Annie’s Project: Effort strives to educate women
Casper – There is nobody like the Northeastern Wyoming rancher and author Pat Frolander, who knows first-hand what it’s like to start from scratch at the ripe age of marriage to learn about the farming and ranching world except maybe Annette “Annie” (Kohlhagen) Fleck, who is the founder of Annie’s Project.
Frolander, who has lived in Wyoming for the past 46 years or more is considered to be a native, authored the book Married Into It. She likely coined the phrase as she tells her story about being born and raised in the city.
After seven years of marriage to Robert Frolander, the couple moved from their comfortable home in Denver to his family’s cattle ranch in Northeastern Wyoming where she learned the ins and outs of ranch life.
Similar to Pat’s story, the exceptional history of Annie’s Project was shared by Tammie Jensen from the Niobrara County Extension Office to an enthusiastic crowd at the Wyoming Natural Resources Rendezvous on Dec. 10-14.
Jensen highlighted the simple mission of Annie’s Project, which is “to empower farm women to be better business partners through networks and by managing and organizing critical information.”
She told how Annie, mother, wife and educator, grew up in a small town in Northern Illinois, fulfilled her dream of marrying a farmer and spent her lifetime learning how to be an involved business partner with her farm husband.
It was with conviction that Jensen explained the many challenges Annie faced – living under one roof with three generations, changing farm enterprises and raising a family.
Many in attendance could relate to similar issues of new regulations, changes in their operations, low profitability and difficult decisions and painful sacrifices made by Annie. Jensen spoke how Annie corrected mistakes and learned from her experiences. Although not easy, it was confirmed that Annie and her husband accomplished great things together all of which is the inspiration for Annie’s Project.
Annie’s Project is an educational program, dedicated to strengthening women’s roles in the modern farm and ranching enterprise. It is currently being taught in 27 states nationwide through a series of six three-hour classroom-type sessions. The program fosters problem solving, record keeping and decision-making skills in farm and ranch women.
“Having the information about your farming and ranching operation is one thing, but the benefits of understanding that information is invaluable,” Jensen stressed to her engaged audience.
Jensen credited Farm Credit Services of America and previous federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management for being able to complete the program in Niobrara County, assist in developing the same program in Natrona County and introducing it in four additional counties including Sheridan, Goshen, Fremont, and Wind River Reservation.
The idea in mind is to eventually have a program available through every county extension office in the state.
Jensen is not done, and she is looking forward to “Managing for Today and Tomorrow,” a second level Annie’s Project course, which teaches business, estate, retirement and succession planning to farming and ranching women. It teaches women to develop networks and skills key to making successful farm transitions and transactions whether it’s immediate, due to unforeseen circumstances, or in the future.
Many young women in Wyoming have done the same and will continue to do just what Pat and Annie have done. Perhaps that is why the not-for-profit Annie’s Project may become one of the most idolized women’s mentoring programs in Wyoming’s agricultural industry today.
Kellee King is an intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.