The National Center for Appropriate Technology has opened registration for its Soil Health Innovations Conference: Soil for Water, March 15 and 16.

The two-day conference will convene online, and the highly interactive format will connect agricultural producers and educators in a critical conversation about soil health. As was the first conference, it will be an in-depth exploration of agriculture’s sustainable future: on-farm practices, soil biology, carbon markets, and public policy. This year’s conference will focus on farm and ranch strategies to catch and hold more water in the soil.

“The inaugural Soil Health Innovations Conference last spring really exceeded our expectations,” said NCAT Executive Director Steve Thompson. “We were especially struck by the engagement of the participants, both during the conference and afterward through NCAT’s ATTRA sustainable agriculture program. It goes to show that we live in a time when producers and food companies, as well as policy makers, realize how important healthy soils are as we design practical approaches for supporting resilient regenerative agriculture.”

The conference will bring together leading experts and innovative farmers from around the U.S. to share the latest in soil science, best practices in soil management, opportunities for policy change, and the emerging technologies that will drive the future of sustainable and regenerative agriculture. Two sessions will focus on the potential to reduce downstream flooding through watershed-scale soil health practices. Keynote speakers will include University of Washington and Dig2Grow’s David Montgomery and regenerative rancher Alejandro Carrillo.

This year’s theme, Soil for Water, expands on NCAT’s nationwide effort of the same name to connect a growing network of regenerative farmers, ranchers, and land managers who are taking steps to catch and hold more water in the soil.

In addition, since one of the best parts of any conference is the chance to greet old friends and make new acquaintances, the conference will have virtual networking tables that allow participants to get together with each other, speakers, and NCAT staff.

There also will be virtual halls where participants can connect with exhibitors and conference sponsors.

Don’t miss this chance to examine current practices as well as the concepts, techniques, and practical applications that may be available in the future. Register to attend the conference, exhibit or sponsor the event at SOILINNOVATIONS.NCAT.ORG.

Keynote Speaker: March 15

David R. Montgomery, University of Washington and Dig2Grow.com
Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life

“Soil may be the least sexy resource upon which civilization depends, yet soil erosion and degradation have plagued societies in the past and pose challenges for feeding the future. Growing a Revolution relates visits to farmers around the world at the heart of a brewing soil health revolution that cuts through standard debates about conventional and organic farming.”

See David Montgomery’s biography.

 

Keynote Speaker: March 16

Alejandro Raul CarrilloAlejandro Raul Carrillo, Las Damas Cattle Ranch
Regenerative Grazing to Reverse Desertification

Using regenerative grazing techniques over the past several years, Alejandro dramatically increased the water filtration of his ranch in the Chihuahuan Desert 250 miles south of El Paso, Texas.

See Alejandro Carrillo’s biography

 

Butte-Silver Bow is partnering with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and Montana Technological University to develop a community Sustainability and Resilience Plan. County residents are invited to provide input, learn about the issues, and sign up for project working groups.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill recently passed by Congress represents the nation’s biggest investment in clean energy and providing local communities with the tools to fight climate disruption. These investments have the potential to boost local economic development tied to new sources of energy and to help communities prepare for climate change impacts such as drought, wildfire, and heat waves.

“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.” He said that this would include identifying potential locations and infrastructure needs for renewable energy developments such as solar, energy storage systems, or green hydrogen industries. Community engagement will help inform updates to BSB’s zoning code and the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

Gallagher also announced that BSB will participate in a National Science Foundation pilot project for community-based climate adaptation planning. Community workshops will be scheduled in the spring to identify critical community issues and develop local solutions. Several potential issues have been discussed by the three project partners, but priority focus areas will be guided by public input.

BSB residents are encouraged to take an online community survey to prioritize issues of concern, identify development opportunities, and sign up to get involved in the Resilient Butte project. The 5-minute survey is available at www.surveymonkey.com/r/ResilientButte.

