Montana-grown foods will take center stage in Gardiner on Friday, Dec. 2, when the Montana Harvest of the Month Showcase comes to Park County.

The Montana Harvest of the Month program promotes food grown in the state. Each month, participating sites spotlight a food by serving it in at least one meal, snack, or à la carte offering. Schools and early care programs also offer students taste tests and include the food in lessons and activities.

“That food might be summer squash, which isn’t going to be at the top of most kids’ lunch-time wish list. It’s amazing to see how often kids surprise themselves and really like a food they didn’t think they would,” said Local Foods Specialist Molly Kirkham of the National Center for Appropriate Technology.

NCAT heads up the Montana Harvest of the Month program along with a number of partnering organizations around the state.

“Kids often aren’t very adventurous when it comes to food. One of the primary goals of Harvest of the Month is simply to expose children — and adults — to new, healthy foods. The other goal is to support Montana’s farmers and ranchers.”

Montana Harvest of the Month also is an excellent way to launch or expand a farm-to-school or farm-to-cafeteria program since it provides an easy framework to follow and ready-to-use materials, Kirkham said.

Montana Harvest of the Month is open to K-12 schools, after-school programs, summer food service programs, early care and education facilities, food businesses, farmers markets, foodbanks, and healthcare institutions in the state.

Farmers and ranchers interested in marketing to school districts or other institutions and Children and Adult Food Care Program providers also could get a lot out of the event, she said.

“The showcase is going to be informative, and a lot of fun,” Kirkham said. “It will include taste-test training and other activities, recipes, team-building ideas, and plenty of opportunity for networking.”

Kirkham encourages anyone interested in the Montana Harvest of the Month program or farm-to-school and farm-to-cafeteria programs to attend the showcase event Friday, Dec. 2, at Gardiner Schools, located at 510 Stone Street. It will begin at 10 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m.

The cost for the Montana Harvest of the Month Showcase is $15 for an individual and $50 for groups of four or five. Some scholarships are available. Registration includes lunch and snacks made with local foods.

To register, go to the Montana Harvest of the Month website at MTHARVESTOFTHEMONTH.ORG.

 

The National Center for Appropriate Technology, along with nationally recognized organic leaders, will offer an Organic Academy Road Show (OARS) session in Billings, Montana, on December 6 and 7, 2022. Beginning farmers and ranchers in the northern Great Plains will have the opportunity to explore regenerative, certified organic production systems for grains, oilseeds, and pulses.

Thirty scholarships for beginning farmers and ranchers are available for up $200 each to defray costs of attending. There is no registration fee, but registration is required by November 21, 2022. Online registration is available at ATTRA.NCAT.ORG/EVENTS.

This event will host intensive training sessions and one-on-one technical assistance for beginning farmers and ranchers. Topics will include transitioning to organic production, an introduction to organic system planning, soil health, and more. Session leaders will include NCAT Sustainable Agriculture specialists and experienced Montana organic farmers and ranchers. The event schedule and speaker list can be found here.

In addition, attendees will be able to interact with civic leaders, county Extension agents, and staff from USDA’s Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service during a public event on Dec. 6 from 7-9 p.m. The Montana Organic Association will host its annual conference at the same location following the OARS session. Registration is separate for that event at MOA Conference.

“This series of educational opportunities is not just another farming training,” said Doug Crabtree and Anna Jones-Crabtree of Vilicus Farms in Montana.It is about leveraging training to further build the network of beginning organic producers who are farming and ranching at a scale that will have a tremendous impact on land stewardship across the Northern Great Plains.” 

The December event will be the first of 10 OARS sessions in the northern Great Plains states of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming over the next two years.

The OARS sessions are part of the three-year federal Beginning Farmers and Rancher Development Program, Preparing a Resilient Future, in partnership with the Montana Organic Association, Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society, Center for Rural Affairs, the Intertribal Agriculture Council, Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, International Organic Inspectors Association, North Dakota State, and University of Wyoming.

The new project targets medium to large-scale field crop and livestock operations, unlike most programs focused on beginning farmers and ranchers. This project was selected in a national competition under the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program funded through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY has been helping people build resilient communities through local and sustainable solutions that reduce poverty, strengthen self-reliance, and protect natural resources since 1976. Headquartered in Butte, Montana, NCAT has six regional offices in Arkansas, California, New Hampshire, Mississippi, Montana, and Texas. Learn more and become a friend of NCAT at NCAT.ORG.

 

 

The National Center for Appropriate Technology has launched a new, interactive website for its ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program which provides trusted and practical tools for farmers. Since 1987, ATTRA has been a key resource for sustainable and organic farmers and ranchers. The new website is at ATTRA.NCAT.ORG.

“For 35 years, ATTRA has been helping sustainable farmers grow healthy foods, expand their market opportunities, and diversify their farm businesses through our trusted knowledge base of practical information,” NCAT Executive Director Steve Thompson said. “With the launch of our new website, farmers and ranchers will have even more access to the ATTRA tools they’ve come to rely on.”

The new ATTRA website features nearly 400 practical digital publications on everything from growing organic tomatoes to becoming an agrotourism destination. Each publication is free, and most now include the ability to listen to a publication in a variety of languages. The site makes available archived episodes of ATTRA’s weekly podcast series, Voices from the Field, and hundreds of how-to videos.

“Not only is ATTRA known for providing no-nonsense sustainable agriculture information, we’re also a powerful connector,” said ATTRA Director Margo Hale. “We’re proud to launch a peer-to-peer forum on the new website where producers can share best practices and learn from each other, in addition to having access to real-time one-on-one support from our team of sustainable agriculture specialists.”

The new website improves one of ATTRA’s most-used tools, its internship hub. Farmers can post internship opportunities for free, and those seeking internships can browse a nationwide database of opportunities.

In addition to a digital publication library, multimedia hub, and interactive forum, the new ATTRA website includes a topic index to search for specific sustainable agriculture information. Users can connect with our team of sustainable agriculture experts, sign up for ATTRA’s Weekly Harvest newsletter, and bookmark our events calendar filled with free learning opportunities.

ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture is a program of the National Center for Appropriate Technology and is funded through a cooperative agreement with USDA Rural Development.

 

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THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY has been helping people build resilient communities through local and sustainable solutions that reduce poverty, strengthen self-reliance, and protect natural resources since 1976. Headquartered in Butte, Montana, NCAT has six regional offices in Arkansas, California, New Hampshire, Mississippi, Montana, and Texas. Learn more and become a friend of NCAT at NCAT.ORG.

 

 

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is partnering with Alabama A&M University’s Small Farm Center and the Rural South Institute to bring the free Armed to Farm training to Alabama for the first time. Armed to Farm will take place October 31-November 4 in Huntsville. Farmer-veterans will attend classroom sessions and travel to local farms for hands-on learning experiences.

Armed to Farm trainings include an engaging blend of farm tours, hands-on activities, and interactive classroom instruction. NCAT Sustainable Agriculture specialists will lead the training sessions, along with staff from USDA agencies. Experienced crop and livestock producers will provide additional instruction.

“We’re eager to bring Armed to Farm to Alabama,” said Rockiell Woods, NCAT Gulf States Regional Director. “Armed to Farm has served more than 900 veterans in all corners of the country as they start or grow their own sustainable farm business, giving those farmers practical tools to continue serving their communities.”  

Armed to Farm is a sustainable agriculture training program for military veterans. NCAT, a national nonprofit organization based in Butte, Montana, developed Armed to Farm in 2013 through a cooperative agreement with USDA-Rural Development. Farmer veterans learn how to make a business plan and market their products, how to access USDA programs, set business goals, and develop mentorships with seasoned farmers.

“Alabama A&M University’s Small Farms Research Center is ecstatic to partner with NCAT again, and also welcome farmer veterans to ‘the Hill,’ said E’licia L. Chaverest, Assistant Director of Alabama A&M University’s Small Farms Research Center. “AAMU Small Farms Research Center has over 25 years of experience working with farmers, educating and empowering them in becoming more sustainable and profitable with their farm operations. We look forward to a successful program and interacting with farmer veterans and engaging with other great farmers in North Alabama.”

Armed to Farm’s Alabama training is supported by USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement. Successful applicants may also receive a travel stipend thanks to our partnership with California-based Ranchin’ Vets.

