Jan. 27: UD classes teach female entrepreneurs about ag business


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8:51 a.m., Jan. 25, 2010----Janet Mitchell, along with her husband, Jim, operate Woodside Farm Creamery, a successful small farm in Hockessin, Del., that serves up homemade ice cream made with milk from the farm's herd of Jersey cows. In addition, Mitchell is a small-animal veterinarian in a busy suburban practice. Thus, Mitchell knows more than a little about ag business.

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Nonetheless, she says she's eager to take part in “Annie's Project,” a national program that teaches female entrepreneurs about agriculture-related business. The program is being unveiled in Delaware this month by University of Delaware Cooperative Extension.

“There's always more to learn,” notes Mitchell.

“Annie's Project began as a way to empower farm wives,” says Anna Stoops, the Cooperative Extension agricultural agent for New Castle County. “It was designed for women who work with their husbands on family farms to help take them to the next level of knowledge. But the program is equally appropriate for those who have never been a part of agriculture but would like to be.”

“Here in New Castle County, most of the program registrants, thus far, are newcomers to agriculture,” adds Stoops.

The eight-week series, which will be offered in Sussex and New Castle counties, gives women an overview of the ins and outs of ag business, focusing on five key area of risk management: production, marketing, financial, legal and human resources. Participants also will learn how to build local networks throughout the state.

Stoops knows something about strong farm women from watching her grandmother and mother work on her family farm's in Smyrna, Del. Her mother, Helen Armstrong, continues to operate that farm today with husband, Larry.

“Growing up, I saw my grandmother, and then my mother, make important decisions about the direction of the farm and serve as equal partners in the business,” says Stoops. “In particular, I recall how my mother was the driving force behind a change in strategic direction from lamb to beef production several decades ago. That decision turned out to be a very profitable one.”

Helen Armstrong will be one of the guest speakers at the eight-week series. Other guest experts include a lawyer who specialized in farmland transfers and estate planning, experts on insurance and representatives from the Farm Service Agency.

The program begins Wednesday, Jan. 27, and runs through March 17. In New Castle County, it will be offered at the New Castle County Extension office, 461 Wyoming Rd., in Newark. In Sussex, it will be offered at UD's Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Building, County Seat Highway in Georgetown. Late registrants will be accepted if space allows.

For more info about the northern Delaware class, call Stoops at (302)831-COOP or e-mail her at [stoops@udel.edu]. For more info about the southern Delaware class, call Tracy Wootten at (302) 856-7303 or email her at [wootten@udel.edu].