Provides technical assistance and direct payments to producers.

 Cotton and wool producers in the states of California, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, North Carolina, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming are invited to apply to the new program “Climate Beneficial Fiber: Building New, Accessible, and Equitable Market Opportunities for Climate-Smart Wool and Cotton.”  

 With funding from USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Program, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and its partners — Carbon Cycle InstituteFibershedNew York Textile LabSeed2Shirt, and the Colorado State University Department of Soil and Crop Sciences — are ready to provide technical assistance and $18 million in direct payments to producers, enabling them to choose and adopt climate-smart conservation practices that fit with their farming operations and goals. 

 Participating farms and ranches will work with experts to create a tailored plan that identifies opportunities to bring more carbon into soils and vegetation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Participants will then receive incentive payments for adopting practices that — besides being “climate-smart” — have benefits such as increasing the water-holding capacity of soils, reducing the need for expensive synthetic fertilizers, and boosting overall farm productivity. 

 The program provides technical assistance and planning at no cost to producers and pays 75 to 90 percent of the average cost of implementing recommended practices. Over the next five years, the program hopes to sign up 100 agricultural operations and impact two million acres of land.  

 At least 40 percent of all program benefits will go to small and underserved farmers, and a special initiative is encouraging Black farmers in southern states to grow climate-smart cotton. “We’re making it a priority to reach and include folks who have not traditionally benefited from this type of program,” said NCAT Executive Director Fred Bahnson. “We strongly encourage cotton and wool producers of all sizes to apply.” 

 Building on the Climate Beneficial™ Verification program already developed by Fibershed, the program is also working with well-known clothing brands and textile manufacturers to expand markets for climate-smart wool and cotton. Growing concerns about textile-derived microplastics, land-use impacts, “fast fashion,” and human rights have prompted an industry-wide shift to seek natural fiber sources with verified benefits to land and climate.  

 “Our long-term goal is to create a self-sustaining consumer market and regional manufacturing systems that reward cotton and wool producers with price premiums for drawing down carbon from the atmosphere,” said Fibershed Executive Director Rebecca Burgess. “That’s good for rural communities as well as the planet.” 

 Producers interested in learning more can visit the Climate Beneficial Fiber Partnership website ( and fill out an interest form.

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:

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

The National Center for Appropriate Technology’s sustainable agriculture program, ATTRA, now has more than 100 trusted publications available in Spanish. These practical publications for producers are available to read or in audio format.  

ATTRA’s online resources include more than 300 publications as well as podcasts, videos, databases, and forums. NCAT’s team of Sustainable Agriculture Specialists across the U.S. are working to make these resource available in Spanish.  

“We are committed to providing practical information that is easily accessible and understandable for people of diverse backgrounds, all of whom are contributing mightily to sustaining a healthy food system,” said California-based Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Ann Baier.    

Latino producers play a crucial role in advancing sustainable agriculture, and language shouldn’t be a barrier for them to access resources. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, there were 112,451 Hispanic/Latino producers in the United States, and this number continues to grow. 

“We strive to improve our service delivery to the entire community of Latino farmers, whether they can read English or not,” said Texas-based Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Robert Maggiani. 

“Knowledge should be accessible to everyone regardless of language, having our content be bilingual is a step closer on making sustainable agriculture tangible to people along the food chain,” said Texas-based Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Luz Ballesteros Gonzalez.  

NCAT’s ATTRA is committed to making these resources available and accessible. Spanish-speaking producers can sign up for our monthly newsletter, Cosecha Mensual, to get monthly sustainable agriculture resources delivered to their inbox. Bilingual (Spanish and English) ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture Specialists are available through chat, email, and phone to answer any producer questions. 

ATTRA is administered by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) in partnership with the USDA Rural Business Cooperative Service. (USDA RBCS).  Founded in 1987, ATTRA is a trusted source of sustainable agriculture information and maintains a knowledge base of practical multimedia resources for farmers, ranchers, and educators. 

To see all ATTRA’s Spanish resources, go to its website at ATTRA.NCAT.ORG/ES/. 

Montana joins markets across the country in celebrating National Farmers Market Week, August 6-12, 2023. The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), which coordinates the Montana Farmers Market Network, encourages everyone to celebrate by shopping at local farmers markets this week and every week. Farmers markets connect community members with the people who grow our food, which can work to create a more fair and sustainable food system.

“Farmers Markets in Montana are hubs of economic development, often acting like new business incubators,” says Tammy Howard, an agriculture specialist at NCAT. “Farmers markets create opportunities for vendors to expand their marketing platforms through product development, testing, and brand recognition.”  

