Published Mar 26, 2013

This PFI beginner appreciates Annie’s focus on female farmers

By Marc Strobbe

Morgan Hoenig is a beginning vegetable farmer from Mount Pleasant in PFI’s Savings Incentive Program. She wrote this summary of Annie’s Project to share with the Practical Farmers of Iowa network.

Annie’s Project is a 6 week class focused on empowering farm women.  It is organized by women, most of the presenters are women, and all the participants in the class are women. The all-female atmosphere enables the participants to open up about their farm, family and goals for the future.  The class that I did was in Fairfield, Iowa with eleven other women.

First we learned what “color” we are. For example I’m “blue” which means that I’m emotionally invested, compassionate, and giving. Others are colored yellow (practical & dependable), orange (spontaneous & charming), and green (scientific & independent). Identifying these colors helps us understand ourselves and the people we interact with. This helps with managing employees, problem solving, and streamlining other issues.

The classes featured experts who came to speak with us about numerous farm management issues. These included Iowa State University and Extension, USDA, NRCS, and a lawyer, among others. The topics covered included farm finances, estate planning, farm leasing arrangements, soil surveys, USDA programs and loans, risk management, and legal issues.

A significant portion of Annie’s Project focused on creating a business plan.  As we heard from speakers we were encouraged to apply it to our own farm planning and put the information to use in our business plan.  We worked on building our business plans online with AgPlan. (

The website made building a business plan really easy.  Just like the “Building a Sustainable Business” worksheets we use in PFI’s Savings Incentive Program, the site has forms to fill out goals and business strategies.  When you finish all the forms you pretty much have a completed business plan!

The most significant thing for me in Annie’s Project was hearing the stories of all of the other farm women in the class.  We were all from different types of farms and were connected to farms in different ways.  I was the only organic farmer in the bunch, and also the only vegetable farmer.  Others were involved with row crop or livestock production.  Some of us had our own farms, some wanted to be farmers, some were inheriting their family farm, and some were marrying into family farms.

I appreciated the perspectives of the other farm gals. Since they were at different stages in their farm life they asked the experts questions that I would have never thought to ask!  The ladies who were inheriting farms brought a lot of interesting questions to the table that made me want to expand my business and farm plan much further into future. It made me understand that a business plan should also reflect your family plan and life plan.

Now I’m happy to know there is a network of Annie’s Project graduates who I can always contact if I need help with my future farm plans. Learn more about Annie’s Project at