If you follow ASTA on social media, you’re probably familiar with the hashtag, #JustGrowIt. It may seem like an obvious connection to seed, and it is, but it actually applies to so much more than just seed. 

While we’ll be encouraging our followers online to “grow” a home garden this summer, and giving them new ideas and tips for success, we’ll also encourage them to “grow” their knowledge about plant breeding and the food they eat. Within the seed industry, we’re encouraging our members to “grow” professionally by providing them with ongoing opportunities to participate in intentional activities to improve their leadership and management skills, at every level of their careers.

Andy LaVigne serves as president and CEO of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA).

Often, you’ll hear us use the mantra, “it all starts with the seed.” This really is true for just about every-thing we enjoy as a society: from our food, to our clothes, and from the feed for our animals to the fuel that powers our cars. So much of what we enjoy today has been made better over time, thanks to plant breeding and constant innovations, made possible by the seed industry — an industry of innovators, forward-thinkers, problem-solvers and leaders. As the national association representing this cutting-edge community, we’re working to ensure this legacy continues long into the future. And it all starts with the people.  

One of the ways we’re providing opportunities for building up seed industry leaders is through our new Leadership, Education and Development (LEAD) Committee. LEAD provides ASTA members with opportunities to expand their knowledge and gain experience in the skills necessary to sustain and grow a career in the seed industry. This is delivered through distance learning, on-site tours of ASTA member companies and in-person seminars at ASTA meetings. Through the program, up-and-comers in the industry are connected with seasoned professionals, facilitating opportunities to examine critical seed issues while improving soft skills like networking, peer-to-peer management, and communications. 

However, seed industry professionals aren’t the only ones who need leadership development. Through a new ASTA Student Membership program, we’re working on student engagement, so students receive: discounted dues; complimentary registration for ASTA meetings; a listing in the member directory, which is searched by potential employers; notification of scholarship, award and contest opportunities; the ability to participate in ASTA committees; and more. This is a great way for students to get involved in the seed industry and gain critical leadership experience while making valuable connections to further their future career aspirations.  

Another opportunity for emerging collegiate leaders is ASTA’s new Student Connections program, a partnership of the Seed Science Foundation and ASTA’s FuSE Committee. Student Connections links university students interested in pursuing careers in the seed industry with industry mentors, executives and thought leaders. Selected students have the opportunity to engage in educational and networking opportunities before and during ASTA’s annual Policy & Leadership Development Conference (PLDC) each June. 

“So much of what we enjoy today has been made better over time, thanks to plant breeding and constant innovations, made possible by the seed industry.”

In addition to ASTA conferences and committees, we’re offering opportunities throughout the year for young professionals looking for a deep dive into critical leadership and management skills to take them to the next level of their careers.  

The annual ASTA Management Academy, a partnership with Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business, focuses on the practical application of general management concepts that are critical to the long-term success of seed companies. 

Interested in honing your communications and advocacy skills? We can help develop that too! ASTA’s Seed Ambassador Leadership Team (SALT) is a great place to get plugged in. SALT is a diverse network of ASTA members who actively engage, promote and support the seed industry with a unified voice. ASTA provides members with free training and ongoing support to help them become “better seed, better life” ambassadors in their communities. 

With our industry, and our world, continuing to change and evolve at a rapid pace, it’s critical that we are constantly looking forward and preparing for whatever might lie ahead. I can’t think of anything more important to ensuring a successful future, than supporting the continued development of a strong and growing seed-industry workforce.