Continuing our CAMP mentor/protégé series, we profile Sonia Gasho, Cochise County Farm Bureau President and owner of Gasho Land and Cattle and NRCS employee Brett Meyers in this latest article.
With the launch this last April of the Conservation Agricultural Mentoring Program (CAMP), in partnership with Arizona Farm Bureau, The NRCS team have 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 continue to shine a bright light on this exciting program and the experiences our mentors and protégé are going through.
The Gasho/Meyers partnership will be working together for the next 18 months, joining forces to provide firsthand experience to the conservation practices and agricultural happenings in the southern Arizona area. Of special note, Gasho’s degree is in environmental sciences and in her early career was employed by NRCS.
Thus far the CAMP program has been enjoyable. Brett and I were able to tour our ranch and Brett attended the Riggs Field Day FFA Competition (a local event held to host FFA students for a regional competition in various Career Development Events). As a result, Brett was able to meet/visit with the Willcox-San Simon staff.
On the ranching side, we have monitoring in the works for October and discussed the good and bad of EQIP. Getting monitoring done will be a big help on our end as it's tough to make it a priority and take the time without outside help.
In our area, have 10 key areas and associated transects to read. Since we have done brush removal in some areas it will be interesting to see the difference in production, particularly with the previous years of drought and this year’s good monsoon.
What’s been the biggest takeaway so far?
Sonia has taken the time to explain production agriculture, natural resources in her area, and the hurdles they face in their area. Furthermore, expressing the fact that the best technical solution is not always best for the producer, and conservations plans should address that.
Why have you felt this program has been helpful?
I had the pleasure to travel to Sonia’s family ranch and receive a tour where Sonia expressed the importance of coordinated resource management plans, and the value was evident with the success of the multi-agency projects that have taken place – especially, the ‘frog pond!’
This program has increased my knowledge and grown relationships with Arizona Producers. Producers face an array of issues rather than just natural resource concerns, and us as conservationists need to be aware of this.
What more do you hope to learn about in your area?
What I want to learn from the program is the rancher/farmer perspective on the NRCS, and what could we, as field staff, do is to ease the EQIP process, etc.