Annie's Project: Empowering Farm and Ranch Women

Women in Agriculture September 04, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF

Women are more involved in managing agricultural businesses than ever before. Whether women are working day-to-day in the farm business or contributing through other roles on or off the farm, they are influencing the success of family farms and ranches across the country. To help them innovate and learn new management skills, they are searching for education and networking opportunities. Annie's Project is among several contributing partners providing valuable resources and educational opportunities through eXtension and the Women in Ag Learning Network. Annie's Project educators will share the Women in Ag Learning Network site as another valuable resource for participants across the country.

Annie’s Project, an agricultural business risk management education program for women, has successfully reached more than 10,000 farmers and ranchers in 35 states. Annie's Project teaches women to better manage financial, human resources, legal, marketing and production risks on the farm. The mission of Annie’s Project is to empower farm and ranch women to be better business partners through networks and by managing and organizing critical information.

That is just what five Iowa farm women did after taking local Annie’s Project courses. Their stories are unique and each one has a different role in their farm business. But all of them benefited from making local connections and learning more about managing their family farms.


Sara Shepherd: Running the Family Farm

Sara Shepherd, Stuart, IA, runs a purebred Charolais cow/calf herd and corn and soybean row crop operation. She took over the family operation from her father.

“Annie’s Project gave me the opportunity to learn a little, but then go back and say, ‘now Dad, how does this work in our family’s operation?’” Shepherd said. “Annie’s Project gave me the opportunity to have really good conversations with my dad about more in-depth information about his farming operation.”

Shepherd’s father passed away last year. “As he was declining we had many conversations about me taking over the family farming operation, me continuing the cattle herd. It’s about more than passing the land on to the next generation. It’s about passing that knowledge base and that wealth of information. That’s the true legacy,” she said.

Watch a video of Sara’s Shepherd’s story at


Julie Van Waardhuizen: Farming with Her Husband

Julie Van Waardhuizen farms with her husband near Oskaloosa, IA. They run a 4,800-head hog custom finishing site and a 900-head feedlot.

“I take care of our hog finishing site. I also calve the cows in the spring, basically everything with the cow-calf herd,” Van Waardhuizen said. She acknowledges that she is far more involved in the farm operation than are many farm women.

“I think it’s important that even if you aren’t involved a lot in the farm, you need to understand what your husband does … so you can understand the stress that farming has. By learning different things you can communicate a lot better with your spouse and know what he’s talking about — just having a broader knowledge of what farming actually is,” she said.

“The tools that I learned in Annie’s Project helped me put together a loan proposal for the bank with cash flows and payback analysis,” Van Waardhuizen said — and she received the loan.

Watch a video of Julie Van Waardhuizen’s sharing her story at


Rexanne Struve and Brandi Wiig: Transitioning to the Next Generation

Rexanne Struve, Manning, IA, is a practicing veterinarian and a farm wife. She enrolled in Annie’s Project along with her daughter, Brandi Wiig.

“It was very great training and it was a fantastic opportunity for us because I believe in transitioning the farm from one generation to the next,” Struve said. “It’s given me a better understanding of things like marketing, insurance, those type of things that I really haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to before. … I’m better informed as to how decisions should be made.”

“I started out being a farmer’s daughter, growing up on a family farm. I transitioned to a farmer and a farmer’s wife,” said Wiig. “Annie’s Project has given us a lot of information to look for the future, transitioning from Mom and Dad down to my husband and I.”

Watch Rexanne Struve and Brandi Wiig tell their story at


Linda Guy: Farming is (Almost) All Business

Farming is mostly all business for Linda Guy.

Guy tackles the business side of their farm operation near Iowa Falls, IA. She handles anything from accounting to analyzing data, to paying bills and writing payroll checks. But she also gets outdoors to analyze what’s happening in the field and makes decisions about grain storage and figuring out schedules for production agriculture.

Annie’s Project helped Guy understand the business side of agriculture. “I was definitely a key candidate as someone who had a prior career and now moved to a farming operation where I was wanting to learn the business side of the farming functions. I had no background so I needed all the help I could get,” Guy said. “The classes themselves were extremely helpful. Not only the instruction, but also hearing the stories of other people who’d come through and succeeded in making the transition that I was facing.”

Guy says the ongoing support of websites and additional classes have helped her transition to her role on the farm business. “All of those things have been very helpful in understanding and building the knowledge that I need to be successful in my work,” she said.

Watch Linda Guy’s story at

Annie’s Project has helped farm and ranch women understand more about operating a successful farm business. Through educational risk management courses and additional resources offered through university extension services, many women are having a greater impact on the landscape of farming and ranching in the United States.

For more information about Annie’s Project, visit the following website:





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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.