I've spent the last few days in Oklahoma working with and hanging out with Clay Pope of the USDA Southern Plains Climate Hub. Clay is one of the few people I've ever met who is even more of a moving target than I am-- in terms of the challenge of clarifying who he is, what he does, where he's traveling to next, and how many people any one human being can possibly network with at once.
His brain is as full of good ideas as his schedule is full of meetings to get those ideas off the ground. (I've only just begun to get to know his wife Sarah, but my sense is that she and Clay are quite the soil carbon team. She was the person in charge of soil carbon credits for the state when she and Clay met, and she and I are meeting with the EPA and the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts on Monday.)
Judith D. Schwartz (author of Cows Save the Planet, and the new book Water in Plain Sight) introduced Clay and I many months ago in an email, and we quickly figured out that we were working on similar goals: to get soil health principles and systems-based land management into school curriculum nationally--and we agreed, somewhat surprisingly, that it's really all about water. He asked if I would be willing to start with developing a soil health supplemental curriculum for the 350 high schools with FFA Ag elective programs in Oklahoma. I said YES!!! and we were off and running--with or without funding.
We spent months of Tuesday mornings on the phone with each other from Oklahoma to Vermont, plotting and planning, and now we finally got to meet and start some of the on the ground work together.
I was a little nervous about meeting him, having only ever seen pictures of him in a dark suit looking like a politician (being a congressional aide and chairman of the state senate ag committee are just two of the many things on his resume). But as soon as I actually met him, a slightly scruffy, friendly guy carrying boxes of donuts, racing back and forth between hanging out with his 4 kids, getting soaked while doing rainfall simulation demos, and sharing "lamb fries" (um...yes, that would be deep fried testicles...), coconut cream pie, and post election theories with me at the Cattleman's steakhouse, (while Sarah reminded him not to talk with his mouth full) I knew we'd get along just fine...and that it probably didn't matter which clothes I'd brought along.