One issue of concern is the health risk to vulnerable groups from increasingly smoky summers and the future likelihood of severe heat waves, such as the one that killed hundreds of people last summer in Washington and Oregon. Another vulnerability is growing wildfire risk to Butte’s municipal watersheds in Basin Creek, Moulton and the Big Hole. Concerns also have been raised about the long-term stability of reclamation areas on the Butte Hill as hotter, drier summers desiccate sites that have been revegetated. Butte also may experience population growth as people move away from climate impacts elsewhere, such as megafires in California or coastal flooding.

The adaptation workshops in late spring will be informed by the Montana Climate Assessment, developed by Montana universities to evaluate climate trends and projected impacts to Montana agriculture, forests, water resources, and public health. The workshops will be led by EcoAdapt, a nonprofit in Washington state, and Virginia Tech University, which jointly received a National Science Foundation award to determine the best approach for community-based planning for climate solutions. Butte is among eight communities across the nation selected to participate in this pilot project.

Montana Tech faculty and students will provide technical expertise and research to support the project. The project will tap Tech’s expertise in restoration ecology, environmental engineering, and watershed education. Engineering students will assist with a community energy assessment and greenhouse gas inventory. On March 23, the Montana Tech Public Lecture Series will feature Dr. Cathy Whitlock, a Montana State University Regents Professor and lead author of the Montana Climate Assessment.

“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.”

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.” 

NCAT AmeriCorps VISTA member Rylie Yaeger will be help coordinate opportunities for local residents to get involved in the planning process. “We’re inviting community members to participate in conversations about sustainability, climate resilience and economic development opportunities for Butte,” Yaeger said.

To learn more or get involved, contact Rylie Yaeger at Ryliey@ncat.org or 494-6644. Or find Resilient Butte on Facebook or Instagram.

A new USDA grant will fund the use of crop-insurance data to improve education and extension efforts that help farmers and ranchers assess the ways extreme weather and climate disruption have caused production losses and to project future losses.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) with Montana State University (MSU) and the University of California, Davis (UC-Davis) have been awarded the five-year $1.5 million grant to collaborate with the USDA Southwest and Northern Plains Climate Hubs.

In 2020, the farmers and ranchers in the states representing the Southwest and Northern Plains Climate Hubs suffered insured crop losses of $2.6 billion. The cost that these farmers and ranchers paid for this coverage was $1.8 billion (USDA RMA, 2021). While most of the insured causes of loss in these two regions can be explained by extreme weather, the long-term loss trends continue to increase because of a changing climate.

“This project will utilize a diverse team, including climate hub personnel, extension faculty, agricultural economists, graduate students, and two climate hub fellows to develop and implement improved extension materials for communicating these growing risks associated with extreme weather and climate change,” said Dr. Eric Belasco, Professor of Agricultural Economics at Montana State University and Co-project Director.

This unique effort is part of a new national collaboration with the USDA Climate Hubs. This regional partnership covering two large portions of the U.S. further extends the outreach efforts the Climate Hubs to reach organizations such as the Cooperative Extension Service that need to address extreme weather and climate challenges.

“We at the Southwest Climate Hub have built producer-friendly tools such as the AgRisk Viewer that can help assess weather and climate risks, and this project will help expand and improve the use of this and other tools that serve the farmers and ranchers of the Southwest,” added Dr. Emile Elias, Director of the USDA Southwest Climate Hub.

Understanding the type of climate-risk assessment information that farmers and ranchers in these regions need is a key part of this work.

“We will begin our efforts by hosting a number of focus group sessions that target the broad range of farmers and ranchers, including socially disadvantaged and minority producers and the educational institutions that serve them,” said NCAT Agricultural and Natural Resource Economist Jeff Schahczenski. “It is critical to listen to the needs of farmers and ranchers on how best to meet the challenges of future extreme weather and climate risks.”

MSU, NCAT, and UC-Davis have collaborated on several efforts to better understand the complexity of federal crop-insurance products and why these products aren’t widely used by farmers and ranchers across the country.

