An Introduction to NCAT
The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has been promoting sustainable living for over 35 years. Established in 1976, we are a national nonprofit that helps people by championing small-scale, local, and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities, and protect natural resources. NCAT was originally created during the oil crisis of the 1970s to develop inexpensive energy-saving strategies for low-income communities. In 1987, as a natural outgrowth of our alternative and sustainable energy work for farmers and ranchers, we expanded our mission to include sustainable agriculture. Every day, we help individuals find solutions that will ensure our children and grandchildren inherit a world with cleaner air and water, efficient and renewable energy production, and healthy foods grown with sustainable techniques. We have a well-deserved national reputation for providing research-based technical assistance and information in the fields of sustainable agriculture, sustainable energy, and community development. In recent years, our agriculture work has also focused on small-scale intensive farming, urban farming, and local foods; assistance to small farmers, beginning and new farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, and veterans wishing to become farmers.
Headquartered in Butte, Montana, NCAT has regional offices around the country that ensure hands-on assistance is available for farmers, ranchers, individuals, government agencies, and business owners. Offices are located in Fayetteville, Arkansas; Davis, California; Keene, New Hampshire, and San Antonio, Texas. We developed and manage dozens of projects related to agriculture, food, energy, and green community development. We have more than 70 staff members, many of whom are national experts in their respective fields. They include engineers, architects, and experts in organic farming, small acreage production, urban agriculture production, entomology, agriculture economics, soil health, diversified crop and livestock operations, and other agricultural specialties. In addition to their formal education, many of our staff members also have hands-on experience because they are agricultural producers themselves.
We manage more than 50 projects that touch thousands of lives every year through activities such as training farmers, demonstrating renewable energy technology, weatherizing houses, and researching sustainable-agriculture challenges. NCAT is the only national organization providing personalized, one-on-one technical assistance to thousands of individuals, businesses, and organizations interested in the areas of sustainable and organic agriculture and sustainable and renewable energy, and we have a special focus on helping low-income Americans. We provide services to individuals, organizations, businesses, and government agencies across all 50 states, using web-based technology such as websites, webinars, video, and electronic mail; phone help lines and in-person visits and presentations; and snail mail. Our website traffic last year for all of our sites exceeded 1 million unique visitors.
Our Energy Services program assesses businesses, schools, hospitals, universities, and government buildings to facilitate reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. NCAT’s Energy Services team had a productive year, saving energy and money for hundreds of energy consumers. Team members worked on state, county, and city government facilities as well as privately owned buildings, helping to identify energy efficiency and conservation upgrades, reduce energy consumption, and help consumers take advantage of utility rebates and incentives. Since the program’s inception, we have helped save more than 53,899 megawatt hours of electricity: that is equivalent to keeping 254 rail cars of coal out of production every year. Other energy-related projects include the National Energy Corps AmeriCorps program, which provides energy conservation assistance for low-income communities and has helped more than 25,000 individuals since 2009; the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Clearinghouse, an information resource for state, tribal, and local LIHEAP providers and others interested in low-income energy issues; and the National Energy Assistance Referral program, a free service for persons who want information on where to apply for the LIHEAP program assistance.
Through our various sustainable-agriculture services, including ATTRA, we provide assistance on a wide range of topics, from local foods to organic production to farm energy. With limited resources, most family farmers cannot afford to hire an agricultural professional to consult on difficulties they face. We strive to help smaller-scale family farmers and ranchers practice sustainable production that conserves natural resources and maximizes profits. We average more than 2,000,000 producer contacts every year, making us a critically needed information source. These contacts include workshops, trainings, and educational materials addressing specific questions asked by producers. We have more than 300 publications on topics directly related to sustainable agriculture, marketing, and farm energy. A variety of webinars and videos can also be viewed and downloaded from the ATTRA website.
We also help agricultural producers stay abreast of the news, best practices, trends, and changes in the field through written publications, webinars, and e-newsletters. We give farmers, ranchers, and growers practical advice about nearly every aspect of production, resource conservation, marketing, risk management, and business planning.
In 2006, we launched a pilot project, FoodCorps, in Montana to focus on farm-to-school efforts to address childhood obesity and nutrition education. The nation’s first statewide team of VISTA volunteers was trained to create and expand farm-to-school cafeteria programs. The project was so successful in educating students about how and why to eat local, healthy foods that in 2011 the national FoodCorps organization was born — and in its first year put 50 AmeriCorps members across the country. We continue to operate the original FoodCorps in Montana and partner with the national group to provide the program in Arkansas and Iowa.
For more information, visit our websites: