The CAMP mentor/protégé series continues with this second profile on NRCS Soil Scientist Emily Yulga and Pinal County farmer Nancy Caywood. They have already met more than once, and both have exchanged insights and appreciation for the experiences. 


With the 2021 launch of the Conservation Agricultural Mentoring Program (CAMP) in Arizona, 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 its partnership effort with Arizona Farm Bureau. 


Arizona Farm Bureau and NRCS continue to shine a bright light on this exciting program and the experiences our mentors and protégé are going through. So much so that Class 2 began last October.


The Yulga Caywood partnership, along with all the mentor protégé partnerships, works to understand Arizona agriculture and conservation opportunities, joining forces to provide firsthand experience of the conservation practices and agricultural happenings in the southern Arizona area. 


 Nancy Caywood, Mentor

Talk about your first meeting: Emily attended a farm tour on our farm where she learned about cotton, alfalfa, drought and water conservation. The tour that day included many of my teaching friends and lunch was provided at the end of the program. She had a chance to mingle with some of the teachers and learn more about our community.


Share specifics about what you got out of it as the farmer/mentor: I always enjoy sharing “our story” and water is the first chapter!  In the past, we took advantage of both the EQUIP Program and the PL-566 program through NRCS. The outcome of these programs is to better water conservation through land leveling and concrete-lined ditches. Emily could see the outcome firsthand done by the Casa Grande Field Office.


For the remaining time with the program, what do you also hope to help with? We have had our second meeting. Emily attended a West Pinal NRCD Board Meeting which helped her see firsthand how these boards work closely with the NRCS to provide conservation programs to agricultural producers and education to their communities.

 We are also planning time for Emily to ride with Eddie Enriquez who manages the Irrigation Management Service through the Casa Grande NRCS Field Office. Plans to go to Hoover Dam are underway as well as farm and ranch visits with local growers where Emily can ask questions and gain an understanding of their NRCS needs.



Emily Yulga, Protégé 

What’s been the biggest takeaway so far from your first gathering? Nancy’s extensive knowledge of natural resources, southwest farming, and the history of her family’s land has been my biggest takeaway so far. It’s been great to discuss water, cotton farming, or the land use changes in Pinal County with Nancy. These conversations have portrayed to me how vast one’s knowledge must be as an agricultural producer, and just how complex the job is. I’ve really enjoyed learning this perspective from Nancy.


Share specifics about one of your meetings. What did you learn?  A hayride around the farm, a discussion of water shortages, a cotton growing presentation, and homemade lunch comprised our first meeting. It was a crash course in water issues facing Pinal County and much of the southwest, the nitty gritty of cotton growing, and a lot of discussion about the agricultural community and how the puzzle pieces fit together. 


Why have you felt this program has been helpful? Growing up in the Midwest, and not on a farm or ranch, means I must take advantage of opportunities that will help me learn from the agricultural communities’ perspective, especially after moving to the southwest. It’s a learning curve, and Nancy and the CAMP program have helped clarify some points of confusion and brought to light challenges and triumphs unique to the area that I didn’t know, I didn’t know.


What more do you hope to learn in the coming months? I hope to learn more about the water issues across Arizona, farming techniques in the southwest, and how NRCS, conservation districts, and the Farm Bureau all work together to support farmers and ranchers. 


What are you looking forward to in your other meetings/gatherings/learning and sharing sessions in the future? I look forward to great conversations with Nancy, and to learning from her and her peers. I’m excited to attend more NRCD and/or Farm Bureau meetings, tour Hoover Dam, and learn more about Arizona agriculture, soil, and water.