Newsletter Highlights:
  • Meet Your Local Conservationist, An Interview with Nancy Caywood
  • Conservation Education Spotlight, WYCEC
  • Conservation Corner, Ecological Sites
  • Meet AACD's New Staff Writer & Proposal Manager
Arizona Association of Conservation Districts
June 2020 Newsletter
Meet Your Local Conservationist
An Interview with Nancy Caywood
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your family.

I am the third generation in a five-generation farming family. My grandfather bought our farm at 11-Mile Corner in 1930. My father was raised on this farm and then served in WWII. He met and married my mother after the war and together they purchased a farm near Stanfield, which they farmed from 1947 to 1980. My grandparents gifted them the 11-Mile Corner Farm in the 1960s and was leased out until my son Travis Hartman began farming it in 2006. Travis has been growing cotton and alfalfa.

As I was growing up, my dad would share his love of farming with me and my sister Patty and brother Jim. He taught us to irrigate, let us help him work on tractors, drive tractors, spray weeds, etc. We learned to swim in the irrigation ditches, and we spent many hours in them cooling down in the summertime. I had such a passion for agriculture, but my parents did not encourage me to pursue it as a career. Funny how things come full circle. 
I first became a teacher and taught first and second grades in Casa Grande. Understanding that kids absolutely do not know where their food comes, I incorporated agriculture in the classroom before there was a program for Ag in the Classroom! I arranged for my students to visit the University of Arizona Maricopa Ag Center (MAC) and before I knew it was offered a job by the West Pinal, Coolidge-Florence, and Eloy Natural Resource Conservation Districts (NRCDs) as their first Education Center Director in 1996. I was up for the challenge and left the classroom for a new career! And what a career it has been!!! The three NRCD’s were very supportive of ideas and concepts for a Natural Resource Education Center (NREC). At first, I worked out of my home, but was eventually given an office at the Casa Grande NRCS Field Office. I began networking with UofA MAC and was given the green light to begin children’s programs at MAC. The program was entitled FARM FILLED AG-VENTURES. As interest from schools began to grow and teachers were signing up for field trips, it became apparent that a second person was needed. Mary Sue Beers was hired and together we wrote and developed curriculum and implemented it through school tours. We were off and running and educating several thousand kids a year!!! We also began a Winter Visitor Program and educated around 1,000 winter visitors each year at MAC. In 2002, NREC found a new home at Central Arizona College. The FARM FILLED AG-VENTURES Program is still running strong today under the leadership of Jennifer Salcido. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that I started a program that is still sustainable 24 years later!
During the same time (1997-1999), I began working on my Master’s in Agriculture Education at the University of Arizona. I completed my degree in 2000. In 2001, I was offered the opportunity to begin an education program for the University of California Desert Research and Extension Center in El Centro, California. It is one of nine research farms in California and is a part of UC Davis and ANR (Agriculture and Natural Resources). I named the new program FARM SMART and the mission established by myself and my director, Dr. Paul Sebesta, was “to nurture an awareness about natural and renewable natural resources including agriculture so they can be conserved, managed and available for future generations”. Using some curriculum from FARM FILLED AG-VENTURES and developing new curriculum aligned to Imperial Valley Agriculture, the program was off and running and saw over 6,500 students and winter visitors attended a program in its first year. In 2014, the program reached the 100,000 mark. I retired from the University of California in 2013 so I could be closer to my family. FARM SMART is strong today and I am so proud to have given “birth” to it as well as FARM FILLED AG-VENTURES!

Having retired and time on my hands, I decided to begin an education program on our family farm at 11-Mile Corner. Starting once again from scratch has its challenges – developing, implementing, and marketing the program requires a lot of time but the gratification is amazing because I know how important it is to educate people about agriculture. Curriculum includes cotton, alfalfa, water education, and how we grow crops in the Arizona desert. I could not do these tours without the support of my family. My son Travis grows beautiful cotton for me, and my parents, sister, and grandkids will also help if I need them. We see over 1,000 people a year. It is fun to see visitors excited about being on a farm for the very first time. They are delighted when we go on a hayride and stop at the cotton field and pick cotton. They get to stand inside of a module builder for a picture. We even took the back gate off an old module builder, put bistro tables and pictures inside of it and serve refreshments – and our guests love it! We have many winter visitors, bus tours, college and university groups, agricultural groups, and pre-convention tours for Ag Conventions. Most recently a tour was arranged by the American Embassy for a group of visiting photojournalists from Ubekistan!
What is the history of your farm?

