When I was young, I loved building things. As boys often do, my older brother and I got into a lot of trouble while building things. We built log forts when out cutting firewood with mom and dad, we built sand forts by the river, we built tree forts and tree houses, straw bale forts, and of course snow forts. Our snow forts were often quite elaborate, with tunnels and secret passage ways and of course came equipped with snow ball ammunition for use on enemy invaders. We were no engineers and as such, I had more than one tunnel collapse on me, but I survived!
These were the days before iPads, iPods, cell phones, in-home video games, and hundreds of channels on cable or satellite TV. As such, we spent hours and sometimes days completing the construction of these forts. We didn’t mind the extreme Nebraska heat or cold, and enjoyed putting the necessary work in to see our creations through to completion. We were so proud to look at what we had built and excited to show others how great it was, that the time and effort spent didn’t matter and the results made it all worth it.
The desire to create is inherent in human nature. We crave the challenge and relish in development of a new idea or project. There are many reasons people create. Some do it for the intrinsic value they gain from creating something, some do it to benefit others, and some do it for personal gain and benefit, which is also okay.
Our industry is no different. I have often been in awe of what has been built since this industry began more than 20 years ago. I was reminded of this recently as the Lincoln office received the files and historical documents from the Nashville office in preparation for their move to a smaller office space. Looking at Alpacas Magazines dating back to 1990 and all the various years of National Conference books was amazing and a great reminder of just how far we have come as an industry. Together, we built this! We built this amazing industry centered on a spectacularly unique animal; an industry that supports or supplements thousands of households around North America and even more throughout the world. Make no mistake, the alpaca industry in the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, China, and even Peru would not have advanced nearly as quickly without the ingenuity and planning of the North American alpaca industry.
The founders of our industry had tremendous forethought in how and where they placed the cornerstones of our industry. They knew it was imperative to have an association looking out for the needs of the industry and educating the public about these spectacular animals. They made tough decisions that were necessary in order to expand the industry. Once it became apparent that an association solely dedicated to supporting alpaca owners was needed, the founders created AOBA to fill that void. They then used that organization to build a world class show system, judges training system, national magazine, and marketing program.
These leaders also knew early on that having a scientific based pedigree registry was essential to the genetic success of the industry. Had this not been done, it would have been extraordinarily difficult to implement later due to the cost of entry. Imagine trying to start DNA testing today, with more than 200,000 animals to DNA test. It would be near impossible and incredibly cost prohibitive to accomplish. Over the years, various leaders have continued to expand the science behind the Registry by adding DNA testing, increasing the number of markers tested, further expanding validation options, adding the EPD program, and supporting alpaca research.
The things you have all helped build, that we have built together, are amazing for an industry of our size and youth. These things happened through your investment; investment of volunteer time, research time, marketing dollars, show registrations, alpaca registrations and transfers, and support. ARI and AOBA were always run at your direction and now AOA continues to be run as you desire.
Over the years some new organizations have started to offer some of the services which are provided by your national organization. While, I think these groups challenge us to consider where and what we might improve, I must confess, it often frustrates me as I wonder why folks who worked so hard to build something, would consider supporting a private company that serves to take away from their national organization. Every dollar spent elsewhere on advertising, registrations, show, auction, or research, is a dollar allocated away from AOA. This potentially weakens your organization, something you all worked so hard to build. These new organizations profit tremendously from what this industry, through your support, already built. For example, the vast majority of alpaca DNA markers in the world were developed at ARI’s request, or through ARI funding. Dollars for that development from your pocket, so these new organizations and business owners are able to benefit from the tens of thousands of dollars that you invested in AOBA, ARI, and now AOA.
Please stay involved and invested in your organization. After all, you built it! Take advantage of the various opportunities we are providing to share your concerns, new ideas, and suggestions on how to implement those improvements to what we do. Then continue to support AOA programs, as well as the staff and Board of Directors who are working to ensure its long term success. I guess that is the point of this message. You determine the future success or failure of the organization, and indeed, the industry through your support and involvement.
We are always learning and always striving to improve, just as my brother and I did, taking suggestions on how to improve our forts, or taking heed as our parents hollered things like “don’t bury your brother in the snow”. AOA depends on your involvement, support and suggestions for continued improvement and expansion of the industry. With your help, we can build one heckuva “snow fort”; an organization that we can continue to look back at with pride, and say “We built this!” As always, have a awesome day!