“For example, the expanding use of a unique kind of insurance called the Pasture, Rangeland and Forage Rainfall Index (PRF) has been an increasingly important product for livestock producers,” said Dr. Tina Saitone, Associate Cooperative Extensions Specialist, with UC-Davis and rangeland systems expert. “This ‘index’ insurance insures against forage losses based on a complicated formula related to independent rainfall-index measurements, and it is not simple to understand how best to optimize its use in livestock-production risks.”

In addition to assisting producers to better understand the trends in weather and climate-related losses, crop-insurance loss data will also be used to help assess what changes in production practices might better mitigate future losses.

“Our overarching approach and philosophy is that there is no silver bullet to managing risk in production systems, especially risks associated with climate variability,” Belasco said. “Instead, we take a risk management portfolio approach, with the goal of providing clear and detailed information for farmers, ranchers, and professionals so they can better address the regional risks that they currently face and are predicted to face in the future.”

 

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THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY (NCAT) 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.

USDA’s Climate Hubs are a unique collaboration across the department’s agencies. They are led and hosted by the Agricultural Research Service and Forest Service located at ten regional locations, with contributions from many agencies including the Natural Resources Conservation ServiceFarm Service Agency, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the Risk Management Agency. The Climate Hubs link USDA research and program agencies in their regional delivery of timely and authoritative tools and information to agricultural producers and professionals.

Farmers, ranchers, and land managers across the United States who are taking steps to catch and hold more water in the soil are invited to join the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s Soil for Water project. Building on an expanding peer-to-peer network of ranchers in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Montana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas, and Virginia, NCAT has opened the program to crop farmers, ranchers, and land managers in all 50 states who are learning together how to catch and hold more water in the soil.

“The Soil for Water project is about implementing practical, cost-effective, and lasting ways to regenerate our soil — making farms, ranches, and communities more resilient in the face of climate disruption,” said NCAT Executive Director Steve Thompson. “We need to start thinking about healthy soil as permanent infrastructure that stores water to better withstand the impacts of droughts and floods. By connecting innovative farmers and ranchers, and tapping into their know-how, we see Soil for Water becoming a key player in regenerating and improving farmland across America. We welcome and encourage farmers and ranchers everywhere to join this free network at SOILFORWATER.ORG.”

To date, more than 90 farms and ranches have joined the free and voluntary Soil for Water network. The project aims to include hundreds of farmers and ranchers who discover and share land management practices that improve soil health, catch more water in soil, reduce erosion, sustain diverse plant and animal life, and filter out pollutants, all while improving the profitability of their businesses.

James Burch’s Mississippi farm has been in his family for a century. After a long military career, it’s only recently that he started putting the land back into production. He’s passionate about locally grown produce, grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pigs. His main concern is mitigating erosion and making sure the soil on his land doesn’t wash away into nearby waterways. That’s why Burch joined the Soil for Water network.

“It’s important to build the soil to the point that you’ve got some kind of cover on it, and any time you get these big rains, it doesn’t take your topsoil to another area,” said Burch. “The vision for my farm is big. I’m taking it one step at a time and using proven methodologies to grow healthy food above ground and maintain healthy soil below ground.”

Unhealthy soil doesn’t absorb much water. Healthy soil acts like a sponge, capable of holding hundreds of thousands of gallons of water in an acre. Climate trends across much of the U.S. indicate longer, hotter drought periods punctuated by storms that often are more severe, according to a 2021 USDA report. Regenerative farming practices enable the soil to capture rainfall that otherwise might disappear as runoff. Economically, these practices can increase crop and forage production, drought resilience, access to lucrative new markets, and therefore profitability. Environmentally, they can improve soil health and biodiversity.

The expanded Soil for Water project encourages the adoption of regenerative land management practices through an interactive website, peer-to-peer forum, in-person and online networking opportunities, and the ability to connect with experts and land managers who are finding success with varied practices.

The Soil for Water project launched in 2015 with support from the Dixon Water Foundation and the Meadows Foundation. Project investors include grants from the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), $980,000; The Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation, $50,000; the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, $1 million; and the Kathleen Hadley Innovation Fund, $20,000.

