Seed World

From DC: Not Just a Name Change

The American Seed Trade Association reinvents its annual convention with the inaugural Policy and Leadership Development Conference.

For the first time in 135 years, the American Seed Trade Association has closed the door on the annual convention and opened another, focusing on policy and leadership development.

This weekend, ASTA opened the doors to its inaugural Policy and Leadership Development Conference in Washington, D.C., bringing in members and students from California to Vermont, and from the Dakotas to Mississippi.

“We looked at what we were really trying to accomplish with this event in June,” shares Jennifer Crouse, ASTA director of meetings and services. “We knew there were some traditions that meant a great deal to members that still needed to be upheld.”

But other than that, ASTA’s strategy was on policy and developing new leaders for the industry and hopefully for association, as well, she says.

“We have completely thrown out the old schedule and created a new one,” Crouse says. “You don’t see ASTA committee meetings back-to-back; we do have some, but it’s a totally redesigned schedule based on four tracks.”

Three of those four tracks are policy related: innovation, sustainability and international/trade. The fourth one is leadership development. Additionally, there was what is called ” PL/DC Lightening Talks,” short, 15-minutes talks about topics of interest during coffee breaks and in between sessions.

With the new design, Crouse says attendees are able to attend all the sessions or hone in on one track.

This year, ASTA offered a “Leadership Development” registration that was offered at a discounted rate, so that employers could nominate rising stars within their companies to come to the conference and participate in the leadership development sessions.

Also, in attendance are two student delegations: six undergraduate students from the Future Seed Executives’ Campus Connections program and a group of five graduate students from the American Seed Research Foundation’s Operation Student Connection. Additionally, there’s a group from FFA in attendance.

The leadership sessions build upon one another throughout the conference and then the conference concludes with Storm the Hill, where members will participate in a total of more than 130 meetings with representatives and senators.

It’s important to emphasize it’s not just a new name for an old meeting, Crouse says, adding that they are creating a learning experience.

“We are trying new formats and opportunities to help attendees get more information in every little part of their day, including while having coffee,” she says. “So far, I’ve heard really good comments from people.

“It really is an experience. Anyone can get information on the Internet now if they want to learn about a topic. But to come together with your industry, with your colleagues and especially to go through Storm the Hill is an experience that you can’t get anywhere else.”