Seed World

Industry Leadership Begins With One Simple Step: Showing Up!

Gro Alliance

A third-generation seedsman, Jim Schweigert grew up in the family seed business and was exposed to industry issues at an early age. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in public relations from the University of Minnesota and worked for corporate public relations firms in Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta before joining the family business full time in 2003. He has since been active in the American Seed Trade Association, the Independent Professional Seed Association and earned his master’s in seed technology and business from Iowa State University. As president, Schweigert manages client contracts and crop planning, as well as business development and new market opportunities. His unique background and experience make him one of the seed industry’s leaders in innovation. As such, he was honored as Seed World’s 2009 Future Giant and currently serves as chair of the board of directors for Seed Programs International.

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It’s hard to believe that I am beyond the halfway point in my year as the American Seed Trade Association’s (ASTA) chair. The people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had have been incredible. I’ve also enjoyed sharing those experiences with you all on social media and in person. 

A common question I get is: “How can I or my company get more engaged with ASTA?” The question usually comes from hearing about a policy presentation, leadership session or roundtable discussion on a key issue at one of the various ASTA conferences. First, it’s very encouraging that the content presented and debated at ASTA events finds its way out to the broad membership! That means ASTA conference programming is compelling, relevant and timely. Second, if those interested in the content only heard about it afterward, it means they didn’t attend the conference. This is a missed opportunity!

Attendance at ASTA meetings is key to increasing your and your company’s engagement with the association. And the more you engage, the bigger role you play in helping shape the future of the U.S. seed industry, at the local, federal and international level. 

A great example is the recently concluded Vegetable and Flower Conference in Orlando. Attendees learned about how consumer trends and the disrupted supply chain are impacting company breeding efforts. The final session also featured a facilitated networking session where attendees discussed and debated the content from several presentations on consumer preferences, attitudes toward plant breeding and how they see the intersection of science and food. Those topics have a colossal impact on how vegetable and flower seed companies position their products and business. 

This same style of active discussion and debate will be featured at the ASTA Leadership Summit in Sacramento, June 10-14. The entire summit will be organized around the theme of resiliency. It will feature three content pillars on the resiliency of crops and plants, resiliency of organizations and resiliency of people. Within each of those pillars, there will be a wide range of presentations designed to challenge your assumptions and get you thinking. Each will also feature a facilitated networking session afterward where you, along with your seed industry colleagues, will dissect what you just heard and engage in an ideation session about what it could mean for your business. It will conclude with policy session unlike anything ASTA has ever done!

The Leadership Summit in 2022 received incredibly high marks from attendees and has created a lot of anticipation for the Leadership Summit in 2023. The content of each pillar will be finalized soon, but we already have our keynote speaker locked in. University of Minnesota football head coach, PJ Fleck, will take attendees on a journey through the ever-changing landscape of college football.  He’ll talk about what he does to bring together a team from all over the country and unite them into a cohesive group that competes against the best teams in the nation.  Finally, he is an expert at overcoming obstacles and building a resilient group that can weather the myriad external forces that can impact a football team or your team.

So please join us in Sacramento June 10-14 for the ASTA Leadership Summit. I can assure you that this is one conference you don’t want to miss and can serve as your and your company’s launching pad for deeper and more meaningful engagement with ASTA.