Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Inside Edition: February 2011

CAST Office
Welcome to the first CAST “Inside Edition” where you will get a behind-the-scenes look at the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. Located on a busy street corner just west of the Iowa State University campus, sits a small 2,700-square-foot office building that we call home. While most days the plants in the office outnumber the staff, we have some great individuals working to keep our vision alive.
On the exterior our primary function is to “assemble, interpret, and communicate credible science-based information,” which literally translates to: we coordinate and publish unbiased scientific papers about current issues in the agriculture industry. However, these things don’t just come together overnight; in fact the staff and task force members dedicate months to the development of any one publication. From the initial proposal submission, to finding volunteer authors and reviewers and then editing the final draft, these projects require a lot of time and attention to detail.
Our Executive VP-CEO, Dr. John Bonner, sometimes referred to as the captain of our ship, takes many voyages and over the past year has visited more than sixty different Washington D.C. congressional offices, sharing the message and materials from CAST. Linda Chimenti, our COO, ensures our metaphorical ship has enough fuel to run the day-to-day operations and a map to keep us all on track. One of the newest members of our crew is Carol, who is not only the keeper of the office candy jar but also the lead editor for our publications. In the next cubicle over you will find Dan, who thrives on the adrenaline from Friday morning deadlines for our weekly e-newsletter, Friday Notes, which is distributed to a listserv of more than 1,200 contacts. Melissa is like our own designer/decorator who coordinates the external image and look of CAST through her efforts with membership and marketing. As the office manager, Gale is our go-to gal for all our troubleshooting needs.
Over the years, our office has been fortunate to have some great young talent from Iowa State University help out with office operations. We currently have three student interns. At the front desk you will find Shannon, who is a graduate student in accounting and assists with the finances. Allyson, a junior in the College of Ag, helps coordinate the membership and marketing materials. As one of our student interns, I manage our social media through twitter (@CASTagScience) and our blog.
Needless to say, we keep quite busy here at the office and beyond. Stay tuned for next month’s “Inside Edition” to keep up on all the “not so top-secret” happenings of CAST.
Elizabeth Burns-Thompson (Editorial Administrative Assistant)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Agriculture Needs New Growth

According to a 2007 USDA statistic, the average age of farmers continues to rise, with the majority of principal farm operators between the ages of 45 and 62.  A certain amount of Pa Kettle know-how is fine, but agriculture needs young people. The vast food production system, from those working the land to those moving commodities around the world, needs the spark that comes from the energy and ideas of the next generation.
I loved growing up on a Midwest family farm, but I didn’t have the mechanical skills or the endless patience required to stick with it. Dad knew it too.  As he has joked since, “With price fluctuations, long hours, and our old equipment, the authorities would have charged me with child abuse if I would have talked you into farming.”
Four decades and three continents later, I’ve ended up back in the world of agriculture.  Although I’ve exchanged a pitchfork for a keyboard, and the nearest I get to a tractor is when I ride in the cab with my brother on the old home place, I’ve been able to find out about the many organizations and universities that offer opportunities for young people wanting to get into the world of agriculture.  A quick search on the Internet yields scores of opportunities: universities offer special courses, companies provide intern programs, and organizations sponsor scholarships.
Three young interns are an integral part of our publishing operation at the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, and their skills and enthusiasm make the rest of us optimistic about the future of agriculture.  Allison Ladd works as an administrative assistant with a focus on the membership operations.  A junior at Iowa State University, she earned a scholarship to attend the AFA (Agriculture Future of America) conference. As she said, “The AFA Leadership Conference was a great way to network with industry professionals and ag students from around the country.”
Elizabeth Burns-Thompson, administrative assistant with a focus on media, stays in tune with the modes of communication for agriculture. The ISU senior has been appointed to the Agricultural Relations Council, and as she says, “My goal is to be a high-ranking official within the USDA helping develop ag policy.”
Our third ISU intern, Shannon Snider, will soon finish her Masters degree in accounting. She claims the nearest she has been to farming is the produce aisle at the local Hy-Vee, but we have a feeling she will eventually end up using her talents in some type of ag venture. The ag-science world needs expert number crunchers too.
I may have scraped the manure off my boots back when I left for college, but the old adage is true. You really “can’t take the farm off the boy – or girl.” I hope many young people have a chance to get their hands – and maybe even their boots – dirty as they dig into the network of opportunities in the food production system. A hungry world is counting on them.        Dan Gogerty