My grandfather, Lewis Storey, purchased the land in 1930. His brother, J.R. Storey, also purchased land a few miles away and they farmed together and were known as Storey Brothers Farms. There is a road to the North of our farm named after them. My granddad grew mostly cotton, alfalfa, wheat, and barley. My dad grew up on this farm and that is where his passion for farming began. After graduation from Casa Grande Union High School, he attended the University of Arizona to begin a degree program in Agronomy. He lived in the Aggie House with others from Casa Grande. World War II broke out upon completion of his second year at the UofA, so he left his studies behind and joined the Navy serving on the U.S.S. Cimarron. Upon returning from the war, he worked for his dad and began to acquire land. After marrying my mother, they bought the farm near Stanfield and farmed it until 1980. My grandfather farmed the 11-Mile Corner farm until the mid-sixties and then gifted it to my parents. The land is in the San Carlos Irrigation District and is completely dependent on water from Coolidge Dam for water. My grandparents and my parents have seen the farm in good years and years of drought. Unfortunately, we are currently suffering from drought, which is still active in eastern Arizona. Coolidge Dam is slightly over 10% capacity which means we are limited to the number of acres that can be farmed.
What crops do you grow on your farm?

Cotton and alfalfa.
Why did you get involved with NRCDs?

My father began serving on the West Pinal NRCD Board in 1962. Shortly after becoming a Board member, he became the Secretary/Treasurer. He held that position until 2018. As I was growing up, he would explain how important the West Pinal NRCD was to him and how their support with conservation practices helped him utilize water more efficiently. 

In 1993, I gained the support of the West Pinal NRCD when I began teaching agriculture in my classroom. The West Pinal NRCD formally recognized my efforts and then nominated me for the AACD Conservation Teacher Award, which I received in 1993. The AACD nominated me for the Southwest Regional Award and in September 1993, West Pinal sent me to Grand Junction, Colorado to receive the Southwestern Region First Place Elementary Teacher Conservation Award sponsored by the National Association of Conservation Districts! 

How long have you been involved with NRCDs?

In 1996, I was hired by West Pinal NRCD, Florence-Coolidge NRCD, and Eloy NRCD to begin the important journey of forming an Education Program. After leaving the Natural Resource Education Center and moving to El Centro, I kept up with the Natural Resource Education Center and West Pinal NRCD through my dad and Mary Sue Beers. Upon my return from El Centro, my dad invited me to attend West Pinal NRCD Board Meetings and upon his retirement I began serving on the Board. I can never replace him because he is an encyclopedia of information based on years upon years of experience. I can only hope to put my best foot forward and serve in the most informed capacity that I can. I rely on him for advice.
What changes have you seen in the West Pinal NRCD since you joined?

I’ve seen the formation and growth of the Irrigation Management Service (IMS), offering evaluation and education for water conservation efforts on farms. I’ve also witnessed Board Members placing incredible value on educating our youth about agriculture which resulted in the formation of the Natural Resource Education Center. Our youth are five and six generations removed from farming and need to be educated about where their food and fiber originates, as well as told about careers related to agriculture. We need to remember they are future voters.
What kind of conservation work have you done on your operation?

Land leveling and concrete-lined ditches with ports .

What, in terms of conservation work, is next for your operation?

Our water is very limited during droughts and Travis is considering more drought tolerant crops.
We’re also working with the San Carlos Irrigation District to have canals lined with concrete for more efficient water conservation and water delivery.
What sort of technologies have you implemented on your farm and how have they changed over the years?

Laser leveling, GPS which makes tractors more efficient because there is no overlapping, and GPS for better water efficiency. I’ve also utilized infrared technology in the past. During the 1980s, I worked for a company called Growers Pest Management. This company was working very closely with Don Garrett, who was then a Water Specialist with the University of Arizona. My job was to use an Infrared Gun and give irrigation recommendations based on figures provided by the UofA. This technology was in its infancy, so there was a huge learning curve taking place, but farmers using this service were reporting better water conservation practices. Even though the original Infrared Thermometers are pretty much history, it paved the way for this technology to be used in drones. We have used some drone technology but are not currently doing so.
What is your favorite thing about being involved with NRCDs? 

I enjoy serving on the West Pinal NRCD Board so that I can stay current on issues that affect farms. I want to support agriculture and be a voice for farmers as they face so many new rules and regulations. The local level is where policy begins and by choosing to be a part of the West Pinal NRCD, I hope to be an effective Board member who can help make a positive difference for our farmers.
Thank you Nancy Caywood!
Conservation Education Spotlight
Western Yavapai Conservation Education Center (WYCEC)
Because of COVID-19, many schools have closed, and the social distancing guidelines put in place have limited the ability of Ed Centers to get in front of children. But the Western Yavapai Conservation Education Center (WYCEC) – established and supported by the Chino Winds and Triangle Natural Resource Conservation Districts – has found a way to circumvent the restrictions placed on us all by COVID-19. In place of in-person classroom visits to local schools, the WYCEC has taken to developing online videos so they can continue to deliver the same agricultural and conservation education children would otherwise receive. 

A typical classroom visit from a WYCEC presenter would include talking to school children about what agriculture is, especially in Arizona, maybe reading a book, and then overseeing a project that teaches something about agriculture. These videos follow the same model and are accompanied by material packets, provided by the WYCEC, that students and parents can arrange to pick up from their schools. Once materials are in hand, students can follow along with the video and complete the project at home. 

The first of these videos is geared towards pre-K – 4th graders. The spring edition of “Ag in the Classroom” (sponsored by the Arizona Farm Bureau and WYECE) is hosted by Chasidy Chiantaretto at her home, Yolo Ranch, in Yavapai County. Chasidy shows those watching what life is like on a cattle ranch and shares her garden with viewers, giving a great example of the kinds of vegetables that can be grown in that area of Arizona. Chasidy then has story time with a book called  Right This Very Minute  by Lisl H. Detlefsen, which shows kids where the very food on their plates comes from – how food is grown and harvested, what it becomes, and how it gets from the land to their own homes. In the final segment of the video, Chasidy guides viewers through a seed germination project. By completing the project, children who participate fully can be entered into a drawing to win a copy of  Right This Very Minute .  

Check out the video below and reach out to the Dawn Salcito if your Ed Center is looking to do something similar! 
Conservation Corner
Ecological Sites
Ecological sites are an important, useful tool to furnish a sound basis for resource assessment and management planning on all land ownership types. Rangelands and forestlands vary considerably in their potential to produce vegetation, their susceptibility to erosion, and their reaction to management. Ecological sites are a classification of land based on climate, landform, soil, vegetation types and how they respond to natural factors (fire, drought), and management (grazing). Different ecological sites are described within each Major Land Resource Area (MLRA) in the state. The MLRAs are geographic regions with similar climate, geology, soils and vegetation, e.g. Sonoran Desert, Colorado Plateau, etc.  An approved list of Ecological Site Descriptions (ESDs) are available online from the Ecosystem Dynamics Interpretive Tool maintained jointly by the Natural Resource Conservation Service and Agricultural Research Service. 

Ecological sites are the basis for rangeland mapping, management planning, and data interpretation. Consideration of the ecological site is essential in collecting and interpreting range trend data, for evaluating rangeland health, and for selecting and predicting outputs from rangeland management practices. The Districts understand this and this is why they passed a resolution July 11, 2019, “ Increased Emphasis on Ecological Site Descriptions and Soil Surveys”  to encourage the systematic and cohesive use of ESDs. It is imperative that as landowners and stakeholders we utilize ecological sites for consistent and science-based conservation planning and management.

Finally, while there has been progress over the past years to classify and describe soils and ecological sites, the job is not done. There are areas which lack either soil surveys or ESDs, or the descriptions are out of date or based on minimal information. As new information accumulates, ESDs and soil surveys should be periodically updated and made current. At the behest of the Districts, AACD has taken steps to encourage the adoption of ecological sites by all agencies (the Bureau of Land Management has already adopted the NRCS’s ecological site system). If adopted by all agencies it would greatly facilitate resource assessment, management planning, and conservation programs on a consistent basis across land ownerships and watersheds, which is a  primary mission of the Conservation Districts. 
Meet AACD's New Staff Writer & Proposal Manager
Heather Baker
We’re excited to officially introduce AACD’s newest contractor, Heather Baker. Since she is the staff writer, we’re going to let her tell you all a little bit about her and her new position.   

Hello everyone! I’m glad to take this opportunity to introduce myself and tell you a little bit about how my position will help support the Districts and AACD. I’m sad that we won’t all get to meet (or meet again) in person at the summer conference since there won’t be one (thanks a lot COVID!). I think it’s important that I first tell you what I’ll be doing as staff writer and as proposal manager, then I’ll get into the fluffy stuff if you’re still interested in reading on!  

As we all do, I wear many hats and help-out on many projects, but my primary roles are reflected in my title. So, first off, what does a staff writer do? Simply, staff writers create compelling content for public consumption. I draft, edit, and/or proof content including the AACD eNewsletter, letters of support, reports, content for the AACD website, etc. As a writer a large part of my work includes conducting research or interviews to obtain the raw material needed for content creation, and sometimes analyzing and synthesizing complex, scientific content for public readability. This skill translates into what I do as writer for the grants we apply to.  

This flows nicely into explaining what I do as proposal manager. When a grant opportunity is released, a proposal response is composed. Grants, especially government grants, are like puzzles. There are a lot of pieces that all need to be carefully fit together to tell a story while fully addressing the questions to the satisfaction of the guidelines laid out in the Request for Proposal (RFP). Besides drafting, editing, and/or proofreading proposal content, I also manage the process from laying out the proposal response, to organizing and assigning tasks to our partners and contractors (e.g. answering sections of the RFP that need a subject matter expert’s response), to ensuring we have one voice throughout the document. I also lay out a timeline to ensure we submit proposals on time (and it’s my job to make sure everyone does their part before it’s too late).  

So, what makes me qualified to do this job? I’ll work backwards. Before coming over to AACD, I worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for 5 years in their Proposal Center of Excellence. In my five years there, I supported proposals that totaled in the hundreds of millions of dollars. This is where I learned and honed skills to manage the proposal process. Having a BA in English gave me the writing skills necessary, and I quickly learned of all the moving pieces associated with creating a proposal from content creation to design. For three of my five years I specialized in Private Company Services, working with teams that served family-owned business often (a position I requested coming from a family of small business owners). Prior to PwC I worked as a freelance proposal writer for AACD and other organizations, including a consulting company in Hawaii. Prior to that I was in Scotland earning my master’s degree in Literature & Society. Before that I was a middle school Language Arts teacher, an assistant editor at a boutique publishing firm, and a marketing intern-turned assistant at an environmental remediation company out of San Diego where I was first introduced to the world of government RFPs. After a decade of experience, and a majority of it writing and managing proposals, I am ready to bring this knowledge to the Districts and AACD.
Okay, now you know my work experience. What’s my connection to the Districts, AACD, and Arizona? I grew up on a cattle ranch in Cascabel, along the San Pedro River. Growing up on the ranch I learned about the ranching business, the land, the challenges of raising cattle in Arizona, and often volunteered with our local NRCD, which my parents were an active part of. It wasn’t until I went to college in San Diego, however, that I truly appreciated the unique experience of growing up on a ranch. While I did not inherit a penchant for ranching, I do care about the land and resources that are so vital to farmers and ranchers in Arizona, indeed, the entire US. It was always, and still is, a point of fascination for most when I say I grew up on a cattle ranch. It often gives me the opportunity to explain to individuals what ranching is and why it is a vital part of our country’s economy. I hope that I at least give them something to think about and dispel some preconceived notions. So now I’ve come back to my roots. AACD has given me the tremendous opportunity to help tell the Districts’ story and get your message out to the public. And with the team we have, I believe we can accomplish great things! 

One more personal sidebar, some of you know me and know me from when I was a child. I’m fortunate to say that I’ve had quite a life so far – full of love, support, education, and travel. Almost six years ago, I attended a friend’s wedding and met my future husband. We’ll be celebrating our four-year anniversary this month! We have a dog, Stella, and my husband Brock is completing his fifth and final year of medical residency at Johns-Hopkins. Our goal is for him to find a position out west and buy a house with a little bit of land to tend to!  

Thanks for reading! 

Arizona Association of Conservation Districts
About Us
In 1944, the Arizona Natural Resource Conservation Districts (NRCDs) established the Arizona Association of Conservation Districts (AACD) as a means of support to help coordinate and fund conservation efforts across the state, and as a way to unify and represent District goals and interests. Since 1992, AACD has been a recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, with a Board of Directors comprised of one representative from each of Arizona’s 42 NRCDs. AACD accomplishes their directive to support Arizona’s NRCDs by establishing partnerships with federal, state, tribal, and local entities, as well as non-governmental organizations. AACD takes a holistic, collaborative approach to the challenges producers and conservationists face today and seeks to bring different groups together to find common ground in conserving our valuable natural and agricultural resources. 

Please visit our website to learn more about AACD & the Districts, discover the important conservation work they do, and support them today!
Arizona Association
of Conservation Districts
7467 E. Broadway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85710
Have a story you would like to share in our next newsletter?

Contact: Brooke Gladden
(520) 668-3348
"Conserving Agriculture and Natural Resources Since 1944"