Tag Archive for: Butte

The National Center for Appropriate Technology’s popular summer gardening and market-farming workshop series begins May 21 with a practical look at preparing an organic garden.

NCAT operates a high-altitude urban demonstration farm in Butte through its Small-Scale Intensive Farm Training program (SIFT) that is focused on food production for the good of the community. NCAT staff will host the free monthly Saturday workshops from 10 a.m. to noon. RSVP for the SIFT Series events here.

The workshops will be held at NCAT’s SIFT farm, located at 3040 Continental Drive in Butte.

The May 21 workshop will be a hands-on lesson in composting basics, including organic potting mixes, organic soil amendments, cover crops, and mulching methods. It also will cover scheduling planting throughout the growing season and the importance of “hardening off” plants – allowing them to transition from an indoor environment to what can be a challenging growing environment in the Butte area.

The workshop is being held in conjunction with Montana Tech’s Earth Month and the Clark Fork Watershed Education Program.

The other workshops on tap throughout the summer include:

June 25Analyzing your Soil and Creating a Management Plan: This workshop will include methods to analyze soil types, conduct water infiltration tests, and review soil tests. It will look at management strategies to address the needs of the soil and develop a plan to meet those needs. The workshop will address tillage and the degradation of soils; irrigation and soil water-holding capacities; and custom cover crop mixes to meet soil needs.

July 2. Benefits of Increasing Biodiversity: This workshop will focus on how building more biodiverse ecosystems can be beneficial by increasing pollinator habitat, bolstering integrated pest management, and mitigating risk in cropping strategies. The workshop will include planting drought-tolerant native species and touring SIFT’s native hedgerow.

August 13. Harnessing the Sun’s Energy for Season Extension in Southwest Montana: In conjunction with the 11th Annual Montana Clean Energy Fair, which will be held at NCAT’s headquarters, SIFT will be holding an open house and tour. Topics will include high-tunnel construction and solar passive greenhouses, as well as the costs, construction, and functions of useful season-extension tools for Southwest Montana. Visitors will learn about using the resources readily available to operate a sustainable farm.

September 10. Choosing Varieties to Grow in Butte: This workshop will include NCAT’s annual taste test of successful varieties of fruits and vegetables grown as a trial on the SIFT Farm. The discussion will include timing, growing tips, and seed selection for high yields in Butte. A discussion of seed saving basics for a resilient farm and garden is also planned.

When I lived in Beijing, people would always ask me how the pollution was. I told them two things: the Communist Party planted trees to stop sandstorms from entering the capital. Second, they also moved factories away from the city, yet didn’t shut them down. Despite all this, the Chinese capital still experiences terrible air quality for periods of the year. This past summer I moved home to Minnesota and was amazed to watch everyone taking pictures of the smoky haze drifting east from California, Washington, and Oregon and south from Canada.  While this was new for them, I was reminded of Beijing. A picturesque lake, glazed over with a harsh bite of reality: the wildfire smoke had finally reached the boundary waters of Northern Minnesota. Little did I know that I would soon move to the largest EPA superfund site in the United States, Butte, Montana where they have been dealing with these environmental issues for decades. 

A hundred years ago, at the height of a copper mining boom, Butte was the largest city between Chicago and the West. After most of the mines shut down, Butte’s population plummeted to only a fraction. Now, the community is growing again after decades of environmental restoration.  

Butte’s future will be shaped by opportunities and challenges related to climate change. Butte is seen by private industry as a good location for clean energy development with recent proposals to develop solar, green hydrogen, and energy storage systems. However, the community faces climate challenges that threaten to undo much of the environmental work of recent years. Community leaders are eager to understand the challenges and achieve the opportunities by developing a climate adaptation and green energy plan. Thus, our project was born—Resilient Butte. 

Butte-Silver Bow County, Montana Technological University, and the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) are partnering to create a Butte Sustainability and Resilience Plan. Unlike us Minnesotans, Montana has been battling drought and wildfire risk for years—risks that are only getting worse.  

One priority is to protect the Basin Creek watershed, the main source of Butte’s drinking water. Vast areas of beetle-killed lodgepole pine in the watershed are at risk of burning in a wildfire, which could fill the reservoir with sediments and plug water treatment filters. Even further, many Butte residents live in old buildings without proper insulation and weatherization, which pose health risks from rising temperatures and wildfire smoke. Those are just a couple issues we want to tackle with this new plan. But our plan isn’t just about the negatives. 

Butte has a rich history. It is well-positioned and has the potential to become a fantastic renewable energy hub. Butte industrial products, including silicon gas and copper, are essential for solar energy. In recent years, Butte has been approached by large-array solar and green hydrogen energy developers, but county officials haven’t yet developed land-use plans to accommodate these new uses.  Meanwhile, the county is eyeing infrastructure investments through the U.S. Department of Energy to develop clean energy projects on former mine lands. The Resilient Butte project will provide an economic development guide for the city-county.  

With our first steps towards Resilient Butte, we’d like to invite the residents in Butte to participate in a survey that can be found at: ResilientButte.org. We would like to also invite you to connect with Resilient Butte on Facebook and Instagram and at our website Resilient Butte. Get involved and help shape Butte’s climate adaptation and green energy plan! 

In response to the global pandemic, NCAT initiated a partnership with non-profits, local agencies, and businesses in Butte, Montana, to launch the Butte Mutual Aid Network to assist folks in need because of Covid-19. This is a neighbor-to-neighbor network connecting people who can help with people who need help.

Local residents can visit the website, https://buttemutualaid.org, to complete forms to ask for assistance, offer to volunteer, and provide donations to support needs in the community. A hotline for those more comfortable with the phone is also available: 406-494-8688.

The website also provides information about other resources that people can access if needed.

In the first two weeks, 40 volunteers registered on the network, and 29 people have received assistance. This includes families with young children, some led by single mothers.

The network is connecting volunteers with those in need to deliver groceries, deliver hot meals, and provide companionship and conversation. It is also coordinating with local schools to offer tutoring services for children while schools are closed.

Nearly $5,000 in donations have already been received to provide direct aid to those in need because of the coronavirus pandemic. Financial assistance includes providing Visa and local business gift cards to individuals and families that need help.

Mutual aid networks have been springing up around the country to provide hands-on local assistance and to help people stay connected and share ideas.

“It’s fascinating to me — and encouraging — to see the proliferation of these mutual aid networks across the country and across the world,” said Steve Thompson, Executive Director of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). “It’s a nice antidote to the us versus them mentality that has seemed so dominant in recent years.”

“A lot of this is happening organically here in Butte,” Thompson said. “So many people are stepping up to do good things. We just hope to be able to add value to that, to help match needs with volunteers.”

NCAT has served as the facilitator and manager for the network. Energy Corps AmeriCorps member Maryssa Fenwick serves as coordinator, with other NCAT staff providing assistance in various capacities.

Local partners in the network include Butte Broadcasting, the Butte Chamber of Commerce, Butte-Silver Bow City-County, Butte Food Co-op Planning Committee, Butte Local Development Corporation, Headwaters Resource Development Council, the Montana Standard newspaper, Safeway groceries, the Salvation Army, Montana Tech University, and United Way of Butte and Anaconda.

For more information on the Butte network, visit the website or call the hotline. To learn more about mutual aid networks and find information about starting your own network, visit https://aarpcommunityconnections.org/.