Category Archives: Recent News

Spague Pest

Media Release
Sprague Pest Solutions Acquires TMC Pest Management: Expands Pacific Coast Footprint
Tacoma, Wash. (May 2, 2017) – Sprague Pest Solutions has acquired TMC Pest Management of Bakersfield, Calif., expanding the fifth-generation company into California and giving it the ability to serve commercial clients from Washington state to Southern California. TMC will operate under the Sprague Pest Solutions brand immediately.

Founded in 1992 by Jeff McCaa, TMC Pest Management focuses nearly 100 percent of its business providing innovative pest management services to commercial-industrial clients. The company specializes in protecting food processing, distribution and transportation outlets in California’s agriculture-rich San Juaquin Valley from the threats posed by disease transmitting pests.

“The TMC culture and commitment to providing innovative, customer-centric pest management services to high-end commercial clients matches ours perfectly,” says Alfie Treleven, CEO/president of Sprague Pest Solutions.

Sprague, the 29th largest (based on revenue) company on PCT’s Top 100 list, has a long history providing the food processing and agriculture industries with cutting-edge pest management and food safety programs. That experience will be valuable as Sprague takes over service on some of the world’s largest food processing and distribution facilities representing some of the most recognizable consumer brands.

“As a company we like to push the thinking of how to design and deliver pest management programs for our clients,” adds Treleven. “If we do our job right we make food safe for millions of people.”

Sprague General Manager Ross Treleven says the acquisition of TMC will strengthen Sprague’s commitment to commercial and industrial pest control in one of the country’s most active commercial pest management regions.

“The Central California market is exactly the space we want to be in and we are very excited about the opportunities the marketplace offers,” he adds.

Bakersfield Service Center Manager Jeff Freeborn says TMC clients can expect the same innovative and top-rated service under Sprague but also enjoy access to additional specialty services including commodity fumigation and bird management – a key emphasis point of Food Safety Modernization Act mandates.

“The Sprague brand represents more than 90 years of expertise and TMC clients will certainly benefit from the resources they bring to the table to design and implement highly effective pest management programs in high-end commercial and industrial accounts,” says Freeborn.

About Sprague Pest Solutions

Sprague Pest Solutions ( was founded in 1926 and provides vital preventive and remedial pest management and consulting services to leading food and beverage processing, healthcare, hospitality, and retail and agriculture facilities in the Pacific Coast and Inter-Mountain regions. 

Media Contact
Carrie Thibodeaux
Sprague Pest Solutions
(253) 405-2590 /

Pure Seed Announces Justin S. Balich as New Regional Manager
Pure Seed is proud to announce Justin S. Balich as their new Regional
Manager in the Southwestern zone of the United States.
Justin received his BBA in Entrepreneurship, Management & Economics fromJustin_pureseed
Northwood University where he also played baseball for the Knights. Competing in sports at the
collegiate-level set Justin’s expectations for a high level of responsibility and commitment to the
team. As a student-athlete at Northwood Justin received the 2008 Northwood University
Academic Athlete of the Year Award.

Justin’s previous work experience includes being the Director of
Game and Event Operations for the Fiesta Bowl while beginning his
career 9 years prior as an intern at the Fiesta Bowl. His job duties
included managing the Fiesta Bowl and Cactus Bowl game operations and
logistics. He has also assisted with the event operations for the past three
Super Bowls and College Football Playoff National Championship games.

Justin is an entrepreneurial-minded businessman that enjoys working in teams. He has a
strong personal and professional moral that makes him a great fit to the Pure Seed culture.
Justin’s position with Pure Seed will put him in charge of the company’s cool and warm
season turf program in the Southwestern region of the United States. Justin resides with his
wife Heather in Phoenix, AZ.

Justin can be reached at or 602.316.0336.

Read the Press Release HERE>>>>


pureseedPure Seed is proud to announce Greg Freyermuth as their new Regional Manager in the Southeastern zone of the United States. Greg has extensive knowledge of the seed industry, and will broaden Pure Seed’s ability to service customers throughout the nation.

Greg’s previous experience in the seed industry includes being the Territory Manger for Turf-Seed and Scotts Professional Seed. His familiarity with Pure Seed’s vision and product line gives him the advantage to make an immediate impact for the company. Greg has been strategically located in the Southeastern region of the United States for 30 years where he has created many long-term relationships, and understands the local turfgrass market.

