A group of women from local counties met this week at the Thomas Educational Center to expand their knowledge of the agriculture business.
The meeting, which attracted 11 women Tuesday, was a part of Annie's Project, a six-week series of lectures conducted by directors of the West Virginia University Extension Office. It is geared toward female farmers of all skill levels.
Cindy Martel, a marketing specialist at the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, spoke to attendees about risk management.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Casey Houser
Participants in the Annie’s Project meeting, which took place Tuesday at the Thomas Educational Center, work on an agriculture-based project. Pictured, from left, are Haley Wing with daughter Evie, Pam Kwasniewski, Robin Kalog, Holly Hinkle and Emily Wilson-Hauger.
"Legal risk management is more than asking, 'Will I get sued?'" she said.
Martel said a lot of planning needs to take place before taking measures to mitigate risk in a business. For farmers, she said, land ownership, foodbourne illnesses, financial planning and agreements such as leasing pastures, mortgages and farmer's market stalls need to be taken into consideration.
"You need to know where you stand with how much risk you are willing to assume," she told attendees.
Risk can be mitigated in many cases, she said, by purchasing insurance that covers products like business structures, animals and food products.
She said it also is important to determine what sort of business an individual is conducting - is it a sole proprietorship, a limited liability corporation or a corporation? Martel said there are important tax implications that come along with each type of business.
The Extension Office website lists other topics covered during the six Annie's classes. Those other issues include networking and partnering with other farmers, farm and food safety, creating business plans and interpreting financial statements.
Holly Hinkle, who is from Dry Fork and owns Hinkle Farm, attended this week's meeting.
"We are trying to get our farm going, and this will help us take it to the next level," she said about the lectures. "It's been amazing."
Hinkle said the impact the lectures have on the community is impressive. She said she enjoys the interaction with other farmers and the networking potential the lectures provide.
Hinkle Farm, she said, includes a high-tunnel greenhouse, an unheated hoop house that can be ventilated by rolling up the sides of the structure. Hinkle said she grows tomatoes, lettuce and peppers.
Pam Kwasniewski, who owns the Charm Farm in Beverly, said she is learning a lot about running a business and enjoys the guest speakers.
"(The meetings) expose you to everything you do in business," Kwasniewski said. "Anyone in any business could learn something."
She said it makes farmers think about the complexity of running a business - everything from planning to execution.
Kwasniewski said the Charm Farm includes eggs, chickens, beef and hogs. She said she participates in local farmer's markets and supports community-supported agriculture, where business relationships are made directly between farmers and consumers.
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