Ten years ago, Air Force veteran Sara Creech almost didn’t attend NCAT’s first week-long Armed to Farm, a sustainable agriculture education program for military veterans. After driving from Indiana to Arkansas for the training, anxiety told her to turn around and go home. Instead, she found the strength to stay.

“I went in there and had the most powerful week of my life,” Sara Creech said. “I really look at this life that I’ve built right now, and it all started with that Armed to Farm.” 

The National Center for Appropriate Technology today released its short film “Armed to Farm Stories: Sara Creech,” in which Creech, a former surgery and trauma nurse who served during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, shares her story of overcoming loss through organic farming. Attending NCAT’s Armed to Farm program in 2013 empowered Sara not only to pursue farming, but also to help other farmer veterans. 

In the film, we see the diversified vegetable, fruit, and livestock farm Sara has built over the past ten years and hear from members of the farmer veteran community who have benefited from Sara’s mentorship.

Many service members feel disconnected from their communities and former lives when they come home, Sara said. Organic and sustainable farming can help them feel connected and whole again.

“Armed to Farm offers practical information to help veterans get their farms started, or expand their operations,” said Margo Hale, Armed to Farm Program Director. “The classroom sessions, along with farm tours and hands-on activities, give them a strong foundation in sustainable agriculture. And the relationships they develop during the week of training—which often continue long after the week is over—are invaluable.” 

Armed to Farm participants learn from seasoned farmers and gain direct experience on livestock, vegetable, fruit, and agritourism operations. Since the week-long program began ten years ago, more than 1,000 veterans from 47 states have participated in the training. When surveyed one year after attending an Armed to Farm, 73 percent of participants indicated they continued farming, had started farming, or were in the process of starting a farm.

Sara credits farming with bringing peace to her life, as well as giving her purpose—caring for the land, feeding her community, and supporting other veterans who want to farm. And Sara is just one example of Armed to Farm alumni helping their fellow farmer veterans.

“Sara exemplifies what we hope to achieve through the Armed to Farm program,” said Hale. “Not only is she operating a successful diversified farm, but she has taken what she learned from us and amplified it so that many other veterans have access to that knowledge and support.” 

Watch the film, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdsOjbc-GYY

To learn more about NCAT’s Armed to Farm program, visit ARMEDTOFARM.ORG.

Thanks to NCAT’s AgriSolar Clearinghouse and its partners, people across the country are enjoying local food produced underneath solar panels. The most recent farm to table event, held in partnership with Big River Farms at Connexus Energy, took place September 26 in Ramsey, Minnesota.

“We’re doing this to help create community and show how delicious this food can be that’s grown underneath solar panels,” NCAT Energy Program Director Dr. Stacie Peterson told North Metro TV.

Co-locating food and fiber production with solar panels can increase land access for farmers and strengthen local food systems.

“I think you’re seeing this all across the country and once people hear about it, it just makes sense,” said Peterson. “They hear about the stacked benefits of agriculture and solar, and agrisolar, and they want to do it, too.”

To learn more about agrisolar, or agrivoltaics, visit NCAT’s AgriSolar Clearinghouse.

As students from around the country fill their backpacks with pens and paper, some rural Mississippi students are sure to toss in a pair of work gloves for the school year. Since 2019, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and The Piney Woods School have partnered to educate the next generation of sustainable farmers, ranchers, soil scientists and food security advocates. They’re now telling the story of this unique partnership in a new video.

Thanks to a grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, NCAT and The Piney Woods School are educating students about gardening, sustainability, and regenerative grazing practices at the school’s 200-acre on-campus farm, sparking interest in agriculture-related career fields. Not only has the site been used to provide hands-on sustainable agriculture training for students, but it’s also hosted workshops for beginning and small farmers across the Gulf States region.

“It has been so rewarding to share with teens from urban and rural backgrounds the idea that farming can not only be a fulfilling career path, but it is also key to strengthening local food systems and economies,” says NCAT Gulf States Regional Director and fourth-generation farmer Rock Woods. “Our unique partnership with The Piney Woods School will have a lasting impact and I can’t wait to see how these students put their knowledge to work.”

The number of farms has been on the decline in Mississippi, and nationwide, while the demand for locally and sustainably produced products has grown. Students learn the fundamentals basic to sustainable farming like the importance of soil health and managed grazing, while they also learn how diverse specialty crops and marketing can make farms more profitable.

From humble beginnings on a fallen log beneath a cedar tree in 1909, The Piney Woods School has grown to resemble a small college encompassing 2,000 acres, including several lakes, a unique rock garden amphitheater, and its demonstration farm. This farm serves as the backdrop for an intensive, hands-on training program that has expanded to teach farmers and future farmers, urban food producers, and traditionally underserved farmers how to produce high-value, nutrient-rich food on small parcels of land. Even as the pandemic has presented a new challenge for schools and communities, students at Piney Woods have been able to safely continue hands-on, outdoor agriculture learning.

Student Ceasar Stewart says he once thought he’d like to be a lawyer, but after his hands-on farm education, he’s more interested in agriculture and health.

“By the time I’m a senior, I would like to see more people at the farm growing more plants and making this place more resilient to humans,” Stewart says in a film produced about the partnership.

“As a career, I definitely want to work with the UN or a nongovernment organization,” says student Isis Bandele-Asante, “I definitely want to help with sustainability, especially in less developed nations and help to rebuild the economy by rebuilding their agriculture industries. So, I want to help them rebuild that and create a better life for the people there.”

Over the course of this partnership, NCAT has provided training to 70 students and more than 200 regional farmers. Over the last year, NCAT’s sustainable agriculture educational resources were accessed more than 3 million times through its trusted digital knowledge base at ATTRA.NCAT.ORG.



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 PINEY WOODS SCHOOL is a co-educational program serving 8th through 12th grades in an experiential learning environment. As the nation’s oldest African American boarding school, we are celebrating 112 years of continuous operations and excellence in education. The cultural significance of the school is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. The 2,000-acre rural campus is located 20 miles south of Jackson, Mississippi. For more information, please visit: www.pineywoods.org