To learn more about the newly expanded Soil for Water project, and to join the free network, visit SOILFORWATER.ORG.

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

“Farmers who attend the Latino Farmer Conference are more likely to be starting out, and more than half of them grow specialty crops,” said NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Omar Rodriguez. “These are just two reasons why an annual learning event created by and for Latino farmers is such a valuable resource.”

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 free 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.

This year’s conference will be virtual and is scheduled for December 8, January 12, and February 9. Conference session topics will include:

  • 8: Farming with Drought and Strategies for Adaptation
  • 12: Business Management, Marketing, and Farm Labor Management
  • 9: Integrated Pest Management and Organic Farming

This year’s online format will allow new farmers and partner organizations to become aware of and access the quality information that is typically shared to an exclusive group of in-person attendees. Additionally, recordings of past presentations and other resources can be accessed at any time through NCAT’s Latino Farmer Conference website or the ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture website.

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.

 

Regístrese Gratis para la Conferencia del Agricultor Latino de NCAT
NCAT y NRCS se asocian para organizar la séptima conferencia de agricultura sostenible en español

El Centro Nacional para Tecnología Apropiada y el Servicio de Conservación de Recursos Naturales presentan la séptima Conferencia del Agricultor Latino, un evento de agricultura sostenible en español creado para todos los agricultores de habla hispana.

“Generalmente, los agricultores que asisten a la Conferencia del Agricultor Latino son principiantes y más de la mitad de ellos producen cultivos de especialidad,” dijo el especialista en agricultura sostenible de NCAT, Omar Rodríguez. “Estas son solo dos razones por las que un evento de aprendizaje anual creado por y para agricultores latinos es un recurso tan valioso.”

Este evento anual busca construir redes y brindar oportunidades de aprendizaje para los agricultores interesados en una variedad de temas técnicos y sociales relacionados con la agricultura sostenible. La conferencia es gratuita y tiene como objetivo proporcionar información confiable, práctica, y culturalmente relevante. Cada sesión se crea en base a los comentarios de los agricultores y todo el contenido se presenta en español.

La conferencia de este año será virtual y está programada para el 8 de diciembre, el 12 de enero y el 9 de febrero. Los temas del año incluirán:

  • 8 de diciembre: Manejo Inteligente del Agua: La sequia y estrategias para adaptación
  • 12 de enero: Gestión Comercial, Marketing, y Acceso a la Mano de Obra
  • 9 de febrero: Manejo Integrado de Plagas y Agricultura Orgánica

El formato en línea de este año permitirá a los nuevos agricultores y organizaciones asociadas a conocer y acceder información de calidad que generalmente se comparte con un grupo exclusivo de agricultores quien atienden en persona. Además, las presentaciones grabadas y otros recursos se pueden acceder en cualquier momento a través del sitio web de la Conferencia del Agricultor Latino o el sitio web de agricultura sostenible de ATTRA.

La Conferencia del Agricultor Latino es organizada por el Centro Nacional de Tecnología Apropiada (NCAT) en colaboración con el Servicio de Conservación de Recursos Naturales (NRCS) y no sería posible sin las generosas donaciones hechas por socios y amigos que trabajan en agricultura regenerativa.

In less than a decade, solar installations are expected to cover more than 3 million acres of the United States, creating a big opportunity to pair solar with agricultural land to produce food, conserve ecosystems, create renewable energy, increase pollinator habitat, and maximize farm revenue.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology, a nonprofit focused on sustainable energy and agriculture solutions, has launched the nation’s first AgriSolar Clearinghouse to connect farmers, ranchers, land managers, solar developers, and researchers with trusted, practical information to increase the co-location of solar and agriculture.

“There are tremendous benefits of pairing solar and agriculture,” NCAT Energy Programs Director Stacie Peterson, PhD said. “As America’s appetite for sustainably grown products and renewable energy continues to increase, agrisolar has the potential to provide both resources. AgriSolar is a win-win.”  

NCAT’s AgriSolar Clearinghouse features a library of peer-reviewed information, a media hub featuring videos, podcasts, and relevant news, and a user forum to connect people interested in agrisolar development in real-time.