Pure Seed is glad to have Greg join their team.

Read the entire press release here.>>>Pure Seed Hires New Regional Manager

Little Brick Pastoral celebrates story of Australian agriculture with Lego farmer minifig

lego farmer

PHOTO Like our farmers, no job is too big or too small for the Lego Farmer. SUPPLIED: LITTLE BRICK PASTORAL

A tiny plastic farmer wearing a wide-brimmed hat and green overalls is doing his bit to raise awareness of Australian agriculture.

He is the Lego Farmer, 4.5cm tall and becoming quite a national, if not international, celebrity as he sows the message of agriculture in schools and via social media.

The farmer spends his day working hard, fixing machinery, baling hay, checking the harvest, planting crops or hanging out with his working dog.

And his ‘home’ is with Little Brick Pastoral, a blog started by agribusiness graduate Aimee Snowden, who lives on her family’s irrigation farm at Tocumwal, in the southern Riverina in New South Wales.


The Lego Farmer busies himself bundling hay SUPPLIED: LITTLE BRICK PASTORAL

Born and raised on the land, Ms Snowden was keen to share her love of agriculture, and decided to combine it with her passion for photography and her sense of fun.

Like so many adults, the joy of playing with the colourful plastic bricks never really left her and, in September 2014, she decided to experiment with a minifigurine, or ‘minifig’, and her camera.

Ms Snowden first posed her farmer among a germinating crop and — like the crop — the Lego Farmer’s popularity has grown and grown.

“When I first started, I thought it would be a bit of fun,” she said.

“But after a little while, I realised it had a lot of potential as a way to start a conversation around production and farming in a different way.

“I don’t want farmers to be portrayed in a negative way. I want it to be positive. That is my main driver.”

The Lego Farmer's first photoshoot SUPPLIED: LITTLE BRICK PASTORAL UPDATED THU FEB 09 13:06:15 EST 2017 Email Facebook Twitter WhatsApp Aimee Snowden launched the Lego Farmer in 2014 with this photo of the farmer in the sprouting clover.

The Lego Farmer’s first photoshoot
Aimee Snowden launched the Lego Farmer in 2014 with this photo of the farmer in the sprouting clover.

Capturing new audiences and sharing farming message

Ms Snowden said using the toy enabled her to capture a wider audience — parents and their kids, city residents who may have grown up in the country, and people who loved Lego.

She said she first noticed how engaged children were with the little plastic farmer while attending an exhibition of the building blocks in Melbourne.

“We shared the story of oats with a tactile display and we found there was such an interest from kids, and even the adults,” Ms Snowden said.

“It creates interaction and a conversation with kids and their parents.”

Teaming up to teach

In September, during the Year of the Pulse, Little Brick Pastoral teamed up with the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to create a teaching resource.

Ms Snowden developed 12 agricultural characters and together with the DPI, produced On the Pulse, a kit containing classroom activities designed for primary school-aged children.

Little Brick Pastoral is hoping to be involved in developing more educational resources for primary schools.

Little Brick Pastoral is hoping to be involved in developing more educational resources for primary schools.

Its goal was to connect students with where their food comes from, teach them about careers in the industry, and increase their agricultural literacy using minifigs as a storytelling tool.

The initial rollout of 200 kits was very popular and Ms Snowden said while feedback on its success was still to come, she hoped there would be more opportunity to work with schools.

“It was very well received. The kits went quickly and we know there is a strong interest, and the DPI would like to continue working with us,” she said.

Ms Snowden would like to see characters like the Lego Farmer highlighting the various careers in agriculture — from paddock to plate — in classrooms around the country.

However, individual state curriculums mean liaising with various education boards.

“Because my background is not in education, I need to partner with people who can provide that input,” she explained.

Spreading the message and the photo love

In the meantime, Ms Snowden continues to use her blog to tell the story of farming in Australia.

Apart from increasing awareness and offering an insight into the Lego Farmer’s life, Little Brick Pastoral provides access to up-to-date information about agriculture in Australia.

oday is International Day of Rural Women - October 15... And we are celebrating the diversity of roles played by rural women in the agricultural industries and our regional communities.


