Arizona Farm Bureau has partnered with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service to pair 10 NRCS employees with 10 Arizona Farm Bureau farmers and ranchers who serve as mentors for NRCS’ Conservation Agricultural Mentoring Program. While several other states have CAMP, only in Arizona does NRCS partner with Farm Bureau.
Both Arizona Farm Bureau and NRCS have benefited from the strengthening of the organizations’ relationship through the program.
“We connect our farmers and ranchers from the Farm Bureau family with NRCS employees in the hopes of advancing both NRCS’ professional expertise and Arizona agriculture,” explained Julie Murphree, director of outreach for the Arizona Farm Bureau.
“We went the extra step here in Arizona. We saw an opportunity to strengthen our partnership bonds between Arizona NRCS and the Arizona Farm Bureau. Their business acumen, resources and membership add an enhanced layer to this national mentoring effort that no other states have tapped into in the nation,” said USDA-NRCS Assistant State Conservationist Rebecca de la Torre.
Once matched with a Farm Bureau producer mentor, the NRCS employee, who is usually new to the job or new to the area, goes out on the land with the producer six to 12 times over a 12-to-18-month period to learn about common agricultural practices, local concerns and how producers use conservation measures.
According to Murphree, some of the best mentor-protégé experiences include one-on-one visits (virtual or on the farm/ranch), small field trips to nearby farms and ranches and Farm Bureau events.
Expectations are high for the participating NRCS employees, who are called protégés. They must familiarize themselves with the program materials, schedule times to meet with their mentors, report their progress to their supervisor every six months and maintain a positive attitude and openness to learning.
Similarly, mentors must also get to know the program objectives, make time for their protégés and maintain a positive attitude and openness to sharing.
“For both the mentors and protégés, we really encourage a commitment to sharing, listening and learning. We also want them to celebrate the experience,” Murphree said, noting that though the program runs for 18 months at most, the relationships between the mentors and protégés goes well beyond that.
Arizona Farm Bureau’s partnership with NRCS garnered the organization a 2022 New Horizon Award from the American Farm Bureau Federation. The award, which honors state Farm Bureaus with the most innovative new programs, is presented annually at the AFBF Annual Convention.