Learn more about NCAT’s Armed to Farm and additional training series at ARMEDTOFARM.ORG.

 

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THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY has been helping people build resilient communities through local and sustainable solutions that reduce poverty, strengthen self-reliance, and protect natural resources since 1976. Headquartered in Butte, Montana, NCAT has field offices in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Learn more and become a friend of NCAT at NCAT.ORG

The National Center for Appropriate Technology and Natural Resources Conservation Service will partner to host the eighth annual Latino Farmer Conference, a Spanish-language sustainable agriculture conference for Latino farmers.

The Latino Farmer Conference is a yearly event that seeks to build networks and provide learning opportunities for farmers on a range of technical and social issues relating to sustainable agriculture. The conference aims to provide trusted, practical, and culturally relevant information. Each session is created based on farmer feedback, and all content is presented in Spanish.

“There are over 14,000 registered Hispanic farmers and ranchers in California, and according to the USDA, many of these farmers are historically underserved,” said NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Omar Rodriguez. “At NCAT we strive to support a farming future that is equitable and just for all of California’s farmers, and this conference is a great way to do that.”

After two years of hosting this conference online, NCAT and NRCS are happy to bring people together in person again. This year’s conference will be hosted in Escondido, California, on November 17 and 18. Activities on November 17 will consist of farm tours in the San Diego area, and will include visits to local farms, farmer cooperatives, and CSA operations. On November 18 attendees will gather at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido for a day of networking opportunities, exhibits, and presentations on topics relating to conservation, regenerative agricultural production, and business management.

The Latino Farmer Conference is hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) in collaboration with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and would not be possible without the generous donations made by partners and friends working in regenerative agriculture.

Register for the conference at: NCAT.ORG/LATINOFARMERCONFERENCE.ORG.

 

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THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY has been helping people build resilient communities through local and sustainable solutions that reduce poverty, strengthen self-reliance, and protect natural resources since 1976. Headquartered in Butte, Montana, NCAT has field offices in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Learn more and become a friend of NCAT at NCAT.ORG.

 

The Grow Montana Food Policy Coalition has released a new report showing locally grown and sold foods make a big impact to Montana communities. The report, “Economic Value and Impact of Local Food in Montana,” was completed by Highland Economics on behalf of the coalition. It shows locally grown Montana foods supports $158 million in retail sales across the state’s economy. The report evaluates the economic value of “local food,” food produced and consumed in the state of Montana without leaving the state for finishing and processing elsewhere. The full report can be found at GROWMT.ORG.

“The study delivers a comprehensive look at the Montana food value chain,” says Jan Tusick, Director at Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center, in Ronan and member of Grow Montana’s steering committee. “The study will be a critical tool as we continue to build local food economies and the economic benefit to our Montana communities.”

Highland Economics began research in January of 2021, and interviewed local food consumers, producers, and intermediaries (processors and institutional buyers such as schools and hospitals) to understand the current climate of local food purchasing in the state. An extensive literature review on local foods in Montana and nationwide was also conducted.

Key Takeaways Include:

  • $158 million is the estimated total of retail value of local food sales in Montana: $118 million comes from sales at stores, restaurants institutions, and processors. Direct-to-consumer sales, such as farmers markets, farms-stands, and community supported agriculture (CSAs) subscriptions account for $40 million in local food sales.
  • Local food production in Montana supports 1,110 Montana jobs and supports $31.9 million in Montana labor income.
  • Less capacity to process food in Montana: Montana employed 3,000 people in the food-processing sector in the 1950s and while the population has doubled there are only 2,647 people employed in this sector today (2021).
  • More reliance on processing outside the state and distribution infrastructure: This is particularly evident in meat processing. Montana is known for animal production, cattle in particular. Even though the state has the third highest ratio of cattle to people across the U.S. most of the meat consumed in the state is imported (or re-imported) after it is finished and processed elsewhere.
  • A smaller share of the retail spending on food goes back to the farm and ranch: The farm and ranch share of the food dollar spent by consumers in 1910 was 60 percent, and today it is estimated at 16 percent.

“This report establishes an important and updated baseline for local food production and consumption in Montana,” says Maura Henn, Community Food Systems Specialist at National Center for Appropriate Technology and coordinator for Grow Montana. “Coalition members have seen on-the-ground evidence that there is less processing in state, a reliance on out-of-state processing, especially for beef, and that local farmers are getting less money for what they produce. Now we have numbers to support what we suspected, and this helps us see what is possible in terms of moving the needle toward increasing local food sales and consumption.”

In fact, the demand for local food is trending up nationally and in Montana. Sales of local edible farm products totaled nearly $12 billion in 2017 across the U.S., up from $8.7 billion in 2015. Specifically, in 2021 Montana farmers markets received $17.3 million in revenue and generated an additional $10.4 million in new spending from resident wages, tax payments, sales, and investments that occurred as a result of farmers markets.

“Visit any farmers market in the state where Dixon Melons are set up for the day,” says Henn, “and you will see the demand for local food is real! People line up around the block for a chance to buy fresh food direct from the farmer.”

Strong local food systems also provide the diversified safety net that is essential to avoid food insecurity. Current events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, war in Ukraine, and extreme weather events demonstrate that disruptions in a highly consolidated food system will create immediate backlogs and bottlenecks to either access or the supply of food.

Grow Montana’s next steps for this study are to share the results with local communities and conferences and to get feedback on the results from Montanans. The community input and the results of the study will help the coalition develop goals and policy priorities for future legislative sessions.

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GROW MONTANA established in 2005, is a broad-based food policy coalition whose common purpose is to promote community economic development and education policies that support sustainable Montana-owned food production, processing, and distribution, and that improve all our citizens’ access to healthy Montana foods. Grow Montana is coordinated by NCAT. The coalition’s steering committee is: Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO), Community Food & Agriculture Coalition (CFAC), Land to Hand Montana, Mission West Community Development Partners, Montana Cooperative Development Center (MCDC), Montana Farmers Union (MFU), National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), Northern Plains Resource Council (NPRC).

THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY has been helping people build resilient communities through local and sustainable solutions that reduce poverty, strengthen self-reliance, and protect natural resources since 1976. Headquartered in Butte, Montana, NCAT has six regional offices in Arkansas, California, New Hampshire, Mississippi, Montana, and Texas. Learn more and become a friend of NCAT at NCAT.ORG.

 

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and its partners have been awarded four Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities grants through the USDA’s historic investment in expanding climate-smart agriculture.

NCAT and its five Climate Beneficial Fiber project partners—Carbon Cycle Institute, Colorado State University Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Fibershed, Seed2Shirt, and New York Textile Lab— will receive up to $30 million to support the expansion of climate-smart wool and cotton production on 135 farms and ranches spread across 2.1 million acres. The project builds on the existing Climate Beneficial™ fiber program, which has a track record of growing America’s ability to produce climate-smart fiber, regenerate our soils, and expand economic opportunities for wool and cotton growers.

“NCAT has a long, trusted history of supporting farmers and ranchers who want to produce sustainably-made products that not only are part of the climate solution, but also strengthen local and regional businesses that buy, make, and sell the products that power America,” said NCAT Executive Director Steve Thompson. “This investment in climate-smart ag will have a tremendous impact across some of this country’s most important sectors.”

Textile and apparel production accounts for up to 10 percent of global carbon emissions, and the industry is moving to meet market demand for improved climate impact across supply chains. Growing concerns about textile-derived microplastics, land-use impacts, and human rights have also prompted an industry-wide shift to seek natural fiber sources with verified benefits to land and climate.

“We are elated for all our partners and the benefit this award will have for the soil systems that provide us clothing and food. This was a very competitive process, and we want to thank the USDA for the honor of being able to scale a body of work that has largely been, to date, held up by farming, ranching, university, and technical assistance providers who have put countless hours of effort into emergent work,” said Fibershed Founder and Executive Director Rebecca Burgess. “Climate Beneficial wool growers took the first risk with us in 2015 and now Climate Beneficial cotton growers are putting themselves out to trial new ways of doing things for the health of the soil. This grant allows us to build out the markets in the ways that we need to, to keep rural communities strong, farmers farming, and ranchers ranching in a way that puts carbon back where it belongs.”