It provides industry links to resources designed to help other farmers, students, teachers and representative groups.

But the farmer’s fame is not restricted to the blog — he has almost 8,000 followers on Facebook, uses Twitter, and shares photos on Instagram where other Lego photographers congregate.

And yes, there is a female Lego farmer too, although most of her time is spent behind the scenes.

“Women play an important role in all agriculture and in fact, they make up 43 per cent of the world’s agricultural labour force,” Ms Snowden said.

She said that quite often, due to ratio and perspective, two characters in the frame could “overcomplicate” the image — and then there were the sudden gusts of wind and other environmental factors.

Ms Snowden and the Lego Farmer are not affiliated with the famous toy maker, but were involved in the #BuildAustralia campaign.

Read the article by Jennifer King on ABC News HERE


Media Release

 Larry Treleven Named To Pest Management Professional Magazine Hall of Fame

 Tacoma, Wash. (October 18, 2016) – Accomplished local business leader and a long-time advocate for the professional pest management industry, Larry Treleven, vice president and co-owner of Tacoma-based Sprague Pest Solutions ( has been named to the Pest Management Professional magazine Hall of Fame. Treleven received his award at a ceremony on October 17 during the PestWorld Conference.

Treleven, a third-generation pest professional, has been with the company since 1971 and has served in virtually every capacity from service technician to president. During his tenure, Sprague has grown from a small family business to one of the top 50 pest management operations in the United States.

Sprague provides vital preventive and remedial pest management and consulting services to leading food and beverage processing, healthcare, hospitality, retail and agriculture facilities in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain regions. It operates service centers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Colorado.

Treleven’s commitment and dedication to his profession stretches well beyond the walls of Sprague as he is deeply involved in numerous industry and civic organizations. He served as president of the National Pest Management Association in the mid-1990s, the Washington State and Oregon Pest Control Associations on several different occasions, and was a founding member of the Professional Pest Management Alliance.

The University of Washington graduate is also active in local business and civic organizations including the Association of Washington Business, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, Tacoma Rotary Club, Goodwill Industries, Franciscan Health System and Washington Building Owners & Managers Association.

“I am certainly humbled at this honor and join an esteemed list of previous inductees who have contributed so much to the pest management industry,” says Treleven. “I share this honor with my family and coworkers who have not only supported me throughout my career but who share their talents and friendship with me each and every day.”

“Larry Treleven’s unwavering dedication to the education and professionalism of the pest management industry made him an obvious choice,” says Heather Gooch, PMP editor. “Who else can say they’ve served as president of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), president of the Oregon Pest Control Association, and president of the Washington State Pest Management Association?”

To read the complete article on Treleven’s Hall of Fame induction, visit

Sprague Pest Solutions, founded in 1926, is a Copesan Services partner ( In addition to protecting clients’ facilities and products from pests including rodents, ants, cockroaches, bed bugs, nuisance birds, stinging insects, stored product pests, and flies, Sprague offers specialty technical services including heat treatments, fumigations, fumigation alternatives, large-scale bird exclusion, risk assessments and employee training.

# #

 Media Contact:

Carrie Thibodeaux
Sprague Pest Solutions
(253) 405-2590 /


Smith Seed Services: From rural roots to international sales

smith seeds_demherald

HALSEY — Jason Schrock said he and Paul Zehr didn’t set out to create a large company when they purchased Smith Seed Services forty years ago.

But the rural business has transformed into an international company with clients on every continent except for Antarctica.

In 1976, the wholesale buyer had about 10 employees and only sold, packaged and transported seed to Oregon companies.

Smith Seed Services now has more than 100 workers, as well as 50 temporary employees who work nine months of the year. Most of the Smith Seed Services product also goes out of state, and about 20 percent of sales are outside the United States’ borders.

“I couldn’t even name all the countries. We have three people on the way to Rome right now for an international seed convention,” said Galen Troyer, general manager.

The business’ massive growth has coincided with technical improvements that have resulted in more automation at seed warehouses, as well as specialized coatings that can make seeds easier to grow or drought, insect or disease resistant — or all of the above.

Smith Seed Services currently coats seed for large companies such as ScottsMiracle-Gro.

David Keister, Smith Seed Services management team member, said that the Halsey business is generally believed to be the largest coater of seeds in the world.

