Preparing this report has given me the opportunity to reflect on this past year, and I am in awe of everything CAST has accomplished. What quickly became apparent to me is how all our efforts in CAST are truly interconnected, just as depicted in the Strategic Plan circular flow chart. Because of this group effort, we have been incredibly prolific, publication-wise. Six reports, along with accompanying Ag quickCASTs, were published and rolled out in 2018, to date, with an additional report scheduled for release later this year. This productivity could not have been accomplished without our CAST members. The 2018 publication releases include:
Our Spring (April) Board of Director’s meeting was held at the Syngenta America office in Washington, D.C. This gave us the opportunity to visit with a number of organizations and stakeholders located in the D.C. area. We also hosted an event focused around the Borlaug CAST Communication Award (BCCA). Mr. Steve Censky, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, welcomed us. Dr. Jayson Lusk (2017 BCCA winner) gave an outstanding presentation–“The Politicization of Food Consumption and Communication.” After his talk, I was honored to announce the 2018 BCCA winner, Dr. Marty Matlock. Being a faculty member at Mississippi State University, it was also an honor to make this announcement in the Jamie L. Whitten (USDA) building, named for our State’s long-serving Congressman.
Our BCCA breakfast was held October 17, and this official side event of the World Food Prize was well attended. Dr. Matlock gave a great presentation–“The Promise of Prosperity from the Land in the 21st Century.” CropLife Foundation generously agreed to repartner with CAST for a 3-year commitment to fund this BCCA event. In opening remarks, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, reinforced that our event was an integral component of the overall World Food Prize experience. CAST member organizations were also well represented at this and other side events, and in the displays lining the hallways outside meeting rooms. I’m confident we will continue to have a strong presence at the World Food Prize.
We are fortunate to have a number of member organizations committed to CAST’s mission. In efforts to keep them better-informed, we began providing quarterly updates. In addition, I reached out to the presidents of all of our society members to thank them for their continued support and provided them with a timely update. Knowing that attracting additional member organizations is also important, we focused on contacting those not currently members. Being from academia, I tried to attract greater university participation in CAST. A change suggested by the Strategic Plan’s Strong Financial Base Implementation Team, tweaked by the Governance Committee and approved by the Board of Directors, enabled a tiered membership for universities, with membership dues based on overall student enrollment in agriculture-based majors. Therefore, I contacted 62 smaller universities, introducing them to CAST and informing them about this lower membership fee, and I am hopeful that we will have more than one take advantage of this membership opportunity in the near future.
In preparing this report, I’ve also taken time to reflect on my “place” in CAST. The structure of the CAST presidency is akin to a relay race. I’ve had one year to train and stretch, one year to run, and, once I pass the baton to Dr. Gabe Middleton (incoming President), I will have one year for cool-down. Then I will cycle out of CAST, although I will always remain connected through my lifetime membership commitment. Most of our previous CAST Presidents have cycled out of CAST, and in an effort to retain these former “athletes,” I formed the Past President’s Advisory Council. Although under-utilized this past year, my hope is that future CAST Presidents will call on us when needed.
It’s hard to put into words how grateful and honored I am to have served in this role; it has been a great run! This experience was a highlight of my professional career. It took a village called CAST to enable me to serve as President. As such, there are so many individuals, and organization members, I want to thank. First and foremost, sincere thanks go to Kent Schescke and the entire CAST staff. Until you have had the opportunity to serve in this type of position, you don’t realize what an amazing group of talented, dedicated, and awesomely nice people we are fortunate to have in the CAST office. Each member of the Board of Directors has been extremely supportive and I could not have asked for a better group of colleagues to work with. I could always rely on the Board of Trustees to offer strong stewardship. And, although I didn’t get to know each Board of Representatives member, I am thankful for your support and hard work. You are CAST!
One last thing to say – Gabe, get ready to take the baton!
Your donation to CAST helps support the CAST mission of communicating science to meet the challenge of producing enough food, fiber and fuel for a growing population. Every gift, no matter the size, is appreciated.