Salverson teaches ag women about business
She points to Annie’s Project as the real star but it was Robin Salverson of Lemmon, S.D., who was named South Dakota’s Hero by CNN’s Money Magazine.
Because of her dedication to Annie’s Project, an educational program designed to improve the business skills of women in agriculture, Salverson was one of “50 heroes from 50 states” recognized by the professional publication in June for her extraordinary efforts to improve other people’s personal finances.
“I was very surprised, I believe that it’s not me that should be the hero, it should be Annie’s Project itself. I was fortunate to be in the state of South Dakota when they selected me to work with Annie’s project but it is really the program and the team who should be honored,” said Salverson, who worked as an embryo technician and researcher with Select Sires before becoming a cow-calf specialist with the South Dakota State University extension program 13 years ago.
“It’s a program that I have really thrived in and enjoyed and I’ve appreciated being able to do,” she said. Salverson especially enjoys helping women in production agriculture become better business partners.
Annie’s Project was started in South Dakota in 2007 with two sites and has grown to 24 sites, according to an SDSU web page written by Salverson and another project coordinator, Adele Harty.
The mission statement of the project is: “To empower farm women to be better business partners through networks and by managing and organizing critical information.”
Annie’s Project is a six-week class held in rural towns across the state. Salverson said the ideal class consists of local ladies who are involved in their farming and ranching operations. The groups meet once each week for about three hours but the sessions sometimes go longer as the ladies get to chatting and exchanging information.
“I’m a little biased but it has been a really great program,” said Salverson.
Salverson gives each group of local ladies the opportunity to develop their own interests and passions. There are generally six areas of risk management she plans around, finding specialists to educate the ladies.
1. Financial – Accounting, bookkeeping, cash flows and balance sheets are topics the participants can expect to learn about regarding this subject.
2. Production – According to Salverson, this class varies widely depending on the needs of the ladies signed up in any particular area. “Crop production, livestock production, including nutrition, fertilizer– we cover any topic the ladies decide they want to focus on,” she said.
3. Human – “This comes down to communication and being able to communicate. We know that we produce some of the best livestock in the country right here in this region but some of the biggest failures on potentially successful operations are communication within the family.” Class members might be interested in learning more about cross-generational or multi generational communication, Salverson said.
4. Legal – This session often focuses on estate planning and determining proper business or corporate structure.
5. Marketing – “We might look at ag commodity marketing or future options or it might be niche marketing, it just depends on the group of ladies we have,” Salverson said.
6. Women’s health – Salverson said the sixth study topic was added after several sessions, as it seemed to be a consistent topic of interest. “We have a tendency as women to take care of our children, our husbands, everyone else and not ourselves. But if you aren’t taking care of yourself or you aren’t feeling well it will affect the entire family.”
Salverson said 20 seems to be the magic number for class size. “We want it to be very interactive. Twenty seems to be a good number for them to interact with one another and for us to interact with them.” She said often the women learn as much from their fellow students in “hallway chatter” after the meetings as they do from the presenters. “We often have ladies ranging in age from 20 to 70 years old. It is a unique opportunity for the gals to learn from one another about any topic.”
One area of importance to Salverson is the creation of a “safe harbor” at each of the classes, where the ladies feel comfortable sharing and asking questions they might not normally ask a neighbor or even an expert.
A close connection between participants and instructors is something she and other team members strive for – and generally have no trouble achieving. “A lot of these women we don’t know when we walk in the room, but when we leave we are friends,” she said.
Salverson said she often offers a the chance to take a personality profile so the ladies can determine their own strengths and weaknesses, and how to relate to others more successfully. “I remember sitting in a class after we had done the profiles and a light bulb went on for one gal. ‘That’s why I don’t work with my dad very well,’ she said. So we talked about how you work with a ‘red’ personality, and when she went home she was better able to communicate with her dad.” It is those quality-of-life improvements for the participants that are often the most meaningful outcomes of the classes, Salverson said.
Salverson grew up near Mound City, S.D., and graduated from Selby High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in animal science from SDSU and a master’s in animal science reproductive physiology from Colorado State University.
“It has been a great honor to be recognized by Money magazine for the contribution that Annie’s Project has made for South Dakota. I’m glad to be able to get the program out there and share it with more women, and hopefully more women will be able to participate as we move forward,” Salverson said. She tentatively plans to host a class in Lemmon, S.D., this fall.
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