program will include capacity building in needs assessment, program development, marketing and communications, program delivery, program evaluation and following up with participants. Educator panels will allow participants to hear from others in attendance who will provide unique insights and share what they are doing in their states. After completing the training, educators will be able to apply the Annie’s Project key principles, core values, and other best education practices to offer impactful programs for farm women focused on farm management and agriculture sustainability.