Seed World

ASTA Recognizes Seed Industry Pioneers

Photos from ASTA

The 2024 American Seed Trade Association Leadership Summit is this week in Nashville.

The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) honored industry pioneers at the 2024 ASTA Leadership Summit in Nashville, Tennessee. The honorees were recognized in the categories of Heritage, Distinguished Service, Lifetime Honorary Member and Excellence in Science.

The Heritage Award honors individuals who have significantly impacted the American seed industry and ASTA. This year’s recipients are Harold Loden and John Gerard.

Harold Loden, born in Georgia and a WWII veteran, managed Agriculture Experiment Stations in South Korea post-war. He earned his PhD in Plant Genetics at Texas A&M in 1949. He worked as a cotton breeder and later as General Manager for Anderson, Clayton & Company, served as ASTA President in 1968, and was named an Honorary Life Member in 1971. From 1973-1983, Loden served as ASTA’s Executive Vice President, leading the association through significant growth and accomplishments.

John Gerard, a dedicated seed industry leader, grew up on a farm in Delphi, Indiana. After graduating from Purdue University in 1960 with a degree in Ag Education, he co-founded VR Seeds, one of the first independent soybean companies in the U.S. He later sold VR Seeds to AgriGenetics and started JGL, Inc., Seed Genetics, Inc., and JoMar Seeds, becoming a pioneer in the licensing world.

The Distinguished Service Award recognizes significant contributions to ASTA and to the seed industry. This year’s honoree is Stephanie Bloem.

Stephanie Bloem has been NAPPO’s Executive Director since July 2015. She has advocated for stronger industry-government partnerships, regional standards, and alternative phytosanitary certification systems. Her vision and leadership have significantly strengthened NAPPO, making it one of the most effective RPPOs globally.

ASTA’s Lifetime Honorary Member Award recognizes untiring service to ASTA and the seed industry. This year’s recipients are Norm Poppe of Applewood Seed Company and Jim Radtke of Cibus.

Norm Poppe, CEO of Applewood Seed Company, has been a key ASTA member, contributing to international seed policies and agricultural conservation. Under his leadership, Applewood has been a leader in supplying high-quality conservation, pollinator, and wildflower varieties.

Cibus product development senior vice president Jim Radtke has more than 30 years of experience in the seed industry. He led the development of the first Bt corn product in the United States and has been an active ASTA member, contributing to policy developments and the Plant Breeding Innovation subcommittee.

The Seed Science Foundation’s Excellence in Science Award recognizes outstanding achievement by researchers in various seed-related areas. Ric Dunkle is the 2024 awardee.

Ric Dunkle began his career as a field entomologist in 1973. He served as Deputy Administrator of APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine and worked with the USDA on regulatory and environmental issues. During his 15 years with ASTA, he helped streamline international seed movement, earning the nickname “PhytoMan.”

For more information and full bios of the award winners, view the Awards Commemorative Program.