West Virginia women hoping to turn their passion for farming into financial gain should participate in a free, six-session training course designed to help them build viable, efficient and sustainable farm businesses.

The course, titled Annie’s Project, is offered by the West Virginia University Extension Service and covers risk management training in business planning, record keeping, financial analysis, farm and food safety and networking.

The program addresses the specific needs women often face when managing a farm or farm-related operation and offers a unique, peer-based learning and networking system.

Ritchie County farmer Anne Banks says that knowing she can share her experiences from the farm and learn from other women in the field makes the course seem more inviting.

“(When it comes to farm management) sometimes men think women can’t do it because they do it differently from the way (men) do,” Banks said. “So when women can share and say, ‘we as women do it this way and it works,’ that gives us confidence.”

Click to hear Cathy Flashman, a Boston native who moved to West Virginia, talk about her interest in participating in Annie's Project.

Organizers like WVU Extension Service’s Dee Singh-Knights say that the confidence-building boost is what makes Annie’s Project so successful in other states and is one reason why she hopes it will catch on in West Virginia.

“The topics aren’t new but the delivery system is,” Singh-Knights, an agriculture economics specialist, explained. “We’re providing the opportunity to learn from local experts in an environment where women can relate to the struggles that their peers have faced in this industry.”

Twenty-nine percent of West Virginia’s farmers are women, according to Jennifer Williams, WVU Extension Service’s agriculture and natural resources director. No stranger to the farm herself, Williams received the 2011 Woman in Agriculture Award from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. She said that training opportunities like Annie’s Project are still a fairly new concept in the industry.

Click to hear Flashman describe what she hopes to learn from Annie's Project.

However, Singh-Knights notes that the number of women farming in the state continues to rise significantly. In fact, she points out that from 2002 to 2007, West Virginia female farm-owners or operators increased by about three times the national average, or 31 percent. She says that she is confident that this course will help to arm them with the risk management tools they need to help their businesses thrive.

“For many of our farmers, farming starts out as a passion and a hobby, but not necessarily something they view as a sustainable source of income,” she said. “Farming can be your passion but it can also be your paycheck if you start with the right tools in your farm management toolkit.”

Annie’s Project courses will take place at six locations throughout the state. There will also be a seventh option to take the course entirely online. Each location will customize the training to help meet the needs of the farmers it serves.

Pre-registration is required. Registration is limited to 15 participants per location. Course materials and meals are provided through grant funding and are of no cost to the participants.

Click to hear Flashman talk about the financial aspects of growing crops as a hobby compared to growing them as a revenue-producing farm.

To find out the Annie’s Project location nearest you, visit www.anr.ext.wvu.edu/ag-women. You may also contact Singh-Knights (dosingh-knights@mail.wvu.edu) at 304-293-7606, or WVU Extension Agent Brandy Brabham (brandy.brabham@mail.wvu.edu ) at 304-927-0975.

Annie’ s Project is offered in partnership with the WVU Small Farm Center, West Virginia Department of Agriculture, West Virginia Farm and Food Coalition, and Farm Credit of the Virginias. Grant funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Northeast Center for Risk Management Education.



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CONTACT: Cassie Waugh
Office: 304-293-8735; Cell: 304-376-1829