Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Annie's Project

For the past six weeks, I have been traveling each Tuesday from the farm all the way to Fargo to participate in a workshop called Annie's Project through the NDSU Extension Service.

"Annie's Project is a workshop for women on management and decision-making in the complex, dynamic world of agriculture. Annie's Project is designed to empower farm women to be better business partners through a series of education sessions covering the business of farming and ranching."

They have held Annie's Project in North Dakota every year since 2006. In fact, my sister-in-law wrote the grant to get funding the first year while at a former employer. I mentioned my interest and she recommended that I participate in the program.

I signed up for the workshop as I wanted to learn more about the business of farming. Having not been raised on a farm, or even in an agriculture-based community for that matter, I often find my lack of knowledge regarding the topic concerning. The farm is a business and I need to fill my role as an educated business partner in our venture.

The program was packed full of information. My brain was literally on overload after every class. Here are some of the topics that were covered:

Human Resource Management
We have no hired-help on the farm. It is just my in-laws, husband, and me. At the workshop, we took part in an activity to identify our personality type and those whom we work with. There were no real surprises here: I am a Type-A, organized control freak who likes to-do lists and doing things just as planned. Travis is not, but that is probably a good thing to balance out our marriage.

Working in agriculture can by risky. There are many things to contend with including weather, operating large machinery, and being self-employed. We discussed the many different types of insurance from personal (life, health, disability, long-term care) to crop policies.

Prior being in agriculture, marketing was a department in the corporation that I worked for. They focused on communication, advertising and tradeshows...and were always really well dressed. That is a far cry from what marketing means to me now. Frankly, I am still trying to wrap my head around it. We only covered grain marketing since no one in our group had livestock...and that was enough. My head may explode if I have to hear any more about futures contracts, or calls and puts. Right now I am going to stick to the basics of understanding the basis. Now where is my "Grain Marketing for Dummies" book?!

Farm Financial Management
I am fairly comfortable doing Travis's bookkeeping for the farm. It fits with my compulsive charming personality. However, bookkeeping for taxes is just one of the reasons to have good records. I learned more about balance sheets, cash flow and income statements, and how they can be used to make farm management decisions. We were provided with disks that have about a thousand spreadsheets that can be used for analyzing different farm scenarios. Thankfully, Travis's dad who is a farm management instructor uses these regularly and they work on them together.

Estate/Transition Planning
The majority of farms in the US are family owned businesses. Many times ownership is transitioned from one generation to another to continue the family legacy. Over the past few years estate planning has become more of a concern as the government has changed the limits on what can be gifted to the next generation, and so on. It is important for families to have plans in place for the farm, and through out the sessions we discussed some of those options.

There was a lot of information packed into those six workshops. Now all I need is time. Time for it to all sink in and maybe understand a little more everyday about the world of farm business management.

And learn how to drive a tractor.  And a combine.  And...

The Ag Rookie,


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