Smith Seed Services invested more than $5 million to install its seed coating plant during the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009, when many businesses were trying to cut costs.

“One thing with Jason and Paul is that they’re always willing to take a risk,” Keister said.

The duo have had success more often than not, however, and that’s in large part because of their traditional values.

“They’re both just genuine, honest, hardworking people,” Troyer said. And that’s led to stability. “Many of the employees have been here a long time,” Troyer added.

Schrock said that much of the growth, such as seed coating, has been driven by customers. “Our business philosophy has been to do the best job you can and meet the needs of the customers. And, as Paul would say, ‘Never say no,’” Schrock said.

Schrock and Zehr decided to branch out beyond Oregon in the 1980s because at that time, many of the Oregon seed dealers were speculators, and that exposed the Halsey business and local farmers to too much volatility in the market.

Selling seed all over the United States mitigated that, but it also meant that Smith Seed Services became competitors with many of its former customers.

Another change is that the company now grows a lot of seed for specific companies, rather than just purchasing from farmers. The Willamette Valley has thousands of acres of proprietary grass seed.

What won’t likely change is the company’s name. Smith Seed Services was formed by farmer George Smith, who, in 1956, converted an empty dairy barn into a seed cleaning plant.

“George Smith was a great fellow. He was known for his honesty and he was looked up to in the community, so we kept the name,” Schrock said.

He began working for Smith 50 years ago, and remembered that his former boss used to come to the office dressed the same as any other Halsey-area farmer.

“He said, ‘I just wanted to prove you could run a million dollar business in bib overalls,’” Schrock said.

Read the story in the Albany Democrat Herald here>>>


Seed Today Features Several OSA Member Companies

The recent third quarter issue of Seed Today magazine featured three of our member companies: West Coast Beet Seed Co., Vista Seed Partners, and the Oregon State University Seed Lab. Please click the links below to read the articles!

West Coast Beet Seed in Seed Today

Seed Today Company Profile-Vista Seed Partners

Oregon State Univ. Seed Lab in Seed Today

You can read Seed Today in it’s entirety HERE

Oregon Ag Commodities Enjoy a Strong Decade

Cattle and calves No. 1, followed by greenhouse, nursery products

SALEM, Ore. – While Oregon agriculture’s overall growth curve has slowed down in recent years, certain crops and livestock commodities have enjoyed a very healthy increase in production value over the past decade.

In fact, only one commodity in the top 20 has recorded a decrease over the 10-year period, and that drop is very small, the state Department of Agriculture reported Wednesday.

Newly released statistics from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service provides a preliminary picture of 2015’s crop and livestock value of production. The numbers indicate that Oregon agriculture continues to be a major contributor to the state’s economy with an overall production value expected to be in the neighborhood of $5.4 billion– similar to the preceding two years.

The value of agricultural production in Oregon last year includes a top ten list with familiar names. Onions returned to the list while hazelnuts dropped out:
(1)       Cattle and calves, $914 million
(2)       Greenhouse and nursery products, $894 million
(3)       Hay, $604 million
(4)       Milk, $474 million
(5)       Grass seed, $383 million
(6)       Wheat, $217 million
(7)       Potatoes, $176 million
(8)       Pears, $152 million
(9)       Wine grapes, $147 million
(10)     Onions, $125 million

Oregon produces more than 220 agricultural commodities, so there are always winners and losers any given year. Several top ten commodities dropped in production value in 2015, but still show strong gains over a 10-year period.

For the second year in a row, cattle and calves tops the list with a production value of $914 million, which is slightly down from 2014. However, over a 10-year period beginning in 2005, the value has increased 71 percent.

The cattle industry tends to be cyclical, and the strong prices enjoyed the past couple of years are weakening in 2016. Nonetheless, cattle and calves is expected to be a mainstay at or near the top of all commodities in the foreseeable future.

The greenhouse and nursery sector has steadily recovered from the nation’s economic recession shortly after the commodity reached above the billion dollar mark in 2007. Greenhouse and nursery’s production value hit a low point of $667 million in 2010. The industry is now fairly close to where it was a decade ago, at $894 million– a 3 percent increase from 2005.

