The CAMP mentor/protégé 2024 series continues for Class 3 with rancher Michael Macauley and NRCS employee, Sierra Frydenlund. The Macauley/Frydenlund/Courtright team has met in person and Sierra and Scott are looking forward to learning more about Arizona ranching operations including managing obstacles, inventory processes, and more. 


The Conservation Agricultural Mentoring Program (CAMP) in Arizona, in partnership with the Arizona Farm Bureau, has now been at it for three years. This program, unique in its regard, has a double dose of uniqueness as the Arizona NRCS team approached the Farm Bureau to partner with them in the effort. 


The Macauley/Frydenlund/Courtright partnership, along with all the mentor protégé partnerships for Class 3, works to understand Arizona agriculture and conservation opportunities, joining forces to provide firsthand experience of the conservation practices and agricultural happenings


Mentor: Michael Macauley

Talk about your first and subsequent meetings:  I have met and spoken with Sierra several times at the NRCS office here in Flagstaff. The conversations concerned current projects we have through NRCS for grassland restoration.  This is important for her to learn and know about as it is the basis for the management of grazing livestock, and the benefits to wildlife.  To complement those conversations Sierra has accompanied us on our seasonal monitoring.  She has been exposed to learning about different grasses, the growing seasons of those grasses and learning about the importance of biodiversity.

Share specifics about what you got out of it as the rancher: Working with and through this program with the Protege is educational for both the Protege and the mentor.  As a mentor, you relearn and rethink what you, as a producer, are working toward.  You must “know” and understand the WHY you do what you do.  Passing that knowledge on to another person helps you stay connected to the environment, the ecological side, and the importance of a healthy, biodiverse grassland.

For the remaining time with the program, what do you also hope to help with? Understanding the importance of working together makes us better at what we do.  Regardless of our backgrounds, the importance of agriculture, food production, and our relationship with the environment is vital.  But it goes far beyond what happens in the field.  Helping others understand the process of producing, processing, and transporting, food doesn’t just come from the grocery store. The flip side is learning about what is understood by individuals who haven’t been exposed to agriculture.  It is, very much, a two-way street!

Yet to occur: why do we have pastures, how do we conserve water, what is rotational grazing? Then there is Spring Works and Fall Shipping.


Protégé: Sierra Frydenlund

What’s been the biggest takeaway from your first gathering? Subsequent ones if they occurred? One significant component of my first meeting with Mike is that he is multifaceted. He has stories of ranching, but also as a sheriff, and a bus driver. 

How do you see this helping a broader set of NRCS employees? What’s key for you? His life experience made me understand that being involved in agriculture never stops; people evolve, but that knowledge never goes away. It is truly ingrained in oneself. 

Why have you felt this program has been helpful? This program has helped me understand that working in agriculture is a full-time job – ultimately a life’s work. I have learned a lot, but I have much more to attain in terms of knowledge and expertise.

What more do you hope to learn? I hope to learn more about ranching operations in Arizona as a whole: obstacles, inventory processes, collaborative partnerships, etc. My workload primarily consists of cropland, so I don’t get to have an insider look into rangeland systems. 


Protégé: Scott Courtright

What’s been the biggest takeaway from your first gathering? Subsequent ones if they occurred? The biggest takeaway for me was simply seeing what goes into the quarterly range monitoring and how it has been done for such a long period. It reinforced the fact that Mike is required to closely monitor the conditions on his ranch regularly and that it is one part of the larger conservation plan he is implementing. 

How do you see this helping a broader set of NRCS employees? What’s key for you? We are often focused on our day-to-day activities and this opportunity has allowed me to see the bigger picture of conservation that is being done and better understand how NRCS and other partner agencies collaborate with Mike to implement the numerous conservation measures on the ranch. 

Why have you felt this program has been helpful?  I find it extremely rewarding to spend time with Mike to learn about Mike and his ranch. I also have enjoyed the range monitoring and learning about the key plant species that are tracked and how that information is used. It is really interesting to me how closely things are monitored and how the historical data is used. I also appreciate what ranchers do considering all the challenges they face, including the use of ranch lands by the public and how that is managed.

What more do you hope to learn? I just hope to learn more about ranching and to experience more of what ranching involves. There is so much about ranching and agriculture that I do not know about or have not been exposed to, and I look forward to learning more.