Game, Set, Match: NRCS Mentoring Program Secures Class 2
Successful American Actor Denzel Washington is credited with saying, “Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living — if you do it well, I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing you the way. A mentor.” He’s right and the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) mentor program is proof.
In October, in partnership with NRCS, Arizona Farm Bureau hosted Class 1 Conservation Agricultural Mentoring Program (CAMP) graduates during a luncheon event in Gilbert. At the same time, the partnership also hosted a “kickoff” for the new class, Class 2. Like the first class, Class 2 is comprised of 10 NRCS employees (proteges) and 10 farm and rancher mentors. Class 2 now begins a 12-month engagement effort with their agriculture mentors to learn more about Arizona agriculture.
Arizona Farm Bureau and The National Resource Conservation Service began a partnership in 2021 to engage in an exciting program that aids NRCS employees in understanding Arizona agriculture at the ground level. CAMP provides a mentoring structure between farmers and ranchers and the NRCS employees. While several other states have the NRCS CAMP program, Arizona is unique in that it partners with Arizona Farm Bureau due to our extensive network of farm and ranch members.
Arizona Farm Bureau and NRCS will continue to shine a bright light on this exciting program and the experiences our mentors and protégé are going through. Watch for protégé/mentor profiles in the coming month with Class 2 on the pages of Arizona Agriculture, Arizona’s leading farm and ranch publication.
NRCS’s Arizona producer-employee mentoring effort creates an organic partnership approach between the agricultural community and NRCS. This effort assists with the completion of the national NRCS’ goal of connecting NRCS employees to local producers for regionalized, hands-on knowledge of production agriculture and local natural resources in Arizona.
The core goals for this partnership effort are that participating NRCS employees (proteges) advance their professional expertise related to:
1. Production of agriculture in their local areas,
2. Local resource concerns, and
3. How NRCS and producers can address local resource concerns.
The outcomes already show a deeper awareness of the types of challenges and decisions our farmers and rancher face each day and enhance their local community relationships and capacity to provide excellent customer service. It’s also fostered great relationships between mentor and protégé.
Says Class One NRCS graduate Brett Myers, “My mentor, Sonia Gasho, has taken the time to explain production agriculture, natural resources in her area, and the hurdles they face. Furthermore, expressing the fact that the best technical solution is not always the best for the producer, partnered conservation plans should address that.”
The biggest insights for NRCS employee and Class 1 participant Meredith Truelove involve Arizona’s water challenges. “For me, the biggest takeaway so far is learning about the drought in Arizona. Nancy [Caywood] 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 have been a lot of emotional and mental takeaways from listening to Nancy talk about the drought and its impact on all agricultural land in southern Arizona. Many questions have been raised especially when it comes to the agricultural future of the area.
Truelove adds, “As a Casa Grande local, Nancy [Caywood] 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.”
Already, most participants in Class 2 have already had a farm or ranch visit since the October kickoff event.