National Farmers Market Week is an annual celebration of farmers markets proclaimed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and coordinated by the Farmers Market Coalition, a membership-based nonprofit organization that supports farmers markets nationwide through training, technical assistance, and network-building. This year, the campaign is centered around the essential role that farmers market operators play, both in our local food systems and in our communities. For more than 50 years, farmers markets have influenced the way we eat, shop, and connect to our food, farmers, and each other.  

“Over the last three years, I have seen firsthand how farmers markets provide a place for small operations to grow into thriving businesses,” says Maura Henn, Community Food Systems Specialist at NCAT. “Farmers markets not only help communities understand where their food and farm products come from, but also encourage more people to grow and prepare their own food,” says Henn.  

In a 2022 report, Montana Farmers Markets were found to provide an average of 250 full-time jobs. In addition to this, the report found that nearly 5,000 individuals work to produce the goods and services offered each week during Montana farmers market season.   

There are 76 farmers markets in Montana operating in 2023 according to the Abundant Montana Directory. Of those markets, 29 accept SNAP benefits making fresh, locally produced products accessible to more Montanans and 20 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 9,000 Montanans and has recirculated more than $1 million to local farmers, ranchers, and farmers markets. 

In addition to special events like music, cooking classes, or yoga, some markets provide educational opportunities to learn about local food through the Montana Harvest of the Month Program. This year, five markets offer Harvest of the Month activities. Farmers markets are also important partners in the SNAP-Ed program. In 2022, 19 farmers markets participated in SNAP-Ed which helped increase access to and promotion of fruits and vegetables to youth and adults in Montana. 

Montana farmers markets are also important for vulnerable populations to access nutritious foods. Almost 200 farmers statewide accept Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons which provide almost $50 in coupons to help seniors purchase Montana grown fresh fruits, vegetables, and raw honey. In 2023, 88 farmers are authorized to accept the Women, Infant, and Children Farmer Market Nutrition Program (WIC FMNP) vouchers, many of whom operate at farmers markets.  

To find a farmers market near you visit AERO’s Abundant Montana Directory. 

The Montana Farmers Market Network is a coalition of partners coordinated by NCAT, including farmers market managers, the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition, AERO, and the Montana Department of Agriculture.  

The National Center for Appropriate Technology’s (NCAT) Board of Directors today announced it has selected Fred Bahnson to lead the organization.

Bahnson joins NCAT after a competitive national search.

“Fred brings to NCAT two decades of leadership experience in regenerative agriculture and climate advocacy,” said NCAT Board Chairperson Jackie Hutchinson. “His depth of knowledge, and passion for our work, will benefit NCAT as it leans into its next chapter.”

Created as a result of the energy crisis of the 1970s, NCAT’s mission to build a more sustainable future is focused today on providing trusted and practical tools for communities, farmers, local governments, and other nonprofits working toward regenerative agriculture and renewable energy efforts. With staff in 12 states, NCAT is headquartered in Butte, Montana. Bahnson lives in southwest Montana and will work in a hybrid capacity, connecting regularly with the Butte office while also traveling to connect with NCAT’s many partners and field staff around the country.

Bahnson is the founding director of two environmental nonprofits. In 2005 he co-founded and directed a congregation-supported agriculture project in North Carolina to support local food security, and in 2012 became the founding director of the Food, Health, and Ecological Well-Being Program at Wake Forest University School of Divinity, a program that trains faith and nonprofit leaders to create more just and healthy food systems.

Bahnson is also a journalist, author, and documentary filmmaker. His work has been published in venues like Harper’s, Christian Science Monitor, Orion, and Best American Travel Writing, and has been supported by journalism grants from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and Boston University’s Religion and Environment Story Project fellowship. He was awarded a two-year W.K. Kellogg Food and Society Policy Fellowship, which allowed him to research small-scale regenerative agriculture practices. That work culminated in his first book, Soil & Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food & Faith (Simon & Schuster, 2013). Most recently he worked for a climate tech company helping catalyze nature-based solutions to the climate crisis.

“I’m hugely honored to be joining NCAT at this pivotal moment in the organization’s history,” Bahnson said. “From the Soil for Water and Armed to Farm programs, to its AgriSolar Clearinghouse and energy assistance work, NCAT is known nationally as a trusted and reliable partner that helps underserved communities become more resilient. In the face of a changing climate, that work has never been more vital and necessary. I’m excited to help share NCAT’s story with wider audiences, grow our partnerships, and expand our funding base to better support the communities we serve.”

