ROCK HILL — Clemson University Cooperative Extension is offering a four-day retreat to empower South Carolina farm women to be better business partners through networks and by managing critical information.

Annie's Project participants with President Clements

Participants in Annie’s Project pose with Clemson University President James P. Clements. This year’s educational retreat offered by Clemson Extension is set for May 1-4, at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Rock Hill.

Annie’s Project is facilitated by professionals and experts in the field of business and agriculture. It is a national program with classes being taught in 33 states.

This marks the seventh year Clemson Extension is bringing the program to South Carolina, thanks to sponsorship by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, South Carolina New and Beginning Farmer Program, AgSouth, ArborOne and South Carolina Farm Bureau.

This year’s event is set for May 1-4 at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Rock Hill. The registration fee is $150 per person, which includes all materials and activities, lodging (double occupancy), meals and other surprises. Single occupancy is available at $250 per person.

Annie’s Project state coordinator and Extension agribusiness agent Jennifer Boyles said the program’s participants include women from all walks of life and all levels of agriculture expertise.

“We’ve had generational farmers — we’ve had mother, daughter and grandmother all come together — and we’ve also had a lot of women who are starting second careers, such as nurses or attorneys or teachers, who are deciding that this is what they want to get into in the second half of their career,” Boyles said. “It’s really exciting to me to watch the dynamic and watch the relationships grow. They tend to learn as much from each other as they do from the program, and they keep those relationships after they leave.”

The share of U.S. farms operated by women has nearly tripled over the past three decades, from 5 percent in 1978 to 14 percent by 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are 10,592 female farmers in South Carolina, or about 29 percent of all the state’s farmers.

Annie’s Project was founded in Illinois more than a decade ago and named for a woman who spent a lifetime learning to be an involved business partner with her husband, a farmer. Built on a hands-on approach, the program teaches women about farm management skills in a comfortable, relaxed setting.

“The ladies are really treated extremely special,” Boyles said. “When they leave, we want them to feel not only that they have learned a tremendous amount and they have started building relationships with other women across the state who have like ideas and are likeminded in the love of agriculture, but that they also have a good time, feel refreshed and ready to go back and dig in.”

Topics include risk assessments, business planning, financial statements, family and liability, insurance, farm programs, legal concerns, retirement and transition and personal development.

Registration is now open at www.clemson.edu/scwagn.

For more information, contact Boyles at jbyls@clemson.edu.

END