“The AgriSolar Clearinghouse will present a platform open to all Americans for sharing the nationwide efforts in agricultural integration at solar facilities,” said American Solar Grazing Association Executive Director Lexie Hain. “The exciting thing for us at ASGA is that the AgriSolar Clearinghouse will amplify a thoughtful and trusted approach to expanding America’s efforts in solar and agricultural land use.”

The project’s diverse group of more than 30 partners and stakeholders representing private business, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, national energy laboratories, the Smithsonian, and leading universities will be a key ingredient in supporting the expansion of agrisolar developments across the country.

NCAT’s AgriSolar Clearinghouse is funded by a three-year, $2.03 million cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The Solar Energy Technologies Office supports early-stage research and development to improve the affordability, reliability, and domestic benefit of solar technologies on the grid.

“NCAT and our partners are well positioned to help solar developers and farmers connect to make the most out of co-locating solar arrays and agricultural land,” NCAT Executive Director Steve Thompson said. “For 45 years, NCAT has been a trusted broker of practical information to advance locally-grown and sustainable agriculture and energy solutions.”

To learn more about the AgriSolar Clearinghouse visit AGRISOLARCLEARINGHOUSE.ORG.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and Ranchin’ Vets have teamed up to offer a new level of support for military veterans interested in sustainable agriculture training opportunities. Ranchin’ Vets will fund a one-time transportation stipend directly to veterans selected to participate in NCAT’s Armed to Farm training program.

Armed to Farm is a sustainable agriculture training program for military veterans. NCAT manages the program with support from a variety of funding sources, including a cooperative agreement with USDA-Rural Development. Since launching in 2013, Armed to Farm has supported more than 800 farmer veterans from 45 states with hands-on and classroom learning opportunities. 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.

Armed to Farm has always been free for veterans and their spouses or farm partners to attend. NCAT covers the cost of lodging, most meals, and local transportation during the training. However, attendees have always been responsible for getting themselves to the training site, which could require long drives across several states or even airfare.

“We want everyone who is accepted into the Armed to Farm program to be able to participate, so we are excited to partner with Ranchin’ Vets to open this opportunity to even more farmer veterans,” said Margo Hale, Armed to Farm Program Director. “Although the training itself is free, the cost of traveling to the training can be substantial and has been a barrier to veterans attending Armed to Farm in the past. We’re very thankful for this opportunity to offer another level of support to the farmer veterans who attend Armed to Farm.”

Ranchin’ Vets, a California based 501 c (3) nonprofit organization founded in 2014, serves veterans on a national level, with a mission to assist in the reintegration of veterans from military to civilian life through a variety of programs offered within the ranching and agricultural industry.

The Ranchin’ Vets Operation Hire A Vet Program connects veterans with opportunities within the agricultural industry. Veterans in the program who need additional support receive a temporary stipend towards transportation, housing and clothing as they pursue agricultural opportunities.

“Through our Operation Hire A Vet Program, we recognized the need for a training program that will equip veterans with the tools they need to be successful in their agricultural endeavors. This partnership with Armed to Farm is an incredible opportunity to work together to assure that all veterans who are interested in pursuing this path will have access to resources that will help them thrive,” said Corey Downs, Ranchin’ Vets Program Director. “Our programs go hand-in-hand, providing veterans with fully funded access to professional agricultural training, as well as assistance in seeking and obtaining agricultural employment. We are so grateful to have the opportunity to work with Armed to Farm.”  

The travel stipends will be available starting with the next Armed to Farm training, scheduled for Dec. 1-3, 2021, in Athens, Georgia. For Armed to Farm participants to receive a transportation stipend, they must successfully register with Ranchin’ Vets.

For more information about Ranchin’ Vets, visit ranchinvets.org. See ARMEDTOFARM.ORG for more about NCAT’s Armed to Farm program.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology will lead a regional partnership to help more than 300 beginning farmers and ranchers across the Northern Great Plains explore the value, viability, and resilience of raising organic field crops.

