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Annie's Project helping empower women in agriculture

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Annie's Project helping empower women in agriculture
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While women are by now well established in the general workforce, there is still one major profession in New York that remains male dominated: Agriculture. Our Brian Dwyer takes a look at a new program that's helping women empower themselves as leaders on the farm.

WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- Sara Murray is the calf manager at the Murcrest Farms in Jefferson County. She's working on a new project, a new way to raise the young cows. It allows them to live in groups and eat whenever they want.

"The main goal was to improve calf health and we've done that," Murray said. "They're bigger and happier calves."

Murray is one of a growing number of women who are taking a growing responsibility on the farm and in agriculture. Something women said is a step forward in what many consider to be a male dominated job.

"I think it is," Sheryl Taylor of the Tayl-Wind Farms in Oneida County said. "I don't think we can argue with that really, but I think there's a place for the women of the farm to take some leadership in some of these non-production aspects."

Taylor said a woman's role on farms has to increase. There's so much that needs to be done and women can not only help, but bring new ideas and perspective to the business side of things as well.

"You've got to fix broken equipment," Taylor said. "You've got to take care of the sick cows. The business management sometimes gets left out and is not deemed as a priority until it's an emergency."

And one way to really get your feet wet is a relatively new program that Taylor took part in last year. It's called Annie's Project. It's a six week course to help empower women to take on things like risk management, production, market, finances and more.

"I don't think they give themselves enough credit," Peggy Murray, the woman who'll be piloting the project in the North Country. "I think this program is going to allow them to feel that they really are contributing and they are a partner in the business."

And the women said the networking aspect of this project can be just as important. It's a chance to talk with each other, share ideas and learn from each other.

"If people have already tried something that's either worked or hasn't worked, that saves you the trouble of going down that road," Taylor said. "In our case, we've started working with professionals that other farms have recommend."

Taylor recommends that all women sign up to take Annie's Project when it comes to the North Country for the first time next month.

It'll be at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Lowville from January 12th through February 16th. The deadline to sign up is January 5th.

For more information on how to take part in Annie's Project, you can call (315) 376-5270.

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