Teaming Technology with Tradition
Interview with Jackie Atkins, Coordinator of Fall Focus 2016 by Emme Troendle
Tell me a little bit about Fall Focus 2016, Educational Symposium and Board Meeting.
“This year there are a lot of exciting, new things at the Fall Focus. We are having the ASA headquarters Grand Opening, which is exciting for a lot of different reasons. Starting on Friday, at 9 am, we will have 30-minute tours, all day. ASA printed a special issue, historical booklet that will be released that day, and then the Grand Opening Ceremony starts at 5:45 p.m. There will be an official cutting of the ribbon, and barbeque with live music—and door prizes!
Saturday is the main educational session. We are really excited about this year’s program. The speakers will focus on tying the tradition of breeding and raising cattle, seedstock with all the new technologies that have become available. So we will heavily focus on animal breeding, genetics and genomics — and a big spotlight on BOLT our new genetic evaluation software.
We have great speakers this year: Dr. Patrick Hatfield, Montana State University (MSU), focusing on Beef Cattle Research at MSU; Dr. Dorian Garrick from Iowa State University discussing the information learned from IGS genomics, and genetic evaluation; Dr. Bruce Golden, part owner of Theta Solutions and the key person behind BOLT; Dr. Mahdi Saatchi, recently hired at ASA, the lead genomicist for IGS. We also have Dr. Jared Decker from the University of Missouri, and he writes the Steak in Genomics blog. His focus will be implementing this technology; and then, the ASA staff, Drs. Wade Shafer, Lauren Hyde, Jackie Atkins, will do the nuts and bolts of animal breeding, EPDs and Indexes.
Saturday night there will be a big social event. Everyone is welcome—family, spouse, and kids. Weather permitted it will be outside at the Holiday Inn Courtyard. Sunday and Monday, the open committee meetings with the Board of Trustees and ASA staff will be in session at the Holiday Inn. Everyone is invited.”
What else is new this year at Fall Focus?
“The educational day will include a youth program this year. The topics are Ag advocacy, social media training, BQA, and a skill-a-thon.
Suze Bohleen, from Montana Cattlewomen will discuss beef advocacy and spreading a positive message. Ryan Goodman from AgriClear and Agriculture Proud Blog, will speak about educating the public respectfully and positively. Dr. Rachel Endecott, Beef Specialist at MSU, will discuss beef quality assurance, and a skill-a-thon set up by the Montana Simmental Association will follow.
The last talk of the youth program will be Chip Kemp, and he will address what programs ASA has that can help these kids in the future — not just the AJSA, but the programs that ASA offers to members that they aren’t as familiar with.”
What about the Fall Focus is going to benefit ASA members and the general public?
“Fall Focus isn’t just an educational event, there are a lot of social events, time to reacquaint with friends, meet new people and staff—it’s also a board meeting. ASA Board Meetings are always open for members to attend; attending Fall Focus makes it even easier to sit in on the meeting, and see how the Board operates, the issues and topics that they are working through. It is also is a good opportunity for members to visit with Trustees about issues of concern to them.”
How many are you expecting to attend?
“We expect about 200 people, last year 175 attended. Currently we have 172 people signed up for the Friday night BBQ and 153 registered so far for the educational portion. The registration is free, but they need an idea of meal counts.”
What are you looking forward to the most about this event?
“Honestly, everything about this meeting. I love the educational session, but I’m a nerd, so I get into those things. Fall Focus is a great opportunity to learn new things and ask questions. It’s one of the things that impress me the most about the audience. Over the past few years, they are engaged, taking notes and asking questions. We always go overtime, but its well-used time.
I also love the social part of it. I have been here three years, but the chance to meet people face-to-face that you have only talked to on the phone, and have never met before is really rewarding. Then, the board meetings are something to look forward to. The fall meeting has a heavier interaction between members and the Board of Trustees, giving both ASA and board members the chance to interact.”