NCAT will lead this $600,000 three-year Preparing a Resilient Future project alongside 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 Preparing a Resilient Future project is unique in that it will help beginning farmers and ranchers fully explore the economic and productive viability of organic systems in the Northern Great Plains,” said NCAT Agricultural and Natural Resource Economist and Project Director Jeff Schahczenski. “NCAT has long-recognized that farmers and ranchers learn best from other farmers and ranchers.”

Unlike most programs focused on beginning farmers and ranchers, the new project targets medium to large-scale field crop and livestock operations. 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.

Researchers often assume that beginning organic farmers are smaller-scale operations because of the challenge of finding and acquiring affordable land and high cost of larger-scale machinery. Programs that help beginning farmers tend to focus on organic specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and flowers. Research has shown that only about 25 percent of Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development programs train and educate beginning farmers to focus on commodity field crops such as, wheat, barley, lentils, chickpeas, dry peas and beans and oilseeds as well as beef livestock production.

Why Field Crops?

Interest in growing organic field crops is on the rise in the Northern Great Plains, and there appears to be good reason to think there would be markets for them.

Research shows that organic vegetable and specialty crop growers are meeting the national demand in the U.S. because there’s a net export of their products. At the same time, organically grown field crops are being imported into the U.S. at stable and sometimes increasing rates.

“Organic farming is not prescriptive,” said Jamie Ryan Lockman, Executive Director of the Montana Organic Association and Co-Project Director. “It is a system that requires diverse crops and diverse approaches subject to constant change. Montana is the number one organic wheat- and pulse-producing state in the country; it is uniquely positioned to provide education as well as opportunities to meet, learn, collaborate, mentor, do business, and more.”

Bringing in the Community

NCAT and the project collaborators will host intensive training sessions, one-on-one technical assistance, and on-farm workshops and tours. The training will be conducted in two-day “Organic Academy Road Show” sessions. Importantly, experienced organic farmers and ranchers are some of the lead trainers in this project.  

In addition to the farmers and ranchers taking part, the sessions will include other members of their agricultural communities, including civic leaders, county Extension agents and officials from USDA agencies such as the Farm Service Administration and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

That outreach is vital as support for the beginning farmers and to introduce organic farming and ranching to the agricultural community in their area.

Opportunities for Diversity

Over the past seven years, NCAT has helped nearly 900 military veteran farmers through its Armed to Farm training projects around the country.

In addition, NCAT and MOA have undertaken many training workshops that have included tribal members, who make up about 2 percent of all new beginning farmers in the Northern Great Plains.

That emphasis on diversity will be reflected in the Preparing a Resilient Future project, which will include at least 50 veteran, limited-resource, tribal, and socially disadvantaged participants.

“NCAT is a longtime, trusted resource for providing accessible training to farmers and ranchers,” said NCAT Executive Director Steve Thompson. “Now we have the opportunity to formally partner with several leading organic and sustainable agriculture organizations and tribal nations to deliver high-quality training to beginning farmers, ranchers, and their community support systems across the Northern Great Plains, creating a recipe for success.”

The Preparing a Resilient Future project will serve farmers and ranchers in Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology has released a series of 19 videos from its inaugural Soil Health Innovations Conference. The presentations feature nationally recognized experts and innovative farmers from around the U.S. who share the latest in soil science, best practices in soil management, and the emerging technologies that will drive the future of sustainable and regenerative agriculture.

“The Soil Health Innovations Conference occupies the cutting edge of soil health across the country – on-farm practices, soil biology, carbon markets, and public policy,” said Steve Thompson, NCAT executive director. “This set of videos adds to NCAT’s trusted knowledgebase and provides a free resource to any producer or land manager working to improve soil conditions.”

The keynote presentation by Dr. Fred Provenza, one of the country’s leading ecologists, is a highlight of the conference videos. He discusses the link between the health of soils and plants with the health of livestock and the people who eat these foods.

Dr. Robin “Buz” Kloot, a soil health research professor in the Environmental Health Sciences Department at University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, spoke about helping farmers find their way forward using new soil testing techniques.

