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Keep the Ball Rolling

Maintaining momentum is easy for the day-to-day chores that
farmers typically tackle in a timely manner. It's no small feat when it comes
to advancing the farm transition and estate planning end game.

Patty Walker and her daughter-in-law, Kris
Walker, know all too well that farming today requires a business plan. The
Webster City, Iowa, duo share a common business goal: keeping the family on
good terms while laying the groundwork for the next farm generation.

"My husband and I are at the age
that we need to be planning," Patty says.

That's why the two women attended the
Managing for Today and Tomorrow class held in Ames, Iowa, a year ago. It's the
second phase of Annie's Project, an agricultural risk-management program for
women supported by a grant from USDA, the Farm Credit Council, and 11 Farm
Credit Associations.

Annie's Project has grown to 33 states
and has reached 9,700 women since it launched in Illinois in 2003. Managing for
Today and Tomorrow focuses on succession, business, estate, and retirement
planning. "Annie's Project is unique," Kris says. "There aren't
many programs aimed at women."

Research over the past three decades
indicates that women play a pivotal role when it comes to a successful farm
transition. The 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture identified 306,209 women as
primary farm operators; their average age was 59.

"The new Managing for Today and
Tomorrow curriculum emphasizes the role women play in helping transition farms
from one generation to the next," says Madeline Schultz, Iowa State
University Extension.

The course is offered in five weekly
three-hour sessions. Extension and Outreach specialists and area professionals
conduct the classes. Angie Loew, Farm Credit Services of America financial
officer, Carroll, Iowa, was one of the instructors at the Walkers' course. She
also is one of the authors of the Managing for Today and Tomorrow curriculum.

"I've worked with farmers for 24 years and have seen
the need for transitioning information," Loew says.

Erin Herbold-Swalwell, a Des Moines, Iowa, attorney,
conducts many of the estate planning classes.

"Understanding the concepts behind estate and
succession planning is a critical first step in developing a plan to transition
the family farm to the next generation," Herbold-Swalwell says.

"We learned a lot, and then we could come home and
discuss what we learned with our husbands," Patty says.

Kris adds, "Sometimes I think men want to figure it all
out, get it done with, and go on to the next thing," she says. "Transition
and estate planning is an evolving thing. It's an ongoing conversation, a work
in progress."

Kris says the course recognizes women's
multiple roles, from being a primary producer to working off-farm. "It
does a great job of creating content for all," she says.

Patty agrees. "Women are too busy today to set aside
time to get together," she says. "At the class, women reached out to
share ideas and suggestions to solve problems."

Kris adds, "It's easy to feel like you're an island,"
she says. "It's reassuring to know 
others are working to get plans into place."

Following the course, Patty and her husband, Jim, attended a
class together to help them consider their planning options. "Since then,
we've been able to do some concrete things," she says. "Our attorney
had passed away. Taking the class forced us to move on and find a new one who
knows ag law."

For more information about upcoming Managing for Today and
Tomorrow classes, visit

PHOTO: Kris Walker (left) and mother-in-law Patty Walker
attended the Managing for Today and Tomorrow class last year.

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