WHITELAWN, Ill. — Annie’s Project, a national non-profit educational program that empowers women in agriculture, announces the appointment of seven people to its board of directors, bringing the total number of board members to 11.

The new board members are Marji Alaniz, Carolyn Banks, secretary of the board, Shannon Dill, Cleophus “Cleo” Franklin, Jr., Barbara Rater, Dr. Dee Singh-Knights and Sam Schwoeppe.

The priority of the board in 2022 is to implement Annie’s Project’s new strategic plan; find new ways to meet the educational needs of women farmers , ranchers and growers; and expand the program into more states.

Annie’s Project was founded in 2003 and has educated more than 18,000 women, Annie’s has programs in 33 states and U.S. territories. The organization has taken the unique approach of having two women serve as its Co-CEOs, Karisha Devlin and Doris Mold, to leverage the strengths of each during this critical phase of the organization’s growth.

“We are pleased to welcome the se new board members and look  forward to the collaboration and expanding the impact of Annie’s Project,” says Devlin.

Mold adds, “Their range in expertise and leadership will add immense value to our board.”

Returning board members include: Madeline Schultz, board president; Jason Johnson, board vice president; Ruth Hambleton, board treasurer and founder: and Wesley Tucker, board member at large.

More About the New Board Members

Marji Alaniz is the Senior Vice President of Communications, Operations and Risk at AgriSompo and President and Founder of FarmHer. She is an avid communicator with a lifelong passion for the people and industry of agriculture. Alaniz has spent her career working in and around various facets of the agriculture industry, from over a decade in crop insurance leadership and risk management to the formation of FarmHer, a media platform that brings the stories of women to the forefront of agriculture, food and rural communities.

Carolyn Banks is an Agricultural Business Management Specialist with Alcorn State University Extension Program (ASUEP) in Lorman, Mississippi. She provides continued leadership in conducting educational programs and technical assistance, conducts USDA Mississippi Farm Service Agency Borrowers Training Class, Women in Agriculture Conference, Homeownership Conference and the Veterans in Agriculture Conference. Carolyn also serves as Board Secretary.

Shannon Dill is the Agriculture Extension Educator for University of Maryland Extension in Talbot County. She has been a faculty member of the University of Maryland, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources since 2001. Dill provides outreach and education to agriculture producers of Talbot and neighboring counties in farm business planning, small farm enterprises, marketing and livestock management. Statewide she provides leadership to the MidAtlantic Women in Agriculture Network and the Maryland Beginning Farmer Success Project.

Cleophus “Cleo” Franklin Jr.’s global executive leadership career spans over 30 years with John Deere, Case-New Holland, and Mahindra. He is the founder and CEO of Franklin Strategic Solutions (franklinss.com), a global consulting business that focuses on leadership development, business development, business/brand strategy, keynote speaking, and executive coaching for business and non-profit industries. He is also the founder of Morningside University’s “Franklin Leadership Foundation,” a non-profit organization that invests in the development and creation of future leaders.

Barbara Rater serves as the director of the Census and Survey Division where she provides leadership and oversight to sustain the high quality of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) census and survey data collection processes. She has a wide range of professional experiences and has led national programs and spearheaded international initiatives related to the collection, evaluation, and dissemination of agricultural statistics. She has a passion for producing timely, quality results that can readily be used by decision makers to assess markets and policies and improve organizational performance and productivity.

Dr. Dee Singh-Knights is a respected agribusiness economics and management expert at the regional, national and international levels. In West Virginia, she coordinates such valuable state programs such as the West Virginia Annie’s Project and the West Virginia Women in Agriculture Program, the West Virginia Agritourism Initiative, and the West Virginia Food Safety Training Team. She also serves as the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education State Coordinator. More specifically, Dr. Singh-Knights has helped to develop and deliver annual educational and networking opportunities for the West Virgnia Women in Agriculture program, helping to enhance capacity among female agripreneurs to address current and emerging issues in the state’s ever changing business and regulatory environment.

Sam Schwoeppe is a fourth generation dairy farmer from southern Indiana, serves as Senior Account Manager, Supply Chain at Feeding America, where she works to convene food banks and community partners throughout the dairy supply chain to build relationships and increase nutrition served to communities across the U.S. with the protein and nutrients provided by fresh milk and dairy products.

Click here for more Industry News.