To learn more about NCAT and its mission visit, NCAT.ORG.

An August workshop in Helena will offer a day of training and tours for anyone interested in getting more Montana grown and raised food into their community.

The event, Farm to School Workshop: Harvesting Helena, will provide general training on farm to school programs and Montana Harvest of the Month, which promotes Montana foods in Montana communities. Each month, sites taking part in Harvest of the Month spotlight a product grown in the state and serve it in at least one meal, snack, or à la carte offering.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) coordinates Montana Harvest of the Month in collaboration with Montana Team Nutrition. Helena Food Share, Old Salt Co-op, St. Peter’s Health, and Helena Public Schools are among the other partners hosting the August workshop.

“Helena has a lot going on in the local food space,” said NCAT Local Foods Specialist Molly Kirkham. “Not only do they have their very own Harvest of the Month Community Coordinator, but there are also many Helena-based organizations implementing the program. Folks are especially excited to learn more about the organizations increasing access to local food.”

Kirkham said anyone with an interest in locally grown food is encouraged to attend the event Thursday, August 10, at Central Elementary School, located at 402 North Warren Street. It will begin at 9 a.m. and end at 4 p.m.

The workshop will include tours of Old Salt Co-op’s new processing facility, school gardens, Helena Community Gardens, and Helena Food Share’s pantry and mobile kitchen. Along with the tours and training opportunities, there will be time for networking, tasting local foods, and action planning.

The cost for the Farm to School Workshop: Harvesting Helena is $25 for an individual, and some scholarships are available. Registration includes lunch and snacks made with local foods.

For more information on the conference and scholarships and to register, go here: .

Responding to water shortages and uncertainties throughout the western United States, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has released a new edition of its popular The Irrigator’s Pocket Guide.

“With growing conflict over water supplies, and with irrigators feeling the pinch to save water, energy, and money, we wanted to come up with a concise and super-useful guide to water and energy conservation,” said Mike Morris, NCAT’s Southwest Regional Director, who headed up the project.

Irrigation experts from more than 20 states have weighed in on The Irrigator’s Pocket Guide over the years, and more than 30,000 copies have been distributed.

This new edition was developed through NCAT’s Soil for Water project, with funding from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

“In this new edition of The Irrigator’s Pocket Guide, we decided to go beyond pump and motor maintenance and irrigation scheduling and incorporate recent advances in soil science,” Morris said. “When soil gets healthier, it catches and holds more water. Taking care of soil health therefore needs to be a priority for all irrigators.”

The Equipment Maintenance half of the book features clear and detailed maintenance and troubleshooting procedures for pumps, motors, engines, control panels, and distribution systems. The Water Maintenance section of the book covers soil health and gives step-by-step instructions for running all common types of irrigation systems efficiently — matching water applied to crop needs.

The compact 150-page book includes dozens of diagrams, tables, and handy conversions and formulas for calculating things like flow rates, area, pressure, power, friction losses, and how long to run a system to apply a given volume of water. With its small 4-inch by 6-inch size and durable waterproof covers, the book is a friendly companion to carry in your hip pocket or the glove box of your truck.

Free copies are available by mail or online at the ATTRA website.

Along with the updated edition of the original The Irrigator’s Pocket Guide, new state-specific editions are also available for irrigators in Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as an updated version of the popular The California Microirrigation Pocket Guide. All these books can be found on the ATTRA website.

For more than 150 years Knowlton Family Farms in Grafton, Massachusetts has been a family-owned operation. It’s grown and shrunk over the years, and now is back in a period of expansion thanks to combining solar energy production with agriculture.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology’s (NCAT) AgriSolar Clearinghouse today released its short film “The Cows Come Home,” which shows viewers how the Knowlton family has been able to reintroduce cattle to their farm. Owner Paul Knowlton says the last of their dairy cows were sold in 1995, and now they’ve been able to bring cattle back to the farm to graze among solar panels.

“We really wanted to try to do something different, and we made it happen, it’s a reality, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results,” Paul Knowlton said. “It was designed with the cows in mind, vegetables in mind, and also we can put a variety of different animals in here for grazing. They [the cows] took to it like fish to water.”

AgriSolar or agrivoltaic partnerships are growing across solar-appropriate farmland in the U.S., providing a new revenue source for farmers, clean energy for surrounding communities, and myriad benefits to crops, livestock, and pollinators.

