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Annie's Project targets female farmers in Ruston area

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Five workshops tailored to women who work in agriculture called the Annie’s Project begin Thursday, July 9, in Ruston, La.

The national program is designed to empower female farmers and ranchers to become better managers of their farm business and build industry connections. Annie’s Project volunteer state coordinator Deborah Cross-Young says oftentimes women become farmers by way of marriage or inheritance.

“We have the next generation coming up and taking over the farm. A lot of them are in their 20s and early 30s. They may not have a son to give it to. A lot of times it’s their girls that take over the farm. They may have four girls who all want to come in and do this,” Cross-Young said, who is a retired LSU AgCenter agent.

Katie Sistrunk of White Castle, Louisiana, is a fourth generation farmer. She grows sugarcane and soybeans with her father. Sistrunk, who holds a bachelor’s degree in business, completed the Annie’s Project workshops so she could handle all the backend bookkeeping and human resources for Ramagos Farms Inc. 

Labor is tricky. She says it’s hard to find temporary workers to toil in the hot Louisiana sun. She relies on the H2-A agricultural visa program, and that paperwork is extensive and complicated, according to Sistrunk. Annie’s Project helped her understand the program.

“I think the female farmer is something that’s kind of oftentimes overlooked -- or they’re just the wife, daughter or whomever does the books. Actually, they play a very vital role on the farm. Since I’ve come on fulltime with my dad’s farm, he’s able to spend more time in the field,” Sistrunk said, adding her dad felt burdened by all the paperwork and prefers to be in the field.

The five Thursday evening sessions will cover topics like risk assessments, crop insurance, grain marketing, financial statement, farm tax issues and retirement planning.

Cross-Young says she keeps the group small so that there can be meaningful discussions among the women. The first program is Thursday from 5-8:30 p.m. at Community Trust Bank’s community room in Ruston. The series is scheduled July 9, 16, 23, 30 and Aug. 6.