Hay saw a near $100 million decrease in 2015, compared to 2014. However, the commodity remains solidly in the No. 3 position in Oregon and has actually increased in production value the past 10 years by 70 percent.

Similarly, milk recorded a big drop last year of more than $180 million, but has increased 32 percent since 2005. Like greenhouse and nursery, the grass seed industry suffered greatly during the recession but is now back to where it was 10 years ago, recording a 2 percent increase since 2005 to $383 million.

Wheat prices continue to decrease the crop’s value, which also saw a drop from 2014 to 2015. However, wheat is still 20 percent higher in production value than it was 10 years ago. The pendulum has swung widely over the years. Five years ago, wheat’s value was $441 million– twice as much as last year’s figure.

Potatoes remains in 7th place among Oregon’s top commodities and recorded a slight increase in 2015. Potatoes was also 7th in 2005, but the value has increased 36 percent since then. Pears moved up to 8th after showing a healthy gain in 2015. Going back 10 years, that increase has been a remarkable 108 percent.

Easily the most astonishing growth over the years has been the wine grape sector. Just 10 years ago, the production value stood at $36 million. In 2015, it topped $147 million – a whopping 308 percent increase from 2005. No other Oregon agricultural commodity has seen a higher increase.

After dropping out of the top 10 for a year, onions has returned after a moderate increase in production value this past year  to $125 million, exactly where it was 10 years ago. Gone from the top 10 is hazelnuts, which saw a large decrease in production in 2015. Nonetheless, its value has grown 50 percent from 2005.

Also outside the top 10, there are three commodities that have shown triple-digit percentage increases over a 10-year period.

Blueberries remains a shooting star among Oregon crops, with a slight bump in 2015, but a huge jump of 246 percent since 2005. Last year’s production of 96.9 million pounds harvested is a record in Oregon and the second consecutive year the value has topped $100 million.

The other two growth commodities include eggs and apples. Egg production value last year skyrocketed to $116 million, which is a 131 percent increase from 2005. Coincidentally, the value of production for apples has also increased 131 percent over that same 10 year period, even though the number is only $44 million. The growing interest in ciders is one possible reason for the recent higher number.

The only Oregon agricultural commodity in the top 20 to actually lose production value in the past 10 years is Christmas trees. Still, the decrease is only 2 percent, and the production value of Christmas trees last year was actually $20 million more than in 2014.

Overall, the swings in production and prices for Oregon crops and livestock have not been tremendously dramatic, with a couple of exceptions. The top 10 and even the top 20 generally contains the same names with a few changes in ranking. Look for that to continue when statistics for 2016 are tabulated.

To download a copy of the latest Oregon Agriculture Facts & Figures brochure, go to:

View the original article at

How Taxpayers Get Fooled On The Cost Of An Artificial Turf Field

Towns all across America are struggling with their budgets. The nation remains stuck in the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression. In states like New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts household income actually fell last year. And retirees everywhere living on their savings are being hurt by near zero interest rates.

So why are some municipalities still spending big bucks to install artificial turf fields? Main reason: taxpayers have been getting hoodwinked by bogus analysis into thinking artificial turf fields are cheaper than natural grass.

But the reality is that non-partisan studies have shown the exact opposite–natural grass fields are a bargain compared to artificial turf due to the huge costs taxpayers get stuck with to maintain and replace artificial fields after their warrantees expire. One of the artificial turf industry’s selling points is that an artificial turf field will last eight-to-10 years, even though the usual warranty runs for only eight, and that the initial exorbitant cost of installation is recouped in no time from tens of thousands in savings from no longer maintaining a natural grass field. Another way proponents of artificial turf skew the math in their favor is by saying many more events will be held on the field once artificial turf is installed, thereby lowering “the cost per event” on the field relative to natural grass. But who knows if that math is based on reality (the fields in my town, Glen Rock, New Jersey, are often vacant)? How can anyone accurately predict the future demographics of a town?

Indeed, the Australian government did a comprehensive study dispelling the myth trumpeted by some politicians and artificial turf makers that artificial turf fields cost less than natural grass in the long term due to lower expenses for upkeep. But the politicians keep coming up with creative ways to fool the taxpayers into thinking they are going to save money in the long run with artificial turf.