Other acclaimed speakers featured in these conference videos are Rick Clark of Farm Green, Dorn Cox of OpenTEAM, Dan Kittredge of Bionutrient Food Association, Aria McLauchlan of Land Core, Dr. Bianca Moebius-Clune of American Farmland Trust, and Arohi Sharma of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Presentations from innovative farmers and ranchers included rice, corn, soybean and cotton farmer Adam Chappell from Arkansas, organic walnut grower Russ Lester from California, and beef producer Cooper Hibbard from Montana.

An audience favorite at the conference was the Indigenous and Traditional Soil Health Practices presentation featuring speakers Mila Berhane, Greenland Nursery; Kelsey Ducheneaux-Scott, Intertribal Agriculture Council; Earcine Evans, Francis Flowers and Herbs Farm, and Twila Cassadore, Traditional Western Apache Diet Project.

These videos are free and available on YouTube, ATTRA.NCAT.ORG and SOILINNOVATIONS.NCAT.ORG.

As emerging technologies and innovative practices have made clear, healthy soil will play a foundational role in the future of sustainable, climate-smart agriculture. These innovations come at a time when there is a growing commitment among producers, food companies, policy makers, and consumers to improve the resilience of healthy food systems at their very roots. NCAT’s conference was a unique opportunity for these groups to come together for important conversation.

Small-scale farmers, food processors or distributors, or farmers markets financially impacted by Covid-19 can now apply for up to $20,000 to recover costs related to the pandemic. The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is helping food producers access these dollars through the USDA’s Pandemic Response and Safety Grant Program. Applications are now open until Nov. 22, 2021.

If you operate a small farm producing specialty crops whose annual revenue is less than $1 million, run a farmers market, food hub, community supported agriculture (CSA) farm, a small food processing business or food manufacturing operation, you may be eligible for grant funding.

According to the USDA, the pandemic-related costs that are recoverable through this grant program relate to the following areas, and include estimating staff time to implement:

  • Workplace Safety: Implementing workplace safety measures to protect against COVID-19 such as providing personal protective equipment, thermometers, cleaning supplies, sanitizers, hand washing stations, installation and purchase of air filters or new signage.
  • Market Pivots: Implementing market pivots to protect against COVID–19. Though not exactly well-defined market pivot are related to cost of changing how you had to operate your enterprise to make it more COVID-19 safe including the staff time to implement these changes. For example, a farmers’ market may have had to restructure their layout to ensure one-way traffic and improve social distancing.
  • Retrofitting Facilities: Retrofitting facilities for worker and consumer safety to protect against COVID–19 such as installation and purchase of protective barriers, walk up windows, heat lamps/heaters, fans, tents, propane, weights, tables chairs and lighting.
  • Transportation: Providing additional transportation options to maintain social distancing and worker and consumer safety to protect against COVID-19 such as securing additional transportation services for workers or establishing new delivery routed or distribution services. For instance, a food hub might have had to shift to delivering food directly to consumers rather than just having to have common distribution point.
  • Worker Housing: Providing additional worker housing resources or services to maintain social distancing or to allow for quarantining of new or exposed employees.
  • Medical: Providing health services to protect workers against COVID-19 including offering or enabling vaccinations, testing, or healthcare treatment of infected employees, including paid leave.

This is not a competitive grant program; grants will be awarded based on eligibility. Funding is not awarded on a first-come-first-serve basis, and the 45-day application period opened October 6.

Before applying, all applicants must obtain a Data Universal Number System (DUNS) number. This DUNS number will be required to receive this grant. More information on how to obtain a DUNS number, plus full eligibility criteria can be found at the USDA’s website: https://usda-prs.grantsolutions.gov/usda.

You can also ask further questions about this program by emailing usda.ams.prs@grantsolutions.gov or call 301-238-5550. NCAT’s ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program will provide additional support related to accessing this new grant program. Check our website at ATTRA.NCAT.ORG or sign up for our weekly e-newsletter for updates.