This week I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many inspiring agricultural leaders while attending the Executive Women in Agriculture (#EWA) conference in Chicago. Although the event is held in a hotel located on the Windy City’s famous Miracle Mile, attendees are more concerned with financial statements than they are with fashion statements.
Balance sheets, tax plans, succession plans and the like are topics near and dear to the heart of Ruth Fleck Hambleton. Yesterday I had the pleasure meeting with Ruth and learning more about her mission “to empower farm women to be better business partners through networks and by managing and organizing critical information.”
During her 30-year career with Extension, Ruth saw all the needs farm women have for information and education. Overcoming the challenges of being married to a farmer or being a woman leader in a male-dominated business helped shaped Annie’s Project, which is named in honor of Ruth’s mother. (Click here to read Annie’s Story.) Because this program was developed by a woman for women, it fills a need that was previously unmet.
“It’s been so exciting to see Annie’s Project grow,” says Ruth. “Often times we apply for grants, do the work, file a report and then the project ends. With Annie’s Project, however, we’ve been able to grow and enhance the program each year since 2003.”
Relevant content and sound programming – combined with the trend that more women are engaging in agriculture – are likely contributing to the increased demand for curriculum offered through Annie’s Project. Today Annie’s Project is offered in nearly every state. Through educational sessions, farm women learn problem-solving, record-keeping, and decision-making skills. They focus on topics such as balance sheets, income statements and financial ratios.
While programming and curriculum is made largely available through Extension, Annie’s Project is a collaborative effort with local and area professionals since those are the experts with whom farm women will be doing business. Collaborative efforts, like one with Farm Credit Services of America, are key for the project’s continued success.
Through Annie’s Project, farm women are able to find answers, build confidence and form friendships. It’s only fitting that the recipe Ruth shares with us today is aptly named, “Best Friend’s Casserole.” Ruth got this recipe from her best friend of 30 years. May this hearty casserole bring you warmth on a cold, winter’s day!
BEST FRIEND’S CASSEROLE
- 1 pound ground beef, browned and cooked
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 can (16 ounces) stewed tomatoes
- 2 large potatoes, washed and sliced
- 2 c. (16 ounces) green beans (not cooked)
Season to taste:
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. oregano leaves
- 1/8 tsp. ground pepper
In a 9×13 pan, layer all ingredients. Bake at 375° for approximate 45 minutes. Yield: 6 servings.
COOK’S TIP: You can put a little twist on this casserole by adding 1½ c. grated cheddar cheese. You might even want to try adding 3 cups cooked macaroni and 1/4 c. water. You could also substitute French fried onions for fresh onions.
This hearty casserole is very versatile. You can take it to the field during harvest or planting seasons. It’s also a great dish for community potlucks.