BROOKINGS, S.D. – Ten women graduated from the most recent Annie’s Project program, hosted by South Dakota State University Extension, on Nov. 20 in Britton.
Women from South Dakota and North Dakota came together in Britton to learn more about the five areas of risk management, including marketing, production, financial, human and legal risks. Robin Salverson, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist, and Lorna Saboe Wounded Head, SDSU Extension Family Resource Management Field Specialist, facilitated the interactive group of women.
“We come in as strangers and leave as friends after engaging with the women over a six-week course,” said Salverson, who coordinates Annie’s Project in South Dakota.
Annie’s Project is a national nonprofit created to educate and empower women in agriculture. It is celebrating its 20th anniversary nationally, with more than 19,000 graduates across 38 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. South Dakota has held Annie’s Project classes since 2006 and has more than 550 graduates.
The program uses a methodology that builds confidence, develops networks and creates lifelong learners among female farmers, ranchers, growers, landowners and agriculturalists.
Liz Waletich, one of the Britton program’s co-hosts, grew up in Minnesota and North Dakota where her family raised livestock. She is now married to a farmer and rancher, and works as a farm marketing consultant. She said it was a privilege to co-host the event with other women in agriculture who she admires personally and professionally.
“Whenever I can work alongside like-minded folks who are motivated by the same things, it is really a great experience,” Waletich said.
Annie’s Project has inspired her to be more proactive in her own family’s farming and ranching businesses, to facilitate business conversations and to involve women in the families she serves through her work. It has also introduced her to a network of women in agriculture that she treasures.
“I feel as though Annie’s Project found me. This is a strong program that speaks volumes on its own,” she said. “I feel very motivated by woman in ag events and therefore I had an interest in putting on a women in ag event locally. … The truth is, as women in ag we can easily see the value in learning more about different facets of the industry, but also in the networking with other women in ag.”
Annie’s Project is based on the life of farmer Annie Fleck, who spent her life learning how to be an involved business partner with her husband. She died in 1997 and was the inspiration for her daughter, Ruth Fleck Hambleton, to create Annie’s Project in 2003. Hambleton was a farm business management and marketing educator for University of Illinois Extension at the time.
Salverson agrees it is inspiring to hear the participants share their newfound confidence to return home and become more engaged in their operations.
“We are very proud to be part of such an amazing program, which has been a real difference for farmers in South Dakota,” said Salverson.
The list of course offerings for South Dakota can be found at extension.sdstate.edu. The next Annie’s Project will be a virtual workshop series on Jan. 22, 29; Feb. 5, 12, 26; and March 4. Workshops are from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. CST via Zoom. It is $50 per person. Visit extension.sdstate.edu/events and search “Annie’s Project”.
For more information, contact Robin Salverson, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist, at 605-374-4177 or Robin.Salverson@sdstate.edu.