Hard to believe it has been a year since joining AOA! Seems like just a few days ago I was showing up to the office for my first day of training and orientation. Time has gone by so fast. I am so honored to be the executive director of AOA and to serve our wonderful membership. Over the past year, I have had the honor to get to know our members all over this wonderful country. Below are some thoughts of the past year, and of course thinking of the year ahead of us.

When this journey began, I was excited for the opportunity to get out and meet the members! Rarely is there a day when we have "foot traffic" in our office from the members, and the only way for your national office to build relationships is to be out there, with the members. Over the course of the year, I had the great fortune to attend 14 different shows, affiliate meetings, and alpaca related events. What an opportunity to get to know the membership. Not a show went by without making new connections and building wonderful relationships with AOA members. I have learned so much in the first year on the job and I cannot thank you, our members, enough for your helping me learn each and every day about the industry. I particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to get "on the job training" in the show ring, both observing with our judges and serving as a ring steward. What a wonderful experience. 

In addition to attending shows and education events, I was able to get out and learn from our DNA lab, spending a few days in their facility, actually watching them begin the process of testing and learning how our testing program works. After discussion with DDC and our Board of Directors, we agreed to a five-year extension to the contract with DDC.  

During the course of the year, we ramped up our efforts to promote the industry with our "Alpaca: Feel the Difference" ad in the USDA special edition of USA Today. This ad is available to our membership and I encourage you to use the ad as it benefits your farm. Then this fall, the episode of American Farmer aired with the segment featuring the alpaca industry. What a wonderful experience to work with the production company and our members to put together a great piece about alpacas.

Last spring, a US Senator attacked the industry, and AOA was prepared with a swift response, controlling the message, which culminated with a piece on CBS This Morning. Ultimately, the piece showed a positive light on alpacas and the industry and we were able to control the message.

The National Show in Denver was spectacular. Being my first, I had no idea what to expect and based on the member comments, this was a great show to attract public interest. We had thousands of public traffic, learning about the industry and purchasing alpaca products. One vendor commented on the fact they far exceeded their goals for the weekends. We look forward to working hard again in 2018 to make the show in Peoria everything Denver was, and more.

2018 will bring forth a revamp of the "fleece conference," with the Natural Fiber Extravaganza! We look forward to going to the Nashville area to work with natural fiber enthusiasts, to attend outstanding education seminars and workshops, and shop for amazing products. This change is a direct result of the efforts of the fiber committee and their work over the past few years. Thank you to all of them for their dedication and vision.

2018 will bring a change in how advertising in Alpacas Magazine is managed. All sales will be handled through the AOA office. Now, for the exciting news on advertisings. During membership renewal in December and January, purchase 3 ads and get 1 free! That is a wonderful opportunity to advertise in the magazine to promote your business. Call our office at 402-437-8484 to sign up today.  

Finally, as you renew your membership with AOA, please consider taking advantage of the amazing packages to help promote your business. We will continue working hard on your behalf here at headquarters and would be honored to have you continue your membership. Also, if you have friends who haven't joined AOA, this is going to be a great year to be a member of AOA.

Thank you for your continued support of AOA! It is my honor to serve our membership. I appreciate your welcoming me to the business and look forward to where we will go together in the years to come.