The project expands the existing Climate Beneficial fiber program, an established, market-proven system for sequestering carbon, regenerating soil health and resilience, improving social equity, and bolstering America’s ability to produce fiber. The 20-year greenhouse gas impact of practices implemented on a share of the participating farms during the grant period is projected to be a reduction of at least three million metric tons of CO2. Other benefits will include reduced application of synthetic fertilizers, improved soil health, and increased soil organic matter, water-holding capacity, and enhanced resilience to a changing climate. A newly created, open-source, Carbon Farm Planning and Verification Platform will streamline climate-smart agriculture planning and verification for producers, verifiers, and supply-chain stakeholders alike. The project aims to meet the equity goals of the Justice40 Initiative and will prioritize engagement with traditionally underserved producers.

“We are humbled and appreciative to be working alongside all our partners in this grant award. Most importantly, we look forward to this unprecedented opportunity this grant opens for Black cotton-growing families,” said Founder and CEO of Seed2Shirt Tameka Peoples. “Given the historic impact cotton has had on the African American community in the US, we are happy to see the matched level of commitment by our partners and USDA to ensuring Black cotton farmers are a part of this important work to heal the land and heal farm families and communities, through climate-smart agriculture practices. Our team at Seed2shirt views this as another step in our work towards the equitable value chain of cotton production we are working diligently every day to create.”

In addition to being awarded up to $30 million for the Fibershed project, NCAT is partnering with organizations around the country on the following projects:

  • Farmers for Soil Health Climate-Smart Commodities Partnership | This project proposes to accelerate long-term cover crop adoption by creating a platform to incentivize farmers. The platform will quantify, verify, and facilitate the sale of ecosystem benefits, creating a marketplace to generate demand for climate-smart commodities. Lead Partner: National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Other Major Partners: Farmers for Soil Health (National Corn Growers Association, the United Soybean Board, and the National Pork Board), National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Center for Appropriate Technology, National Association of Conservation Districts, Soil Health Institute, University of Missouri, Sustainability Consortium, Data Transmission Network, The Walton Family Foundation | Major Commodities: Corn, Soybeans, Approximate Funding Ceiling: $95,000,000
  • Expanding the STAR Program Across Colorado and the West | This project offers a comprehensive approach that empowers conservation districts and other eligible entities to help build climate-smart markets and provide technical assistance to a diverse range of producers; provides three years of financial and technical assistance to producers; quantifies and verifies climate benefits on behalf of producers; develops a rating as a market signal so participants earn more for products grown with healthy soil practices; and evaluates and validates carbon and soil-water research for the arid West. Lead Partner: Colorado Department of Agriculture Other Major Partners: Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District, Colorado Association of Conservation Districts & other Conservation Districts, Colorado Open Lands, Colorado State University, National Center for Appropriate Technology, Sangre de Cristo Association of Acequias, Univ. of Idaho, Montana State Univ., New Mexico State Univ., Utah State Univ., Univ. of Wyoming, Audubon Society, Colorado Corn Administrative Committee, Acres USA, Quivira Coalition, Yardstick, Zero Foodprint, Bob’s Red Mill, Quinn Snacks | Major Commodities: Beef, Corn, Grains, Approximate Funding Ceiling: $25,000,000
  • Building Soil, Building Equity: Accelerating a Regenerative Farming Movement in Appalachia and the Southeast | This project seeks to build climate-smart markets and sequester carbon over thousands of acres of Appalachian and rural southeastern land through strategic recruitment from networks of producers. The project will use education, outreach, technical assistance, and incentivizing producers to adopt climate-smart agriculture. Lead Partner: Accelerating Appalachia Other Major Partners: National Center for Appropriate Technology, Kentucky State University, Working Trees from Stanford University’s TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy, Carbon Harvest | Major Commodities: Fruit and Vegetables, Row Crops, Beef, Approximate Funding Ceiling: $20,000,000

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THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY has been helping people build resilient communities through local and sustainable solutions that reduce poverty, strengthen self-reliance, and protect natural resources since 1976. Headquartered in Butte, Montana, NCAT has field offices in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Learn more at NCAT.ORG.

 

Montana joins markets across the country in celebrating National Farmers Market Week August 7-13, 2022. The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and the Montana Farmers Market Network encourage everyone to celebrate the “Bounty of the Big Sky” by shopping at local farmers markets this week and every week. Governor Greg Gianforte’s office also supports the celebration by officially proclaiming August 7-13, 2022 as Farmers Market Week in Montana.

“Farmers Market Week is a great time to bring attention to the bounty of locally grown products that can be purchased at farmers markets,” says Tammy Howard, Montana Farmers Market Network coordinator at NCAT. “You can find a variety of products, including fruits, vegetables, baked goods, homemade jams and jellies, handmade soaps, beef, poultry, eggs, honey, and artisan crafts at farmers markets throughout the year in many communities.”

NCAT has also released a new study completed by the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research that illustrates the economic importance of Farmers Markets.

“The results of the study were really eye opening,” says Maura Henn, Community Food Systems Specialist at NCAT. “We knew farmers markets played a vital role in the Montana food system, and now we have the numbers to support what we have been seeing and hearing on the ground from farmers market managers and vendors who work so hard to make farmers markets happen in their communities every week, year after year.”

Findings from the report show:

  • 2021 Montana farmers markets generated $10.4 million in new spending and received $17.3 million in revenue showing that farmers markets are a vital component of the state’s economy.
  • Montana farmers markets provide more than 250 full-time jobs and almost 5,000 individuals work to produce the goods and services offered each week.
  • On average, a typical Montana market had 22 individual stands and required almost 70 people to put on the market which includes vendors, volunteers, and market employees.

The report can be read in full on the new Montana Farmers Market Network website, FARMERSMARKETMT.COM. This site is a new online tool for market organizers, managers, volunteers, board members, vendors, and community partners to find useful resources to keep their markets successful and thriving. Citizens can also learn more about starting a farmers market in their communities.

There are more than 70 farmers markets in Montana according to the Montana Department of Agriculture. Of those, 27 accept SNAP benefits making fresh, locally produced products accessible to more Montanans and 24 farmers markets also participate in the Double SNAP Dollars Program which matches a customer’s SNAP benefit. The Double SNAP Dollars program has served nearly 6,400 Montanans and has recirculated more than $500,00 to local farmers, ranchers, and farmers markets.

National Farmers Market Week is an annual celebration of farmers markets coordinated by the Farmers Market Coalition; a membership-based nonprofit organization that supports farmers markets nationwide.

“Farmers markets are abundant sources of food, connection and resilience in our communities across the country, but they don’t just happen on their own,” said Ben Feldman, Farmers Market Coalition Executive Director. “Behind the scenes of every successful farmers market is a dedicated person or team working to make the market thrive. These farmers market operators are experts who need community and financial support to run their markets and resources specifically designed for their needs. Throughout National Farmers Market Week 2022, we will be highlighting the vital work of farmers market operators across the nation. Join us!”

To find a farmers market near you visit AERO’s Abundant Montana Directory.

The AgriSolar Clearinghouse, developed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is bringing its Follow the Sun tour to three dual-use farms in Massachusetts on August 10. Follow the Sun is a series of hands-on field trips to see firsthand the benefits of co-locating sustainable agriculture and solar energy. The Massachusetts tour includes visits to the University of Massachusetts Amherst South Deerfield research site, the Million Little Sunbeams family farm in Monson, and Grafton Solar in Grafton.

“AgriSolar allows us to harvest the sun twice. As America’s appetite for sustainably grown products and renewable energy continues to increase, agrisolar has the potential to provide both resources,” says NCAT Energy Program Director Dr. Stacie Peterson. “The research underway in Massachusetts combined with the working farms already using their land to produce food and energy provide us with a tremendous learning opportunity and hands-on experience for farmers to see how they might diversify their businesses with solar.”

Join Peterson, UMass researchers, and family farmers who are leading the way on growing crops beneath renewable-energy-producing solar arrays. Knowlton Farms in Grafton is using 13 acres to produce 6.2 megawatts of clean energy, avoiding nearly 6,200 tons of carbon emissions a year. At the UMASS South Deerfield demonstration farm, researchers are looking at the social, economic, and agricultural productivity impacts of pairing solar and farming.

