Current Sustainable Agriculture Projects
ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service
The ATTRA project has served as the premier source of information about sustainable agriculture for U.S. farmers and other agriculturists for twenty years. ATTRA is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Business-Cooperative Service.
NCAT's staff of agriculture specialists have produced more than 200 different publications and answered hundreds of thousands of questions on ways to diversify farm operations with new crop and livestock enterprises, explore new marketing methods, incorporate value-added and farm-processed products, curb the use of costly commercial inputs, and farm more environmentally. Via toll-free helplines and an extensive website that hosts more than a million unique visitors per year, ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture
Information Service responds to the information needs of farmers, educators and extension agents across the country, in both English and Spanish. Some of the topics addressed include organic crop and vegetable production, agricultural energy, soils and compost, livestock, and marketing. ATTRA publications discuss issues ranging from biodiesel production to pest management, as well as offering specific information on sustainable production for a wide variety of crops and livestock.
Growing Farmers–Small Farm Initiative
This initiative is the training component of a multi-year project funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, focusing on training fruit and vegetable producers, supporting farmers markets, and building capacity in partners and the agricultural communities in southern Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. It involves helping farmers to diversify their crops, extend their seasons, become vendors at local farmers markets, and diversify their marketing plans in order to manage some of the risks involved in farming.
Grow Montana is a broad-based coalition seeking to promote Montana-owned food production, processing, and distribution. NCAT is a founding member and leader of the coalition.
Managing Farm Energy Risks
Since 2006, NCAT has offered "energy alternatives" workshops to over 2,200 agricultural producers and over 2,500 other people in 12 Eastern and Southern states, including USDA agency staff and educators. These workshops included both energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. Partner organizations have included the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, New England Small Farm Institute, and Piedmont Biofuels. This project has been funded by the USDA Risk Management Agency.
Farmers' Market Food Stamp EBT Project
NCAT has been awarded Department of Health and Human Services funding through the State of Montana for a three-year project to test the use of electronic benefits transfer cards (EBTs) in at least three farmers' markets in Montana. The project will enable food stamp benefit recipients to purchase products from individual farmers' market vendors without each vendor being separately authorized by the USDA Food and Nutrition Services.
Oilseeds for Fuel, Feed and the Future Project
This project is a collaborative effort that aims to reduce risk and create new opportunities for Montana farmers who want to participate in, and benefit from, an emerging bio-based economy. The project involves workshops and Innovation Grants for farmers. In addition to NCAT, Project partners include Montana Farmers Union, Montana Grain Growers Association, Montana Department of Agriculture, Alternative Energy Resources Organization, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Department of Environmental Quality's Air, Energy and Pollution Prevention Bureau.
Western Iowa Local Food System Project
NCAT and the Floyd Boulevard Local Foods Market in Sioux City, Iowa, received a $30,000 grant through the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture to perform a preliminary feasibility assessment of a light processing and distribution center for local produce and meats in southwest Iowa.
Sustainable American Cotton Project
NCAT is one of several organizations working on this project funded by a national Conservation Innovation Grant from NRCS (USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service). This project involves farmer-to-farmer exchanges to learn about beneficial insect habitat in an effort to decrease pesticide usage on cotton in targeted states of Arizona, Georgia, and California.
Making Record Keeping and Sustainable Production Information Accessible to Immigrant Farmers
This USDA Risk Management Agency-funded project will develop innovative, graphic-heavy training materials on a variety of topics and will implement hands-on training on these same topics. Topics may include Record Keeping, Food Safety and Postharvest Techniques, Marketing and Greenhouse Season Extension, Land Access and Leasing, Integrated Pest Management: Preventing Disease & Pest Problems by Promoting Plant Health, Organic Strawberry Production with Other High Value Crops such as Flowers & Vegetables in Rotation.
Oil Seeds for Farm Energy: Pollution Reduction and Energy Conservation
This project includes three in-depth Montana case studies of farmers growing seeds for biodiesel, as well as several related workshops.
Irrigator's Pocket Guide
NCAT released The Montana Irrigator's Pocket Guide in 2003, as a take-to-the-field reference to help irrigators save energy, water, and money. The guide contains sections on equipment and irrigation practices. Based on the success of this project, NCAT cooperated with NRCS to produce an expanded version of the Irrigator's Pocket Guide in 2005, that could be adapted for different states and regions. To date, NCAT has worked with project sponsors in 15 states, to adapt 14 different versions of the Irrigator's Pocket Guide.
Training the Trainers
NCAT has participated for several years in efforts to train cooperative extension service agents and personnel from NCRS in sustainable farming systems, concepts, principles, and practices. NCAT has organized a series of field days, farm tours, conferences and workshops, and multidisciplinary trainings involving farmer/specialist training teams. NCAT has worked with numerous other organizations to produce these training events. Current projects for training trainers in the West, Southwest, and South focus on supporting farmers in transitioning to or succeeding with organic production, and on aiding farmers with alternative marketing strategies.
Slow-growing Broiler Project
NCAT is participating in a University of Arkansas project to research potential for raising organic slow-growing broiler chickens without supplemental methionine. The multi-year project involves research on different chicken genotypes and feeding strategies, as well as assessment of market opportunities and economic impacts of alternative production strategies.