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Annie's Project Helps Women Who Farm to Help Access Grants and More

In 2018 I was looking for any kind of help to organize my farm’s affairs from the financial to the actual hands on farm management . I signed up for something called Annie’s Project that was being offered by our local Cooperative Extension. Annie’s Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing educational programs designed to strengthen women’s roles in the modern farm enterprise and facilitated by women agriculture professionals.

Six sessions occurred weekly from 7-9 PM and included brief presentations and extended discussions with women agriculture professionals on topics of importance to participants’ future in agribusiness. They cover topics such as building and understanding farm financial statements, marketing, business insurance, farm tax and accounting issues, legal liability and employment issues, farm government programs , transition, estate and financial planning. Our classes occurred each week for about two hours via Zoom. Over 48 women from NYS joined in on these weekly sessions to learn and apply this knowledge to our daily farm lives. I truly enjoyed hearing their stories as I could relate to each one’s struggles and frustrations no matter what they farmed. Annie’s Project is a solution focused program offering exact and specific pathways towards resolutions. It was here that I discovered the process of applying for a fencing grant through the USDA . Yes, the USDA will pay a good percentage for your fencing with the possible added feature of providing a water source such as a pump water feeder. As with any governmental organization, it’s a process, but it’s doable. The fencing grant our farm applied for is through a program that is run by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). The main focus of these programs are to help out the ranchers and farmers with water and soil. There is a program named the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) that offers grants and technical assistance to the farmers. Apart from them it also helps the farmers by improving their conservation performance by installing the latest technologies. Rotational pasturing aids in the stewardship of the land but more fencing is required to do so.

You can apply for fencing grants to build fences or improve/ enhance the conservation activities under the CSP and NRCS programs. If you are looking to apply for this program, you need to visit or call your local NRCS office.

I know of 2 other farms in my area who successfully secured fencing grants. I have found the process to be educational and insightful with NCRS’s representatives doing everything they can to secure these grants for farmers.

Please feel free to reach out to me at if you have any questions about these valuable programs !

(Attached is the fascinating story of the woman behind Annie’s Project. )

Annie’s Legacy

July 4, 2010/Susan Neal

Farm and ranch women are hard-working, resourceful and intelligent. Many are quite outspoken. Some are very much ahead of their time. Annette Kohlhagen Fleck was one such woman. Working as a grade school teacher in the 1940’s, she dreamed of one day marrying a farmer. In 1947 this dream came true when she married Frank Fleck, an Illinois farmer. For 50 years, Annette and Frank weathered good times and bad. They raised four children. They battled family pressures, government regulations, taxes, hard work, low profitability, weather challenges, and livestock complications. Through it all “Annie” kept the farm and the family going. She taught herself about record keeping, deadlines, marketing, taxes, and farm management. She encouraged her husband to take off-farm work while she managed their agricultural pursuits. She bore the criticism of those who disapproved of a woman seizing a management position in farming. She made mistakes and learned from them. She passed her work ethics on to her children. Annie died in 1997, a wealthy and successful woman. Annette Kohlhagen Fleck, circa 1942. Annie’s daughter, Ruth Fleck Hambleton, learned first-hand about the educational and experiential needs of women farm owners and operators. But this did not deter her from also becoming the wife of a farmer. She served as a Farm Business Management and Marketing Educator for University of Illinois Extension for 30 years. Upon her retirement, Ruth founded Annie’s Project in honor of her mother and to help fulfill the needs of women farm managers. Annie’s Project is an educational program and support network dedicated to strengthening the skills and roles of women in modern agriculture. According to Oklahoma State University, women who participate in Annie’s Project report growth in their confidence, business competence, and community prestige. Through the program, they foster friendships, discover answers to difficult questions, and build strengths in many areas. According to Madeline Schultz, Extension Educator at Iowa State University, “more than 7,000 women from 21 states have participated in Annie’s Project courses, beginning with the initial class taught in Illinois in 2003.” Classes are currently offered in 22 states (see sidebar) and interest continues to grow across the nation. Schultz reports that here in the Northeast, twelve courses have been taught in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania since 2008. Other states in the region are beginning to report strong interest and, as the number of women farm operators continues to increase, it is likely that all states may someday offer Annie’s Project courses.

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