When the Taterbug was a baby, our County Extension Agent sent out a flier announcing a class for women in agriculture. It was called Annie’s Project, and it sounded like just the thing I needed. I’d been married to a rancher for almost two years, but I still didn’t have much of an understanding of “why we do things the way we do them”. I was pretty sure, though that “because that’s how we’ve always done it” or “because it’s too much work/costs too much money” were not always good reasons. I also didn’t know many other ranch women in the area.
There were sessions about estate planning, marketing, family nutrition, livestock nutrition, goal-setting, bookkeeping, record keeping, balancing priorities, and dealing with different personalities. I didn’t miss a single one. We enjoyed the classes so much that when they were over, we elected to add a few more sessions.
When those sessions were over, I guess a lot of participants, both in my community and others, still wanted more. Our Extension Agents (who have proven to be a tremendous resource for me) wrote a grant proposal, and received funding to host another round of classes, this time called SASSY (Sustainable Annie’s Systems in South Dakota for Years to Come). The participants got to help determine the subjects that we wanted to learn more about. We delved deeper into managing finances, understanding the commodities markets, and evaluating record keeping software. We also had a session devoted to forage identification.
The learning opportunity was wonderful, but the opportunity to talk and share with other ranching women was priceless. Some of us were old, some young, some married, some widowed, some with children at home, others with grown children…and yet, we discovered that we had a great deal in common. We commiserated over all of the frustrations and burdens that we thought nobody else was dealing with, and we laughed a lot. We tend to get so wrapped up in the daily routines and crises of ranching life, that it’s easy to start to feel isolated. Connecting with other women in similar circumstances can be so uplifting when life gets hard.
I hope that at some point in the future, we’ll have the opportunity for even more sessions. If you are a woman in agriculture, don’t miss an opportunity to participate in Annie’s Project. You’ll thank yourself for it.