For example, below is a chart from a report done by Montgomery County looking at the cost of a natural grass field versus an artificial turf field. Notice that over 20 years the artificial field is 49% more expensive than the grass field (assuming the most expensive natural grass is used). Then, presto! Towards the bottom of the chart the number of hours the artificial turf field is used is doubled to twice the use of the natural grass field, thus based on “cost per hours of use” projections the artificial field is now cheaper. This type of math reminds me of the guy who went to a sale at a store determined to buy enough items on sale so that his he would “save” enough to pay for everything.

Click to enlarge
Left-field screen before installation of artif...

Left-field screen before installation of artificial turf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Comment from FieldTurf: “FieldTurf has always been and will always be committed to the quality of our product and the highest levels of client service.  We stand by our warranties, and in the rare cases that there is a quality issue we work to make it right – period.

We have more than 5,000 fields in place in the United States, and in terms of the handful of cases pointed out here from your source, almost all of them have either been, or are in the process of, being settled amicably.  Many times this means we replace the turf in accordance with the terms of the warranty or allow the client to upgrade to a newer model at a significant discount.

In terms of cost, the facts speak for themselves.  We encourage all potential customers to run the numbers and take a hard look at the financial realities – and the fact that there are more than 10,000 turf fields in the U.S. demonstrates that the result is often recognizing the benefits of turf.  Given major issues such as population growth, declining city infrastructure, and water shortages, ignoring or discounting the importance of considering the usage rate and “cost per use” of artificial turf vs. grass simply doesn’t make sense.”

The fallacy in all this has to do with the concept of “saving” from maintenance of natural grass fields. Even if the budget shows an amount for the maintenance of a natural grass field, the chances are that the amount is not spent on the field. Tax revenue is fungible. Anyone who claims that there are “savings” needs to show how much in reality has been spent on the field in any given fiscal year going back ten years. What this also does not tell is that the savings, assuming there is any real savings, pays only for the initial installation; the savings do not pay for the replacement of the field in eight to 10 years, or perhaps longer.

But since artificial town fields are a new phenomenon, many taxpayers who voted for artificial fields are only now finding out their real cost. One of the many cautionary tales I found during my research was so alarming it was covered by a local news broadcast. It shows how the replacement costs of two artificial fields at different high schools in Missouri had to be replaced at a huge expense because they had tears and balding spots of turf.

I only began to research the subject of turf field costs when I went to a public meeting in my town, where the council wants an artificial turf field to replace our grass field despite the fact that Glen Rock is replete with vacant stores, debasing tax revenue from businesses. We recently had our debt rating downgraded. And an artificial turf field installed at our high school just a few years ago went way over budget due to a debacle involving contaminated soil, and is already showing signs of wear and tear.

At the town meeting, there were two members of the company that is going to install the turf field also present. The turf field guys, mayor and every council member, except for one, were for the artificial turf field, and the council approved a $3 million bond. But they used such nonsensical financial analysis many residents, including myself, have become suspect (an honest summary comparing the costs of an artificial turf field with a natural grass field could be done with four numbers: the total cost of each type of field over a 10 and 15 year period).

Opponents of the artificial turf field got enough signatures in our town to force a referendum. But we still haven’t gotten an honest cost comparison of artificial turf and natural grass fields. Arecent article in our town’s newspaper said the total cost of the artificial field will be “$2.74 million” but does not mention over what time period, so it is a meaningless number.

If the artificial turf guys invade your town, make sure you get an honest count. The citizens of Glen Rock still have not gotten one.

By Mike Ozanian, Forbes Staff Writer

Link to more article resources and to read the article in FORBES HERE


ASTA Chair Passing the Torch

Risa Demasi looks back on her time as the first female chair of the American Seed Trade Association

Risa Demasi is wrapping up her term as chair of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). As the first woman to lead the board of the 133-year-old organization, she’s preparing to hand the reins off to a new chairperson, and in doing so will pass on some valuable lessons that she learned while at the helm.

“Talk about learning a lot. I’ve really grown professionally,” the 50-year-old partner at Grassland Oregon says. “ASTA is in a good position now. The board is engaged and committed, and it’s a tremendous honor to serve with some of the greatest leaders and thinkers of our industry.”

