Annie’s Project course debuts on Dec. 3 at Rutgers
NORTH BRUNSWICK — A short course of classes geared for women farmers around the Garden State starts Dec. 3 at Blake Hall on Rutgers University’s Cook College campus.
Called “Annie’s Project,” the series is grant funded and Farm Credit is offering scholarships to offset the $150 fee, which does includes dinner before each class and 18 total hours of instruction.
Annie’s Project is orchestrated and organized by Dr. Robin Brumfield, an extension specialist in farm management at Rutgers Ag Extension Service.
The classes will be offered by video at two other locations in northern and southern New Jersey.
The workshops are not held every year, Brumfield said, and noted the first short course was held in winter 2011.
Brumfield was quick to credit colleague Deborah Greenwood for setting up the topics, curriculum, class structuring and organizing all the guest speakers.
“The whole idea is to teach women farmers management skills, because women are considered an under-served group of farmers. The series of six classes covers risk management skills, including five areas of risk: Production, marketing, personnel, legal and finance,” Brumfield said.
The Garden State has many woman entrepreneurs who are interested in working for themselves as farmers, she argued, “and some of the women in past programs have picked up the pieces after their husband died; they were part of the farm and didn’t want to sell it.”
The initial guest instructor on Tuesday Dec. 3 from 6 to 9 p.m. is Charlotte Smith of St. Paul, Ore., owner of 3 Cow Marketing and Champoeg Creamery.
“We try to get women speakers if we can, and we realized she has quite a following and is an engaging and energetic speaker,” Brumfield said, adding that all instructors will be on-site at Blake Hall on the Cook campus, “but we’ve got facilitators for the simultaneous video classes in Cherry Hill and Roseland, because farmers are particularly isolated if they’re out on their farms all day.”
Other topics for exploration in Annie’s Project include developing a vision and business plan for your farm on Dec. 10, soil testing and hydroponics and metal contamination in urban gardens and farms on Dec. 17; the wealth of financial and small business resources out there to assist smaller farmers, including FSA, NRCS, Farm Credit East on Jan. 7, 2020; Legal Risks including New Jersey’s right-to-farm laws, labor issues, and farm insurance policies on Jan. 14 with Dr. Brian Schilling, Director of Rutgers Cooperative Extension.
The Annie’s Project series concludes Jan. 21 with a class covering food safety, building soil in urban environments, urban farmers markets and healthy food access for WIC and SNAP recipients, as well as a “graduation talk” from Dean Bob Goodman of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers.
Students will receive certificates and photos on the concluding night of the class on Jan. 21.
Brumfield said past Annie’s Project short courses have attracted a lot of younger, new urban and suburban farmers.
“It’s not like the old days where they came from a family farm, these are people who weren’t raised on a farm, and they’re not aware of the resources that are out there for agriculture,” she said. “We try to make each night a separate topic, and we have several speakers each of the other nights.
“Dr. Joe Heckman will be speaking about soils, but he’ll also be speaking about chickens, and we try to mix in a few actual farmers so we can see how they do things.”
When he’s not teaching or minding his ag experiments at Horticulture Farm #3 on the Cook campus, Heckman oversees a farm in Ringoes where he raises chickens, pigs a few cows and vegetables.
For those thinking about a new career in agriculture, why is this course a wise idea?
“Agriculture is just way more competitive now,” Brumfield said, “if you don’t make it a business, you’re not necessarily going to succeed. Even if you love farming, one of our goals is for everyone to have a business plan.
“The first 20 minutes of each weekly workshop is devoted to going over their homework from the previous week’s class, including marketing and business plans.”
To register for “Annie’s Project: Farming in New Jersey’s Cities and Urban Fringe,” e-mail Brumfield at email@example.com, call the office at 848-932-9130 or visit the Rutgers Farm Management website at http://farmmgmt.rutgers.edu.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925