Dig in to The Dirt!
Welcome to the first edition of The Dirt, the newsletter of the Northeast Regional Office of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). You are receiving this newsletter because you have expressed interest in NCAT and the ATTRA program-National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. Enjoy!

Norm Conrad, Northeast Regional Office Director

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Chris Lent
NCAT specialists Andy Pressman and Chris Lent, above, will be taking part in a high-tunnel construction workshop for military veterans in July.

Meet Chris Lent

Chris Lent has worked as part of the Northeast Regional staff since he joined NCAT as an agricultural specialist in 2012. With the ATTRA program, Chris is focused on urban agriculture project work, high tunnel production, local foods, and farm energy issues. Chris has a degree in business administration as well as a background in energy conservation and alternative energy. He became a certified BPI energy auditor and a HERS Rater while working for an energy company in Pennsylvania before coming to NCAT. It was during this time he started solar and wind energy design and installation work.

Because of his work with energy issues, in 2013 Chris served as NCAT's Pennsylvania Energy Corps Coordinator. More recently he has been involved in a study of urban farms across the country and is focused on urban soil health. This past summer he presented on urban soils at the US Botanic Gardens in Washington, DC, as part of a series of talks NCAT staff gave on urban agriculture.

Chris has been studying soil health and hoop house production techniques since 1998, when he started Lent's Organics, a certified organic vegetable farm in northeastern Pennsylvania. He has knowledge of and interest in season-extension techniques, which also came from his farming experience and the winter share he offered to CSA members. Chris frequently presents at sustainable-agriculture conferences on high tunnels and season-extension techniques.

Chris, his wife Amanda Birk, and soon to be son (due in October 2015) live on their farm in rural Pennsylvania, with an eye toward getting into small commercial vegetable production again within the year. They have just installed a root cellar and are planning to install a high tunnel this summer for winter production purposes. With any free time, they both enjoy kayaking the Susquehanna River and putting the finishing touches on their self-built, solar-powered, straw-bale home.

What Are Northeast Staff
Working On?

Andy Pressman

Congratulations to Andy Pressman, who was published as co-author in the online Journal of Extension article, "Urban Agriculture in the US: Characteristics, Challenges and Technical Assistance Needs." Andy is collaborating on a three-year USDA-Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant with researchers Carol Dimitri of New York University and Lydia Oberholtzer of Penn State. You can read the article here.

Emerging Opportunities

NCAT ag specialist and regional director Norm Conrad is collaborating with a nationwide group of 105 consumer food-packing companies, small seed companies, and meat and dairy processors on developing non-genetically modified food and animal-feed certification and product branding formats. Current projects in the development phase are a northeast non-GMO dairy project, a national non-GMO meats project, and a national non-GMO animal-feed program. Baseline data on developing testing standards for glyphosate residues in feed stuffs in the chain of trade has been collected by large-scale elevators and barge companies. Several regional organic certification groups are cross training their inspectors to conduct the non-GMO on-farm and processor audits. Look for a new ATTRA publication on transitioning to non-GMO dairy production in the near future!


Congratulations to Chris Lent on being awarded a North East SARE Partnership grant working with New Morning Farms near Chambersburg PA. The project will evaluate heat recovery ventilation systems for high tunnel winter production. The goal of the project is to control humidity without losing heat in the tunnel in order to increase average daily temperatures and crop yields.



Have a farming of energy question? Call our ATTRA toll-free English language hotline at 800-346-9140 or the Spanish-language ATTRA hotline at 800-411-3222.

Visit the Northeast regional office at 900 Rutter Avenue, Suite 16 in Forty Fort, PA 18704 Contact us at (570)587-3471.

Where Can You Find NCAT Staff Speaking?

Urban Soils presentation
Chris Lent
Farmer Talk series sponsored by Penn State Extension — Philadelphia; July 7

High Tunnel Construction Workshop for Military Veterans
Andy Pressman and Chris Lent
Heroic Food, Hudson, NY
July 25-26

"New York State Armed-to-Farm"
Houghton College, NY

Aug. 2 - 7

Understanding Tools & Equipment for the Small Farm
Andy Pressman
NOFA Summer Conference
Northampton, MA
Aug. 14 - 16

Tractor Operation, Safety & Basic Maintenance: A Two-day Class for New, Beginning, and Seasoned Farmers
Keene, NH
Aug. 30-31

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Copyright © June 2015
The National Center for Appropriate Technology

NCAT mailing address:
900 Rutter Avenue, Suite 16
Forty Fort, PA 18704
(570) 587-3471

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