; Creating an Effective Learning Environment for Farm Women | Conferences | AgRisk Library


Conference Name Creating an Effective Learning Environment for Farm Women

Elaina Enzien and Kelly McAdam


UNH Cooperative Extension has offered Annie’s Project, a farm management education program for women, in New Hampshire since 2014. One of the key attributes of this program is that it brings farm women together to learn from each other. Organizers observed that women in these programs found the networking time to be especially beneficial, yet limiting due to time constraints of the event. When participants feel comfortable sharing their experiences, it contributes to the social learning experience that makes adult learning effective.

Grant funding was awarded to offer three Annie’s Project programs in 2017 and 2018, which enabled organizers to reduce the cost of holding the program and expand its offerings in New Hampshire. In planning meetings, women farmers were asked what time of the week and year would enable their attendance for an 18-hour educational program. Women preferred to have one weekend where they could focus on the program with limited distractions and where travel would not be prohibited by weather. In an effort to accommodate this preference, the Annie’s Project program was held in New Hampshire as a weekend retreat format. Women arrived on a Friday afternoon and the program concluded by noon on Sunday. Effort was made to choose venues that were seasonally attractive, family-friendly, and had reasonably-priced lodging accommodations. Women were also able to bring their families with them, reducing the burden of child care in their absence, and enabling their participation.

Women participants were able to connect with their peers within the first three hours of the program, where generally the connections would not have formed until the second or third session of a multi-day program. Group activities on communication and conflict resolution set the stage for developing connections, making participants feel comfortable in sharing their own experiences. Through this deeper level of engagement, participants better understood topics in financial management, saving for retirement, communication issues on the farm and ways to manage risk on the farm. When participants have the time and format to become comfortable with each other, it improves the educational experience for all.