I am honored to be chosen as AACD's Conservation Education Director and I am excited to work with such a great team. Having this team together will permit the AACD, and the NRCDs, to do the following: (1) Obtain more and varied funding sources, with the goal to become self sustainable; (2) Establish and further enhance existing partnerships and collaborations; (3) Further all Strategic and Financial Plans; and (4) Meet all statutory obligations, among other things.
Many of you already know me as I was lucky enough to have worked with the NRCDs for the past seven years. Still, I would like to share a bit of background with you all.
I was born and raised in Phoenix, I lived away for ten years, including CA, DC, WY, GA, etc., but I have lived in this great state most of my life. What is most interesting about me is that I grew up very anti-agriculture in that I thought farmers and ranchers abused their animals, polluted the environment, and I did not even know where my food came from. I received my B.S. from ASU and worked as a wildlife biologist for about four years, surveying endangered/threatened species, etc. for various environmental groups/entities.
Afterwards, I went to law school with the hope of becoming a nonprofit environmental attorney, and I did three law clerk internships with groups that might not necessarily appreciate agriculture. As luck would have it, I could not obtain a job with a nonprofit environmental organization, so I practiced law for seven years as a general civil litigation attorney (construction law, property law, bankruptcy, etc.). Then, because I was miserable, I looked to go back to my earlier conservation work and gave up practicing law altogether.
I found Arizona Land and Water Trust (ALWT), which is an organization that seeks to conserve agriculture and open space. To be honest, at the time I took the job, I did not understand why one would want to conserve agriculture, but I knew I had an open mind and decided to take the position. During those four years, I met Arizona’s farmers and ranchers and was educated about agriculture at the source. I learned that not only is agriculture vital because it provides our food, open space, and is a large contributor to the economy, but also farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of the land and the animals on it.
Throughout my four years at ALWT, I was fortunate enough to be a member of Class XXIII of Project CENTRL (Center for Rural Leadership) and received further education about how vital agriculture is to society. But, the pivotal point for me, the truly life changing moment, was really getting to learn about the NRCDs and meet the Supervisors.
Farmers and ranchers volunteering their time to conserve agriculture AND natural resources completely contradicted all that I had believed growing up. I now had a very comprehensive and positive view about agriculture. As such, the NRCDs will always have a special place in my heart. It is because of you all that I am now one of the greatest proponents for agriculture, and for the NRCDs. I truly believe that if the public knew about NRCDs and the work you all do, it would have the same impact on them as it did me.
During my employment with ALWT I was able to gain experience seeking and obtaining large amounts of funding, developing large collaborations, engaging in education/outreach, and overall working to further the goals of this organization. The last three years working for the AZ Department of Agriculture has allowed me to further hone these skills; I also enhanced my existing relationships with local, state, federal, and Tribal entities as well as developed new key partnerships.
Please know that, along with this great AACD team, I intend to diligently advocate for the AACD and the NRCDs, further the goals of the AACD and NRCDs, expand the funding sources sought/obtained as well as strengthen existing partnerships while also establishing new ones. And I look forward to working with all of you.
Thank you for this opportunity, and for making such a big difference in my life!
Conservation Education Director