Demasi took the helm as chair at a crucial time for ASTA, when the organization was gearing up to move into a new era in the seed industry — one marked by exciting new technology and an increasingly connected world. Her immediate goal was to speak with all incoming regional vice presidents, division and committee chairs, directors at large, U.S. regional and Canadian and Mexican representatives, and ASTA senior staff. And she wanted to do it in the first 100 days of her time as chair.

She calls them her “hundred-day calls”.

“Those first calls were really instrumental for me to get a finger on the pulse of what everyone was thinking and allowed us to open a deeper dialogue than we may have had otherwise. It was clear to me right off the bat that we all want the best for the industry, to make sure it’s positioned well, and to bring everyone up to a top level of influence,” she says.

“Those calls were key in understanding what I needed to do and know that we were all on the same page. We used the results of those calls as we opened both of our executive committee meetings. It was incredibly valuable.”

For Demasi, the fact that ASTA was in such a good place when she became chair made her job all the more important, she says. She notes that ASTA board members and staff are active within the industry, and are working to ensure a healthier seed industry for everyone.

“Our director of state government affairs, Pat Miller, has been to every U.S. state capitol on our behalf. He continues to monitor every bill or initiative that may affect our industry and keeps us abreast of new developments,” she notes.

Tim Johnson of Illinois Foundation Seeds, who is on ASTA’s executive committee, has also recently served as president of the International Seed Federation. “The world is smaller all the time. We’re committed to taking a leadership role on critical issues in international organizations that influence the seed industry,” Demasi says.

She adds that Ric Dunkle, ASTA’s senior director for seed health and trade, is well respected by government agencies around the world and continues to work with them to ensure seed is able to move efficiently across borders and eliminate non science-based barriers.

“You could likely name any country and Ric will have participated in phytosanitary regulations or conversations there,” Demasi says.

“When things are working as well as they are, that’s the best time to review. That’s a real position of strength. We have such a rich and harmonious diverseness, which is our strength. Not only do we ensure every voice is heard, we want everyone to see themselves as a part of the organization,” she says.

Reaching Out

Her second goal was to establish benchmarks and metrics to measure ASTA’s progress in executing its five-year strategic plan, especially in regard to reaching out and improving communication — between sectors, with federal and state governments, among generations, within the association and to the public.

The feedback she received fell into five areas: Cross-sector communication, advocacy, inter-generational communication, internal communication and public outreach.

“While other organizations inside and outside of agriculture are just becoming aware that communication is critical, ASTA is ahead of the curve. One of our biggest challenges is communicating how innovations such as new breeding techniques are contributing to our quality of life,” she says. “People are lining up to get the latest iPhone, but advancements in agriculture aren’t viewed in the same light. We need to change that.”

ASTA recently launched a brand new website, just one of its efforts to capture attention and ensure the organization is able to better reach out to a wider, younger audience.

“When we meet people where they are, instead of just responding to fears, we can give them confidence, whether it’s organic products or new breeding techniques.”


ASTA has been working on new communications tools it plans to unveil in the next few months. It’s those tools that will help build on the legacy Demasi leaves as she passes the torch to a new chair — Mark Herrmann of AgReliant Genetics, who is currently vice chair. Second vice chair Tracy Tally will move into the position of vice-chair.

“Risa brought up communication as a major issue, and it just so happens it coincides with what the ASTA board has been working on for a few years now,” says Tally, owner of Texas-based Justin Seed Co. “I think that will be a big part of her legacy — continued communication, reaching out and understanding the need to communicate, to reach out to the membership and have one-on-one conversations with them.”

Tally says Demasi had a knack not just for helping ASTA communicate better as an organization, but for helping individual board members better communicate with one another in situations where a collective mentality can sometimes take over.

“She always made the situation relaxed and allowed people to open up and discuss their concerns,” he says. “With her board meetings, we typically started off as a whole board, but then we had breakout sessions to allow us to take a very serious topic and situation and talk about it in small groups. Then we’d bring it back to the whole group. That was hugely helpful in fostering a sense of individuality in that group setting, which is very important.”

Demasi says it’s crucial to her that board members feel like they have a say, which allows members to stay positive and work for the benefit of the organization as a whole.

“Too often people get caught up looking at differences, making it easy to get sidetracked. When you focus on what you have in common, you find the glue that holds you together and you find the path forward. You can accomplish anything you set out to,” she says.

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