Who We Are
ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture Program
ATTRA is a program developed and managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). The majority of funding for ATTRA is through a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Business-Cooperative Service. We are also partially funded through sales and subscriptions of a portion of ATTRA materials and through contributions from friends and supporters. We are committed to providing high value information and technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, Extension agents, educators, and others involved in sustainable agriculture in the United States.
NCAT strives to make our information available to everyone who needs it. If you are a limited-access or low-income farmer and find that one of our publications is just not in your budget, please call 800-346-9140.
The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is a private nonprofit organization, founded in 1976, which manages a series of projects that promote self-reliance and sustainable lifestyles through wise use of appropriate technology. Its programs deal with sustainable and renewable energy, energy conservation, resource-efficient housing, sustainable community development, and sustainable agriculture.
USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service (USDA-RBS) helps implement the rural development mission of USDA. Its mission is to enhance the quality of life for all rural Americans by providing leadership in building competitive businesses including cooperatives that can build sustainable economic communities. RBS objectives are to invest its financial resources and technical assistance in businesses and communities, and to build partnerships that leverage public and private resources to stimulate rural economic activity.
Who do we serve?
ATTRA services are available to farmers, ranchers, market gardeners, Extension agents, researchers, educators, farm organizations, and others involved in agriculture, especially those who are economically disadvantaged or belong to traditionally underserved communities.
How long has the program been operating?
The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) launched ATTRA in 1987.
Where is ATTRA located?
The National Center for Appropriate Technology is headquartered in Butte, Montana, and has five regional offices.
Work for the project takes place at all five locations and is staffed by NCAT agricultural specialists with diverse backgrounds in livestock, horticulture, soils, organic farming, integrated pest management, farm energy, and other sustainable agriculture specialties.
How can I contact ATTRA?
The best way to get in touch with us is by visiting our contact page, so that we can talk to you about your particular question.
What happens when I contact ATTRA?
When you contact us, one of our program specialists will answer your question as promptly as we can. Whenever possible, we'll give you an answer immediately, either by email or over the phone. If we have existing publications that cover what you're asking, we'll send those to you for a modest fee.
What information will I receive?
NCAT provides technical assistance through our website, publications and other media. Our publications address current topics in sustainable agriculture. A typical publication will be a 5- to 20-page summary of a topic, usually accompanied by references and a resource list of additional contacts, key literature, and sources of products. Many of our publications are available free, and others may be purchased. Please visit our subscriptions page for more information about purchasing publications.
Our sustainable agriculture information is organized under these topic areas:
What are typical questions that people ask?
More than 40 percent of the contact we receive concerns the reduction of agricultural chemicals used on field, fruit, and vegetable crops. Twenty-five percent are questions about raising animals, including animal health and feeds, and pasture management. We are receiving an increasing number of questions about energy conservation and farm-based renewable energy. Sustainable production techniques, crop diversification, and marketing are other major areas of interest, along with soil conservation, water quality, and the availability of equipment designed for sustainable agricultural practices.
Does ATTRA have a newsletter?
Yes. We publish a free weekly sustainable agriculture e-newsletter called the Weekly Harvest.
To subscribe, please fill out our e-news subscription form.
Additionally, the archives for our newsletters are available here.
What is sustainable agriculture?
Sustainable agriculture is a system that produces abundant food without depleting the earth's resources or polluting its environment. It is agriculture that follows the principles of nature to develop systems for raising crops and livestock that are, like nature, self-sustaining. Sustainable agriculture is also the agriculture of social values, one whose success is indistinguishable from vibrant rural communities, rich lives for families on the farms, and wholesome food for everyone.
Who are your sustainable agriculture specialists?
NCAT's agriculture specialists are dedicated to the sustainability of American agriculture. Most of them hold advanced degrees in the agricultural sciences. Many were raised on farms, some have been farm managers, and several continue to maintain farms and ranches. They have worked on both foreign and domestic agriculture projects. Some came to NCAT from other nonprofit organizations; others have worked for Cooperative Extension or been university faculty. ATTRA specialists often draw on the expertise of NCAT's energy engineers, who have extensive experience with energy conservation and with the full range of renewable energy technologies. All of our specialists are involved in research and writing about sustainable agriculture, and they are frequently invited to make presentations at conferences and workshops.
What's ahead for sustainable agriculture?
The future of sustainable agriculture has never looked more promising or more challenging. On the one hand, the number of acres in organic production continues to rise, and sales of organic foods are growing at a double-digit rate. The USDA has enlarged its commitment to sustainability, the 2008 Farm Bill contains provisions that clearly benefit and encourage sustainable practices, the National Organic Standards now provide a common benchmark for certifying organic production and USDA programs encourage and support renewable energy more strongly than ever. On the other hand, crop subsidies to factory farms continue to grow. Large seed and chemical companies are lobbying hard for genetically modified plants and other organisms that are resistant to (and, therefore, require) agricultural chemicals. Water-quality issues still dog many of America's most productive agricultural regions.
This page was last updated on: February 7, 2017