The Dirt

The DirtMontana

Fresh Updates From NCAT’s Sustainable Agriculture and Energy Staff

It’s going to be another lovely summer in Montana, and our staff at the National Center for Appropriate Technology are making the most of the sunshine and long hours to promote healthy, local foods and energy efficiency for all of the state. Read on to catch up on the latest news from NCAT.

Farm Workshops Scheduled

Our Small-Scale Intensive Farm Training (SIFT) program and demonstration farm is in full swing, and staff have scheduled training workshops to share information about sustainable production. Housed at our headquarters in Butte, the farm features hoophouses, greenhouses, and open garden plots to demonstrate how to commercially produce high-value, nutrient-rich food on small parcels of land. Workshop topics include composting, the strawberry trials, cover crops, diversity, and variety trials of peppers and tomatoes. For the complete listing with dates, visit the SIFT website.

Solving the Beef to School Equation

The Beef to School Project in Montana has had another productive year, with continued success in cultivating enthusiasm and developing strategies for getting Montana beef to Montana kids. In late April, members of the Beef to School Coalition (the stakeholder arm of the Beef to School Project) met at Bozeman High School to discuss progress and steps for the future of beef to school. Read on for all the details about the meeting and future plans.

Helping Others

NCAT’s Energy Services staff and Energy Corps AmeriCorps members replaced light bulbs at the Big Sky Senior Living Center in Butte, MT in May. The team changed 4,200 bulbs and fixtures to LED lights, which will result in a savings of 321,080 kWh per year for the facility. That will reduce its energy costs by more than $39,000 every year. The energy savings are equivalent to 3,482 tons of CO2, or the emissions of 667 passenger vehicles for one year. The residents were especially grateful for the new lighting, which improved their ability to see. Click here to view the local news story. Visit to learn more about our energy services work and how we can assist your business or organization.

New School Garden

Despite the cold and snowy conditions on May 13, the Philipsburg community gathered to build the school’s first garden. Led by FoodCorps service member Rachel Levy, about 15 adults and a gaggle of students tackled building raised beds, mulching pathways, filling beds with rocks and rich soil, and painting signage. Community members gathered over a hearty meal prepared by the local pizzeria and Rachel, and all agreed the food was the best part of the day. The entire garden build project only took two hours – quite the impressive feat! Students, parents, and teachers look forward to planting in the garden now that warm weather has arrived. The garden will be a focal point for Philipsburg Public Schools for many years to come. Read more about all our work on local, healthy foods through NCAT’s Montana Healthy Food and Communities Initiative by visiting

Featured Recipe

Spring Garden Herb Salad


For the Loosely Packed Greens:
  • 2 cups cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 cup small dill sprigs
  • 1 cup mint leaves
  • 1 cup arugula leaves
  • 2 cups lettuce
For the Dressing:
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • Salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red chile flakes or 1/2 teaspoon crushed pink peppercorns (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, more to taste


  1. Wash the herbs and greens.
  2. Melt butter in a frying pan until it sizzles. Add almonds. Sauté over low heat, until the almonds are golden and the butter is browned. Lift out almonds and drain on paper towels, reserving butter. (Butter can be kept for 1 day. Melt and cool again before assembling salad.)
  3. When ready to serve, place greens in a large bowl. Add salt, pepper, chili flakes, almonds, cooking butter, lemon juice and olive oil. Toss gently, season to taste, and add your favorite protein such as locally raised chicken, steak or fish (optional), then serve immediately.

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