Knowlton says agrisolar is what has allowed his farm to remain a viable family business.

“Nationwide, this could be a new standard,” Knowlton adds. “The idea of year-round revenue is really, really important. Having a farm that has the ability to survive is just so important. This is a way to keep the farmland going.”

NCAT’s AgriSolar Clearinghouse is connecting businesses, land managers, and researchers with trusted resources to support the growth of co-located solar and sustainable agriculture.

“AgriSolar partnerships are helping to keep family farms in family hands,” said NCAT Energy Director Stacie Peterson, PhD. “We can maximize finite resources for the benefit of communities, the environment, and businesses when agriculture and energy come together.”

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) applauds Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) for introducing a bill that will expand research for agrivoltaics, or agrisolar, which pairs appropriate farmland with solar energy production.

“Expanding agrisolar is all about maximizing our resources to grow both food and renewable energy on the same piece of land, while at the same time diversifying revenue sources for farmers,” said NCAT Executive Director Steve Thompson. “NCAT’s AgriSolar Clearinghouse has spent the last two years working with farmers, land managers, and solar companies to harvest the sun twice. This bipartisan bill will allow us to take agrivoltaics to the next level in this country.”

Agrisolar or agrivoltaic partnerships are growing across solar-appropriate farmland in the U.S., providing a new revenue source for farmers, clean energy for surrounding communities, and myriad benefits to crops, livestock, and pollinators.

The Agrivoltaics Research and Demonstration Act of 2023 will direct $15 million to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the study of agrisolar systems to develop best practices for farmers, ranchers, solar developers, and communities who want to adopt or expand the use of agrivoltaics.

Supporters of the bill include NCAT, American Farmland Trust, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the American Solar Grazing Association, among others.

“We applaud Senator Heinrich and Senator Braun for their forward-thinking leadership in introducing this bill,” said Tim Fink, Policy Director for American Farmland Trust. “As the essential transition toward renewable energy accelerates across the country, it must be done in a way that strengthens rural communities and minimizes the footprint on our most productive farmland. This legislation would help advance the potential for agrivoltaics to do both.”  

NCAT’s AgriSolar Clearinghouse connects businesses, land managers, and researchers with trusted resources to support the growth of co-located solar and sustainable agriculture. The Clearinghouse includes an interactive atlas of agrisolar sites, funding opportunities and state-specific incentives, an information library with more than 500 peer-reviewed articles, multimedia tools like photos, podcasts, and videos, and one-on-one technical assistance for farmers and solar developers.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is partnering with New Entry Sustainable Farming Project (NESFP) to bring NCAT’s free Armed to Farm training to the Bay State for the first time. Armed to Farm will take place July 24-28, 2023, in Danvers, MassFarmer-veterans will attend classroom sessions and travel to local farms for hands-on learning experiences. The deadline to apply is June 9.

Armed to Farm trainings include an engaging blend of farm tours, hands-on activities, and interactive classroom instruction. NCAT Sustainable Agriculture specialists will teach the training sessions, along with staff from USDA agencies and NESFP. Experienced crop and livestock producers will provide additional instruction. 

“We’re eager to bring Armed to Farm to Massachusetts,” said Andy Pressman, NCAT Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Communities Director. “Armed to Farm has served nearly 1,000 veterans in all corners of the country as they start or grow their own sustainable farm business.”   

Armed to Farm is a sustainable agriculture training program for military veterans. NCAT, a national nonprofit organization based in Butte, Montana, developed Armed to Farm in 2013 through a cooperative agreement with USDA-Rural Development. Farmer veterans learn how to make a business plan and market their products, how to access USDA programs, set business goals, and develop mentorships with seasoned farmers. 

“Armed to Farm was instrumental in helping us learn so much about how to begin our farm,” said program alum Lanette Lepper of Dudley, Massachusetts. From mistakes to avoid, what crops to grow (or not), and practicalities we never would have thought of ourselves, the experience was invaluable! Just six months after attending, Armstrong Acres was born!” 

This training is for military veterans in the Northwest, with selection priority given to Massachusetts residents. The number of participants will be limited. One spouse or farm partner is welcome to attend with a veteran but must submit a separate application. 

Applications are available here and are due by June 9, 2023. NCAT will notify selected participants by June 16. 

Armed to Farm Massachusetts is supported by USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement. Successful applicants may also receive a travel stipend thanks to our partnership with California-based Ranchin’ Vets. 

Learn more about NCAT’s Armed to Farm and additional training series at ARMEDTOFARM.ORG.