“With support from the U.S. Department of Energy, the UMass Clean Energy Extension and university colleagues in the Center for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment and Resource Economics are researching the impacts of agrivoltaics on agricultural productivity and the farm economy,” says Dwayne Breger, Director, UMass Clean Energy Extension. “We are excited to build on the research at our experimental station with site trials embedded in commercial “dual-use” solar installations to bring more data and understanding across a broader range of agriculture of this technology and its role in agriculture and our renewable energy future.”

NCAT created the nation’s first AgriSolar Clearinghouse to connect farmers, ranchers, land managers, solar developers, and researchers with trusted, practical information to increase the appropriate co-location of solar and agriculture. It’s funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The AgriSolar Clearinghouse features a library of more than 400 peer-reviewed articles, a media hub featuring videos, podcasts, and relevant news, and a user forum to directly connect people interested in agrivoltaic development in real-time. Partner organizations include leading universities, the Smithsonian, sustainable agriculture and energy advocates, the Center for Rural Affairs, and the national energy laboratories.

The benefits of co-locating solar with appropriate agricultural land include producing food, conserving ecosystems, creating renewable energy, increasing pollinator habitat, and maximizing farm revenue.

The AgriSolar Clearinghouse’s free Follow the Sun Tour will stop at about a dozen agrivoltaic sites over the next two years. Future field trips will include visits to sites in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, New York and more. Sign up for the AgriSolar Extra to be sure you know about upcoming Follow the Sun Tour stops.

Community Partnership Seeks to Boost Green Energy and Climate Preparedness

 

Butte, MT— Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher, along with partners at the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and Montana Technological University, are inviting residents to help develop a community Sustainability, Health, and Resilience Plan (Butte SHARP). The plan will serve as a blueprint for economic development tied to green energy and a stronger local food system while helping the community prepare for climate disruptions such as drought, wildfire, and heat waves.

Gallagher said that city staff will work with a citizen steering committee and local businesses to develop the sustainability, health, and resilience plan, which will be incorporated into the BSB Comprehensive Plan and updates to zoning guidelines.

Butte-Silver Bow residents interested in serving on the steering committee should send an email or letter of interest to Jim Kambich, BSB Chief of Staff, jkambich@bsb.mt.gov, 155 W Granite Street, Butte, MT 59701. Steering Committee members will be selected by partners in the Resilient Butte project, including J.P. Gallagher at BSB, Les Cook at Montana Tech, and Steve Thompson at NCAT.

For those interested in specific topics, Gallagher also invited residents to participate in working groups focused on green energy and climate adaptation. The green energy committee will look at strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as solar energy development, innovative energy storage systems, and energy efficient homes and commercial buildings.

“There are going to be opportunities to boost our economy through new energy development, and Butte is well situated to benefit,” said Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher. “But we need to do this in a way that works best for our community, and that means planning ahead.”

The climate adaptation committee will focus on ways to minimize risks related to more volatile weather events and climate disruptions, which could include protection of municipal watersheds and water supply, stabilizing restoration of contaminated properties, redevelopment of brownfields, and safeguarding public health.

NCAT will coordinate community participation and educational programs, said Executive Director Steve Thompson. “NCAT provides technical assistance across the nation to develop practical solutions in support of community sustainability, regenerative agriculture, and clean energy. We have offices in 10 states, but Butte has been our headquarters for 46 years. We look forward to supporting our hometown through the Resilient Butte project.” 

To get involved in one of the working groups focused on local climate solutions, please contact Rylie Yaeger at NCAT: ryliey@ncat.org, 406-533-6644.

The public also can get involved by completing an online community survey to share your experiences, prioritize issues of concern, and identify economic development opportunities. Access the survey through the project website at www.ResilientButte.org.

Montana Tech Chancellor Les Cook said the university will provide technical expertise to the project. “Montana Tech appreciates the opportunity to partner with Butte-Silver Bow, NCAT and our community to support a healthy and prosperous future,” said Chancellor Les Cook. “There are issues that we need to address, and there are new opportunities that we would be wise to consider.”