Maria Bampasidou, Shields, Sara Rogers, wmckinzie
Maria Bampasidou, Whitney McKinzie and Sara Shields
Women who are farmers and ranchers are critical to the success of Louisiana agricultural operations. Of all agricultural producers in the state, 35% are women, of which 65% are primary operators, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture. These women managed 9,545 farms and operated 1,841,906 acres of farmland (Figure 1). They partake in a gamut of activities from making day-to-day decisions, managing their land, keeping and maintaining financial records and marketing their products, to caring for the future of their families and their operations. Navigating the modern farm business is complex, and women are partaking actively in decision-making (Figure 2). Across the state, the LSU AgCenter Annie’s Project works to support women farmers and ranchers to become better farm managers and business partners.
Annie’s Project – Education for Farm Women is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization offering educational programs dedicated to strengthening the role of women by enhancing problem-solving and decision-making skills, building networks, and managing and organizing critical information. The program was launched in 2003 by a University of Illinois extension educator, Ruth Hambleton, as a tribute to her mother, Annette, for her entrepreneurship and her goal of raising a family and being an active partner in the family farm operation.
The program is active in 33 states and has two main curricula: Annie’s I and Annie’s II. Annie’s I emphasizes the five areas of risk in agriculture (production, financial, marketing, legal and human), and Annie’s II focuses on transition and estate planning. The workshops are tailored to the needs of the local participants, offering an array of presentations combined with hands-on activities and networking opportunities. An important aspect of the program is to provide a safe harbor for participants to learn in a stress-free, open environment, where they share experiences and relate to actual situations.
The Louisiana chapter has offered Annie’s I in seven locations and Annie’s II in one. In total, Louisiana, has 76 Annie’s graduates. Previously coordinated by Capital Resource Conservation & Development Council Inc., the program came under the direction of the LSU AgCenter in 2017.
A two-day Annie’s I workshop funded through an outreach agreement with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Louisiana took place in September 2019 at the Dean Lee Research and Extension Center in Alexandria. Speakers included local attorneys and representatives from the Farm Service Agency, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, NRCS, Louisiana Farm Bureau, the LSU AgCenter and Southern University.
The 13 graduates from this workshop said their two top topics were estate planning (77%) and NRCS programs (54%) followed by communication style, marketing, Farm Service Agency programs and a web soil survey (38% each). They said the workshop created a safe environment where participants could share information, and the learning environment and learning experience encouraged discussions and interactions among participants and presenters.
The Annie’s Project is dedicated to offering educational workshops, providing network opportunities and teaching skills that will empower women farmers and ranchers in Louisiana. More Annie’s Project workshops will be offered in Louisiana in the future.
Maria Bampasidou is the Annie’s Project state coordinator and an assistant professor, and Whitney McKinzie is a graduate assistant, both in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness. Sara R. Shields is the Louisiana Master Gardener state coordinator and Central Region horticulture coordinator.
(This article appears in the winter 2020 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
Graduates of the 2019 Annie’s Project class include, left to right in the back row: Libby Karssen; Michael Campbell; Lisa Robilard; Sara Shields, the Louisiana Master Gardener state coordinator and Central Region horticulture coordinator; Donna Rico; and Maria Bampasidou, the Annie’s Project state coordinator and an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness. The graduates in the front row, left to right, include: Daisy Kerne; Vickie Mayeaux; Brandi Frey, LSU AgCenter extension agent in Pointe Coupee Parish; Lori Butler; Kristi Enicke; and Peggy Kessler. Not pictured are graduates Chris Karssen and Ervin Norwood. Photo provided by Maria Bampasidou
Figure 1. Geographic concentration of women producers. St. Tammany Parish has the highest number of women producers (684), and St. Bernard Parish has the lowest (9). Source: 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture
Figure 2. On-farm involvement in decision-making. Data and percentages are based on all women producers in the state of Louisiana: 15,345 women producers. Source: 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture