2020 Cohort

In December 2019, NCF announced the names of the seven participants of the inaugural NGLI cohort, selected through a competitive national application process as members of a year-long program to build future conservation leaders through comprehensive trainings.

“It’s a privilege to announce these seven participants as members of our inaugural NGLI cohort,” NCF Chairman Steve Robinson said. “This group of candidates demonstrated remarkable passion for locally-led conservation, and I look forward to seeing how their skills continue to develop over the next year.”

NGLI curriculum will equip leaders with skills and resources related to personal, civic and organizational leadership development. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the inaugural NGLI program year has made some adjustments to the original session design calendar. Through discussions with the NCF and the members of the 2020 cohort, it was decided that the program will not follow the original program of in-person gatherings. Instead, virtual instruction will be carried out until it is acceptable to once again travel and conduct in-person events.

This comprehensive training will help participants rise to meet the future needs of natural resources management, helping them to increase their capacity to navigate and manage complex conservation challenges – both current and future – at the local and national level.

Meet the inaugural cohort of the 2020 Next Generation Leadership Institute!


“Bad things happen in life, it’s how you respond that counts.” -Dabo Swinney

I am a 62-year-old baby boomer who some describe as “energetic for my age.” I sense that as a good thing, because I feel like four 15 year olds, still testing my limits, still growing up and plotting for the next challenge that will come my way. My life, which began in pre-statehood Hawaii, has been a pinball game of ricochets, with every move banking off an obstacle that redirects me. As an Army brat, I attended ten different public schools and lived in Taiwan for some of those years. I remember the day JFK was assassinated, when the Vietnam War began, The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon, the first Earth Day, Watergate and Michael Jackson’s moon walk. I remember when Chicken McNuggets hit the market and when hand-held calculators cost $200.

I married my best friend in 1984, and we have two incredible, independent thinking kids who live productive and purpose-driven lives. In 2004, I lost my best friend to cancer, another of life’s ricochets, and ultimately moved to Charlotte, N.C., where I live in a house with three cats, where my son parks his baseball gear in the garage, and my daughter, when she visits, helps me set up Google home devices. Charlotte is home and the new beginning for my life of public service, filled with challenges to save our planet by conserving our natural resources and serving the public good.

Ryan Britt

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn.” -Benjamin Franklin

Ryan Britt is a fifth-generation farmer who with his father, brother-in-law and the support of their families, is striving to produce corn, soybeans, wheat, hay and cow-calf to finished beef through practices which incorporate the use of technology and innovative partnerships to maximize efficiency and sustainability.

While the work of crop and livestock production can be demanding, Ryan also sees the importance of serving the agricultural community through boards, associations and committees. He values improvement, and he desires to see all areas of agriculture succeed and flourish. With this attitude and mindset, Ryan has appreciated the opportunities he has had serving on such boards as the Randolph County Soil and Water Conservation District; Randolph County Farm Bureau; Missouri Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts; National Association of Conservation Districts; Paseo Biofuels, LLC; and the Randolph County Cattlemen’s Association. He is also the operator for the Chariton County cover crop demonstration farm.

Ryan and his wife Rebecca enjoy raising their three children, Lydea, Luke and Lynelle on the family farm near Thomas Hill Lake. Ryan appreciates the call to serve others through his position as a deacon in their local church body and across the nation through the Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief. The Britt family also enjoy attending football and basketball games at Ryan and Rebecca’s alma mater, Mizzou.

To learn more about Ryan Britt, his family and their agri-business please visit www.BeefStewWithaTwist.com.

Phil Campbell

“The best method of overcoming obstacles is the team method.” -Colin Powell

I’m Phil Campbell, owner of Campbell Farms in Luther, Okla.. I’m a military veteran who began working with my local conservation district following my retirement. I have a passion for learning about conservation issues and spreading the word about conservation programs in our area and state. As a result, I’ve embraced my leadership role as a district director and commissioner. Throughout my tenure, I’ve been an advocate for natural resource conservation by hosting field days on my farm, attending various annual meetings and participating in our 2018 Statewide Conservation Leadership Class. My desire is to provide assistance and mentorship to new and underserved land owners by providing them with information about resource management and the knowledge of programs available to them. I serve as a CARE (Conservation and Agriculture Reach Everyone) Ambassador for the 2501 Program, which is an effort of the USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach to increase participation of socially disadvantaged farmers/ranchers in USDA programs. My future goals within the conservation district and conservation associations are to continue as a district director for Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts as well as a commissioner for the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, where both positions have afforded me the opportunity to share my experience of conservation and agriculture with others across the state and country. One of my future goals is to continue to assist the Oklahoma Association Conservation District with outreach efforts, including within the veteran community.  


“You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” -Jesus Christ, John 13:13-15″

Joe Caughlin, 49, is a fourth-generation agricultural producer from Tonkawa, Okla. Joe is married to Robyn and together they have three daughters and one son. Their family farming and ranching operation consists of 2,500 acres of cropland and 1,500 acres of native and improved grassland. With the help of his dad, Jack, his brother, Paul and son, Kevin, Joe manages a commercial Angus cow-calf operation on a mix of family-owned and rented pasture. Joe also manages a no-till crop rotation on the farm consisting of hard red winter wheat, soybean, corn, alfalfa and various other forages. In 2000, Joe began a certified wheat seed business to help add value to the operation. A few years later, a row crop seed business was added to help service customers better.

After graduating from Oklahoma State University in 1992 with a bachelor’s of science in agronomy, Joe soon became an associate director on his local conservation district board. In 1998, Joe was appointed as a director on the Kay County Conservation District, where he still serves today. Joe also serves as a vice president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts. Additionally, Joe currently serves and has served on several seed and commodity organizations and boards including the Oklahoma Crop Improvement Association Board, the Oklahoma Genetics, Inc. Board, the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association Board of Directors and the Oklahoma Wheat Research Foundation Board. Joe is an active member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Tonkawa.

Mark Masters

“Never let your memories be greater than your dreams.” -Doug Ivester

Mark Masters serves as director of the Georgia Water Planning and Policy Center at Albany State University and is a leading expert in agricultural water use and policy in the southeastern U.S.

Throughout his career, Mark has led numerous research and outreach projects related to water resources in Georgia and has positioned the center as a trusted technical resource for the state and its water planning efforts. Beyond the borders of Georgia, he recently supported development of the Potomac River Basin Comprehensive Plan and as a founding member and executive manager of the ACF Stakeholders, Inc., he was instrumental in helping the group reach consensus on a Sustainable Water Management Plan for the entire ACF Basin.

Mark is active on several local, state and national advisory boards, including the American Farm Bureau Water Advisory Committee, Governor’s Soil and Water Advisory Committee, Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership Board of Directors and as a supervisor for his local soil and water conservation district.

When he’s not busy professionally, Mark stays out of trouble raising grass-fed beef on his family farm in Terrell County and with his wife Amy, enjoys watching their three beautiful daughters make other kids look foolish on the soccer field.

Cassius Spears

“Leadership is not about you; it’s about investing in the growth of others.” -Ken Blanchard

Cassius Champlin Spears, Sr. has dedicated his life to the preservation of Narragansett culture throughout New England and the world. He has served as cultural advisor for numerous educational projects, including the PBS documentary We Shall Remain–After the Mayflower. Spears has remained active in the practice of ethnobotany and traditional home building, where he has demonstrated eastern woodlands culture at museums, college campuses and film sets across North America.

Cassius has served on Plimoth Plantation’s Wampanoag Indigenous Program’s Advisory Board, the New England Foundation for the Arts and Native Arts Advisory Committee. In his most recent capacity as an agricultural technician, he has performed as a liaison for the Narragansett Indian Tribe and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). He was appointed to serve on the Regional Tribal Conservation Advisory Committee and the National Association of Conservation Districts’ Tribal Outreach and Partnership Resource Policy Group for the eastern region. He is a 2017 Intercultural Leadership Institute Fellow, where he was one of 30 who participated in the year-long national intercultural leadership program. Spears’ passion for healthy traditional lifeways led to the establishment of the Narragansett Food Sovereignty Initiative­ with a primary focus on sustaining a healthy community through traditional lifeways and relationships inherent to tribal people. Spears represented the Narragansett community in Marrakech, Morrocco, at the COP22, UNESCO preconference, where he shared  the effects of climate change from the Narragansett perspective. In addition, he also serves on the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program Steering Committee and is now president of the Rhode Island Association of Conservation Districts.

Sam steiner

“The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.” -Corrie ten Boom

I am a fourth-generation farmer from Lebanon, Ohio. I was raised on a dairy farm where I learned many life skills, including animal care and a love for our natural resources. I was a long-time member of the Warren County 4-H program, and I now volunteer as a club advisor. I attended The Ohio State University and majored in animal science with a minor in ag business.

In 2010, I started farming full-time, raising laying hens, meat chickens, turkeys and beef cattle. Conservation plays a role in my farming practices because healthy soil and healthy water produce healthy livestock.

Educating consumers on where their food comes from and how it is raised is a large part of why I sell directly off the farm. An open line of communication between producer and consumer is a key element in building trust in the ag community.

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