Annie's Project: Helping out the female farmer

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Wilson, Wis. (WEAU) -- More women are operating farms. From 2002 to 2007 there's been a 25 percent increase in Wisconsin in the number of women who are considered to be the principal operator of their farm.

UW-Extension put on a workshop that is helping women begin or grow their farming businesses. The six week workshop is called Annie’s Project and originated from the Iowa State Extension program. Twenty women from Western Wisconsin met in Baldwin to learn the skills and resources to make their dreams of running a successful farm operation a reality.

For Pamela Dixon, it all started with a brewery garden that was part of her and her husbands' small brewery business.

"Our goal was to always to expand from that and create a market garden. We'll produce vegetables, and some fruits, raspberries, strawberries. We have a small customer base right now so we want to grow slowly." Dixon called Annie’s Project through UW-Extension an excellent experience providing her with information she will need to run and grow her business. Things like writing a business plan, information on taxes, federal regulations and industry practices along with conducting market research.

"Those are the things that not only give you some technical skills but also confidence in your abilities to be able to start up and grow a successful business."

"Once they finish the class we're hoping they can really put together a business plan for their operation, they continue to be successful in their farms." Katie Wantoch, the Dunn County UW-Extension Ag Agent says the ladies have really come together to learn about all the resources available to them and also to network with each other.

"We all have very different backgrounds, we all have different business models and goals but we've been able to come together and provide within our group a lot of support and additional resources just because of our backgrounds. It's been an incredible experience that way too," says Dixon.

The workshop wraps up next week. They'll discuss grant and financing opportunities for their farms. The program was funded through grant money.

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