Annie’s Project empowered Marion County farmer Amy Lehenbauer

Lehenbauer became active in the family farm after participating in the program.

Annie’s Project, a program offered by University of Missouri Extension for two decades, gave Amy Lehenbauer the confidence she needed to become active in the family farm.

Lehenbauer is one of more than 19,000 women across the nation who completed the program during the past 20 years, says MU Extension agriculture business specialist Karisha Devlin.

The program celebrates two decades of helping women in agriculture gain skills in leadership, business and estate planning, self-defense and self-care. “Annie’s Project educates and empowers women in agriculture and encourages them in whatever role they choose to have in their farming operations,” says Devlin.

Lehenbauer left her off-farm job to work full-time with her fourth-generation farmer-husband, Mark, and his family at Lehenbauer Farms in Marion County. The diversified farm includes row crops, forages and beef and hog operations.

Lehenbauer was no stranger to farming. She’s a 2002 agribusiness graduate of MU, and her family farmed in Pike County and owned and operated Meyer Implement. Still, she hesitated before joining the family business.

“Annie’s Project gave me the confidence to come back to the farm,” she says.

Lehenbauer brought to the table an appreciation for tradition and an eye for innovation during a time when the farm was growing rapidly. Those skills helped the farm implement new feedlot technologies and human resource practices to make the farm more efficient, profitable and sustainable.

Today, Lehenbauer is the go-to person for the commercial cattle operation. Morning begins with feeding four children and helping them feed 4-H show cattle before school and day care. While the kids are at school, she splits time among cattle, pigs and the farm office.

She moved farm records from paper to the cloud and worked on creating standard procedures and human resource protocols for the farm’s family and nonfamily employees and seasonal workers. Much of the farm’s work centers on emerging labor issues, such as backup plans for critical duties, learning how to attract workers through the H-2A and TN programs and how to use new technology such as apps for employee watches to record time and tasks.

She devotes afternoons to picking up children from school and attending school and community events before dinner, homework and baths. The farm runs on seasons – spring and fall calving, forage chopping, planting and harvest, and 4-H show season. Amy and her husband also are active in promoting agriculture on the state and national level. They are active in Missouri Soybean Association; U.S. Meat Export Federation Board; MU College of Agriculture, Food and Resources alumni activities and the local Community Foundation.

In addition to resources, Lehenbauer found through Annie’s Project a network of strong women who worked the land and livestock. “I saw the strengths and hardships of women in generations before me,” she says.

Annie’s Project helps women in agriculture through three multi-session courses.

MU Extension invites the public to celebrate Annie’s Project 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 1 at the MU Lee Greenley Jr. Memorial Research Farm in Novelty.

Annie’s Project is based on the life of a farm woman, Annie Fleck, who spent her lifetime learning how to be an involved business partner with her husband. She died in 1997 and was the inspiration for her daughter, Ruth Fleck Hambleton, to create the nonprofit Annie’s Project in 2003. In Annie’s Project classes, trained facilitators provide safe harbor, connection, discovery and shared experiences. Vetted instructors and presenters deliver unbiased, research-based information to small, dynamic groups of women.

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