Tag Archive for: Agriculture

Randal Kelly and his dad started growing corn and squash on their family agriculture plot on the Navajo Nation back in 2019. Now in his fourth growing season, Kelly has added in more root vegetables, flowers, and herbs. At most, they’re growing on a one-acre section of their 10-acre plot. Kelly says this is just the start.  

“I would like to produce vegetables for the whole Navajo Nation, and the whole southwest,” he says. “We have the land and resources; they’re just not being worked.” 

Kelly was among a group of farmer veterans who gathered in New Mexico recently for a weeklong Armed to Farm training. He’s one of more than 350,000 veteran or active-duty service members involved in farming in the United States. Kelly is also now one of more than 900 farmer veterans who have completed the Armed to Farm training program first launched in 2013 through a cooperative agreement with USDA-Rural Development. Armed to Farm is funded in part by ATTRA.  

Kelly was in the U.S. Army from 2001 to 2006, but he’s deeply rooted in agriculture. He lives on the same land he was raised on, and as a kid was in 4-H and FFA. He learned about the free Armed to Farm training through the Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture, applied, and was selected.  

Randal Kelly New Mexico Armed to Farm“It was cool to see and hear stories about how farmers started similar to where I’m at right now and how they learned to use grants, have the drive, and make it a business,” he says. “I loved the training; it was amazing.”  

He adds the training was well planned, and the classroom sessions were paired with hands-on examples of the same topic. For Kelly, he says it was invaluable to see grant programs and sustainable agriculture methods at work. Plus, he says connecting with other like-minded farmers will continue to be a well of information.  

“My biggest thing right now is we’re a culture that grew vegetables and at some point, we lost that. I have black and white photos of my grandma standing next to 10-foot-high cornstalks – I want to be like that; that’s my goal. It’s part of our tradition that we’re losing.” 

Kelly says he took home ideas on how to mitigate erosion and conserve water, and on managed grazing techniques and cover cropping.  

“We are considered a food desert; we don’t have foods that are local,” Kelly says. “For me, it’s important that I provide better nutrition to my people. My mind is racing thinking about all the things I can do.” 

Mississippi farmer James Burch is among a growing network of farmers, ranchers, and land managers across the United States who are taking steps to catch and hold more water in the soil with the aim of regenerating the land and strengthening their businesses.  

More than 150 farms and ranches have joined the free and voluntary Soil for Water network, a regenerative agriculture project supported in part by NCAT and ATTRA. The project aims to include 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. 

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 ensuring that 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.”  

In addition to being an early Soil for Water network member, Burch is also an alum of NCAT and ATTRA’s Armed to Farm program.

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.

When Don and Marcia Lyons started SeaLyon Farm in 2017, it was what they describe as a “clean slate.”    

ATTRA got us started on the right foot and gave us the right connections and guidance to navigate the Maine farmer support system and resources that exist already, but that can feel like drinking from a fire hose for the beginning farmer,” Don wrote. 

In particular, the Lyons took part in the Armed to Farm training program, along with more than 800 other farmer veterans since it was launched in 2013 through a cooperative agreement with USDA-Rural Development. Armed to Farm is funded in-part by ATTRA.  

Now the farm, located in Alna, and nestled in the beautiful mid-coast Maine area just inland from Wiscasset, produces a host of organically grown vegetables, fruit (currently raspberries and elderberries), lavender, pumpkins, and honey. The harvest includes hay, as well. 

The Lyons also offer an assortment of value-added products such as pickles, salsa, 11 flavors of jam, and herbal tea. They turn the lavender they grow and the honey and beeswax they gather into lip balm, beard balm, candles, and lavender essential oil. 

Speaking of adding value, the farm also has become the site of Alna Fair, what Lyons calls “a surprisingly popular agritourism venue” on its 34 acres.  

“We run events year-round, and this was the secret to our success through the COVID-19 crisis,” Lyons wrote. Outdoor activities with lots of hand sanitizer (on every wagon), horse-drawn wagons and sleighs, good food, a bonfire, and games for the kids. This continues to be a growing attraction for the Alna area and looks to have a promising future; as the farm grows, so will the events.” 

Fortune and hard work can take a farm in many directions, but Lyons believes NCAT’s sustainable-agriculture programs can be wind at farmers’ backs as they start the journey. 

“The Armed to Farm established the foundation that a beginning farmer with even a moderate drive could build upon and be successful. Whether you want to farm livestock or vegetables, all the information is there to be employed. 

“I would most wholeheartedly recommend NCAT/ATTRA not just to veterans, but to any beginning farmer, whether it’s through Armed to Farm or any of their other workshops or programs to come. I am sure they will be well founded and fruitful! (Pun intended.)”