P.J. Martin, Student Trainee, measuring brush management practice with
Martin (left) and Mike Van Wyk, Soil Conservationist (right) certify
Residue management – Strip till.
Rick Schlegel, NRCS Irrigation Engineer, Tom Moeller, producer, and
Martin discuss pressure regulators on a new LPIC Center Pivot Sprinkler
that survived extreme hail damage.
Martin measures overflow on Steel Sidewall Watering Facility to ensure
that tank is constructed to specifications and provides adequate storage
for watering needs.
P.J. Martin grew up in the western Oklahoma community of Clinton. While
he lived in town, he spent his spare time working on his great uncle’s
farm, where he helped with wheat farming, stocker and feeder cattle and
a cow calf operation.
As a teenager driving around Custer County, Martin started noticing how
different people applied different management practices to their farms
and grazing land. These difference in management practices intrigued
Martin enough to pursue a degree in rangeland ecology and management
from Oklahoma State University.
Currently a senior, Martin spent his summer as an intern in the NRCS
Student Career Experience Program (SCEP), working under the direction of
District Conservationist Carri Manley in the Beaver field office. This
is Martin’s second summer to work for NRCS. Last summer, he worked in
the Kingfisher field office as an intern through NRCS’ Student Temporary
Employment Program (STEP).
Martin says his favorite part of the job was getting to know the
environment of the Panhandle.
“With the drought conditions, it was extreme,” he says. “It showed me
the extremes our state has in terms of climate and precipitation.”
While this was Manley’s first time to have an intern in her office, she
did have prior experience with the SCEP program. She participated in the
student trainee program when she was going to college as a soils major
at OSU. She interned in the NRCS office in Altus with Bud Adams.
“I was very fortunate and I had an excellent experience,” Manley says.
“I wanted P.J. to have a similar experience. I didn’t want to just stick
him in front of the computer. My goal for him was to have a lot of
different experiences so he’d have a broad overview of what the NRCS
does, the passion, and what the work should entail.
For Manley, that passion comes from working with landowners and
“A big thing for me is to treat producers with respect for what they
do,” Manley says. “Especially in this part of the world, with the
challenges they face.”
Manley says sometimes it is hard for a young person to communicate with
an older generation.
“If you are respectful and get to know them and let them teach you
something, they will be more open to learning from you,” she says.
“Be respectful of what they have built up and what they are trying to
do,” she advises. “Our job is to help them achieve what they are trying
“I guess I enjoy a challenge,” Manley adds, “because when you are in an
area with low precipitation levels the most important thing that I can
address as a conservationist is management. Management styles are
personal and are difficult for people to change. It’s a process that
takes time and patience.
Martin’s passion comes from seeing landowners apply different methods of
conservation on their land. Just as when he first noticed the variances
in land management practices, Martin appreciates those differences.
“There are different mindsets and different practices applied every
where you go” Martin says. “This experience has opened my eyes up to the
wide range of differences.”
While he is finishing up his degree at OSU, he is continuing in the SCEP,
working in the NRCS State office in Stillwater under the direction of
State Resource Conservationist Ken Matlock, and his staff. Martin says he enjoyed getting to work in both the Kingfisher and Beaver
offices, and now Stillwater.
“I have enjoyed learning about the different practices applied in each
area,” he says. “For example, out in Beaver, there are not as many
engineering practices as there were in Kingfisher. They are more into
no-till and grazing management practices.”
Martin has had the opportunity to work with soil scientists, range
conservationists, engineers and others in various disciplines within
NRCS. All of Martin’s supervisors and co-workers have made an effort to
expose him to as many experiences as possible. He has done plant species
identification, ecological site descriptions and ran range matrixes. He
has done soil mapping and testing. He has worked with GPS, and other
software while helping engineers design a pond or other conservation
“When I graduate in December, I would still like to work for NRCS in
Oklahoma,” Martin says. “If not Oklahoma, then possibly further west.”
Whatever he ends up doing, one thing is certain: P.J. already has a
broad foundation, and now education, for his passion for conservation.