ST. MARYS – Women have always had a role on the family farm, but for an increasing number, that role is president and CEO.
The number of women who are the principal operators on Ohio farms increased 23 percent from 2002 to 2009, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Thousands more share primary roles in running the farm with their spouses or children.
The Auglaize County Extension Service will host a six-part educational series designed as a primer for those women and others hoping to learn more about the business end of the family farm. Titled Annie’s Project, the program was initially developed in 2002 and is funded through a USDA grant.
“It used to be the man worked the fields and the woman managed the house and ne’er the two shall meet, It’s not that way anymore,” said Auglaize County Extension Educator John Smith.
Like the rest of the nation, Ohio has seen a steady increase in the number of women taking on the business aspects of farming, Smith said. In some cases women find themselves partners in the family farm. In others, they are full owner. A husband’s death or the increasing need for one spouse to work off the farm can leave the woman in charge. That means understanding not only the intricacies of farming, but the details of running in some cases a big business – human resource and legal risk management, marking, accounting and estate planning.
“They’ve become more involved in selling the crops. While dad’s out in the fields, mom is inside following the markets closely. They can follow it hour-by-hour and they become expert in that,” Smith said.
Annie’s Project features six, three-hour programs running from 6 to 9 p.m. every Thursday night beginning this Thursday. Program topics include business planning, financial records keeping and statement, financial management tools, retirement and estate planning, insurance, marketing plans and family communication. Registration fee is $60 for the series.
The program drew more than 25 participants last year and Smith expects to see just as many this year.
“We talk about farming as a way of life, but it has to be a businesses before it can be a way of life. They have to learn to do business professionally or they’ll go out of business,” Smith said.