Arizona's Conservation Agricultural Mentoring Program Profile
First, in a series, we profile mentor Nancy Caywood of Caywood Farms and protégé Meredith Truelove of Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). For the next 18 months, they and 9 other mentor/protégé partners will gather periodically to learn and experience more boots-on-the-ground agriculture and conservation practices in Arizona through the Conservation Agricultural Mentoring Program (CAMP).
With the launch this last April of the Conservation Agricultural Mentoring Program (CAMP), in partnership with Arizona Farm Bureau, The NRCS team has been front and center in enthusiastically driving this unique partnership. While several other states have the CAMP program, Arizona is unique in the partnership effort with Arizona Farm Bureau.
At the beginning of this 18-month effort, Arizona Farm Bureau and NRCS want to shine a bright light on this exciting program and the experiences our mentors and protégé are experiencing.
Caywood and Truelove: Nancy Caywood (left) and Meredith Truelove have gathered twice under the CAMP umbrella with their first outing being the Coolidge Dam.
Meredith Truelove and I met for our first CAMP Adventure on Wednesday, May 12th, and our destination was Coolidge Dam/San Carlos Lake. There is something about a visual! The dam is capable of 1.2-million-acre-feet of water and on May 12th, it had only 47.50-acre-feet of water. Meredith had never been to Coolidge Dam and just looking at an empty lake with a very large dam structure was very impressive in a sad way. She gained an understanding of its history as well as how it impacts farmers in parts of Pinal County.
On June 9, Meredith also visited AG CAMP held at Casa Grande Middle School. We visited Oliver Anderson, a longtime farmer near the town of Maricopa, and visit his flower drying shed. We also went to the Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation District where we met with several employees who described their positions at the district. This was a great opportunity for Meredith to network and learn about irrigation, water and soil conservation in the Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation District. She also gave a 30-minute presentation on soils to the students attending AG Camp.
Thanks for this opportunity. I feel this program is so valuable.
Report on the general/initial meetup(s). On our first meetup, Nancy and I attended a field day at the Coolidge Dam just south of San Carlos, AZ. We walked around the viewing areas but were restricted due to construction work. While at the Coolidge Dam, Nancy and I discussed the history behind the Dam and how it relates to the drought conditions in Arizona. Nancy also shared some of her family history about how her father worked on the construction of the Dam. We made sure to get plenty of pictures!
Our second meetup was at the Casa Grande Middle School for the Arizona Farm Bureau’s Ag Camp. I held a soil texturing demonstration for the kids at Ag Camp and talked to the students about soil texture and soil structure. After the demonstration, I talked to the students about the work that I do with the NRCS and how I can apply the soil texturing methods that I demonstrated to my conservation efforts. Lastly, Nancy and I also made sure to talk to the students about the educational requirements to be eligible for a job with the USDA.
What’s been the biggest takeaway so far? For me, the biggest takeaway so far is learning about the drought in Arizona. Nancy has shared with me some of the backgrounds on her family’s farm Caywood Farms, and how the drought continues to impact their ag production. There has been a lot of emotional and mental takeaways from listening to Nancy talk about the drought and the impact on all agricultural land in southern Arizona. Many questions have been raised especially when it comes to the agricultural future of the area.
Why have you felt this program has been helpful? As a Casa Grande local, Nancy knows a lot about the people and the environment in the Pinal County area. She has taught me a lot about the goals and challenges of the producers when it relates to the ongoing drought. Overall, this program has been helpful for me because as a Soil Conservationist, I need to know more about the needs, goals and challenges of the producers, farmers and ranchers in the area.
Editor’s note: This ongoing series will profile CAMP’s 10 Arizona mentor/protégés.