Modern farming is very much a business, and a program aimed at helping women in that business manage the farm now and in the future is coming to North Dakota for the first time.
"Managing for Today and Tomorrow: Succession, Business, Estate and Retirement Planning for Farm and Ranch Women" could be considered 'Annie's Project' 2, according to Paige Brummund, Ward County Extension agent.
"But you don't have to have already attended 'Annie's Project' to participate in this one," Brummund said.
The original Annie's Project is similar to this one in that it teaches business planning, marketing skills and many of the basics of farm production.
"The big difference in this program is that this is going to focus on transition planning," Brummund said. "Transition planning is when you're going to move the farm from the older generation that's getting ready to retire to the younger generation. You want to do that well in advance of the time when you actually are ready to retire."
There are four parts to transition planning - succession, business, estate and retirement planning.
"Managing for Today and Tomorrow: Succession, Business, Estate and Retirement Planning for Farm and Ranch Women" will take place Tuesday afternoons from March 5 to April 2 at the North Central Research Extension Center south of Minot from 1 to 4 p.m. Farm and ranch women will learn about succession, business, estate and retirement planning throughout the five-session program. Registration is $125 per person and ends March 1. There are also $25 scholarships available to help with the registration fee. For more information or to register go online to (www.ag.ndsu.edu/wardcountyextension) or call the Ward County Extension Office at 857-6444.
Succession planning has to do with passing on the farm and its legacy over from the older generation to the younger generation.
"That's the background of transitioning the knowledge and the labor, the management and the ownership of the farm over the years," Brummund said.
The next part is business planning. Brummund said this topic is covered in much greater detail with the original Annie's Project, but there are still some valuable things that can be learned from the new program.
"During the business planning, we cover a little bit about farm finances and business management, but not as much as the original Annie's Project will," Brummund said. "So that's just one session we'll cover those type of topics."
Estate planning is the third topic, and can be quite complex.
"That is going to reflect the intentions of the established generation that's currently farming, what they would like," Brummund said. "And we want to give them the tools and some of the background so that they can start making those estate plans because there are a lot of steps and details involved in that."
Brummund said they will be bringing in some estate planning professionals to help cover that topic.
The final topic is retirement planning, which will help participants develop retirement goals and investigate retirement options.
"There's various things that you need to think about when you're doing retirement planning for a farm business, because it's different when you're an employer," Brummund said. "You, yourself, are taking that money and putting it away for a retirement plan - nobody's doing it for you."
These four topics will be covered over five sessions, to be held every Tuesday from March 5 to April 2.
This is a first-year pilot program in North Dakota, and will only be offered in McIntosh and Ward counties. It was offered in Iowa last year.
Brummund said the original Annie's Project has been offered in North Dakota for many years, and the feedback the NDSU Extension Service had been getting stated that people wanted more information on farm and ranch transition, estate and retirement planning.
"They wanted a program that was just geared around that," Brummund said.
In response to that feedback, Brummund said they developed a program called "Farm and Ranch Transition and Estate Planning," which was held the past couple of years. The feedback from that program was that women often attended it with their spouses and with members of the younger generation, making it a very family-oriented event.
"The feedback from the women at that event was that they wanted one that was a little bit smaller and that was geared toward just the women in the family," Brummund said. "They wanted to have a kind of group setting where it was smaller."
The new program will be capped at 25 participants in Ward County to encourage more group interaction than was possible in the larger Farm and Ranch Transition and Estate Planning program.
"They wanted to keep it smaller in more of a group setting where they could talk with other farm wives and women in the agricultural industry and kind of work out their plans together," Brummund said. "So it's going to be more of a small-group, classroom-type setting instead of a lecture."
A large workbook with several hundred pages will be given to each participant that includes activities to be done during the sessions.
"Instead of just telling them what to do we're actually going to let them start working and start doing it and work through that process," Brummund said.
Brummund noted that although the program is geared toward women, men are also welcome to sign up for it if they weren't able to attend one of the earlier programs and have an interest in learning more about transition planning for their farm or ranch to someone in their family, or even to someone who isn't in the family but would like to buy the farm.
"If men really want to come we're certainly going to accept their registrations, but it's geared towards all ages of farm women out there. Even if you're a young generation or not married into a farm family right now but are going to marry into a farm family, those are welcome. That middle-aged generation that are actively farming now and probably aren't going to retire for 20 years, this planning is still important to start at that age," Brummund said. "And of course those people that are looking to retire in the next five, 10 years are more than welcome to come here. And even some people who have already retired maybe need to go back and look at what they need to change, or haven't done already and should have done. So any person that's involved in agriculture is welcome to attend this if they're looking at transitioning the farm at some point in time."
"There's a lot of farm women out there that are decision makers who are becoming a bigger part of making decisions in their family ranch and their family farm and business, and this is a good way to get involved if they're unsure of some of the steps that they need to make in the future to help that transition go smoothly," she added. "They should certainly think about attending this program. It would be a good one for them."