SIFT (Small-Scale Intensive Farm Training program) was created to help every community increase their food security by producing their own healthy food. SIFT, with NCAT, is developing a working, sustainably managed, demonstration farm on five acres at our Butte, Montana, headquarters. This farm serves as the backdrop for an intensive, hands-on training program that teaches farmers and future farmers, urban food producers, community leaders, and citizens how to commercially produce high-value, nutrient-rich food on small parcels of land.
20' x 40'. Originally tilled up in 2011, we currently have four wide beds in this plot. The east half was prepared by rototiller with composted steer manure incorporated into the soil, while the west half was prepared by double-digging, with compost incorporated into the soil. This season we will experiment to see which method works better for us.
Currently growing: Russian Red garlic and German Red garlic, planted in October and covered in a thick layer of straw mulch. Both are hardneck varieties suitable for cold climates such as ours. Also growing snow peas, snap peas, lettuce mix, and head lettuce.
20' x 40'. Originally tilled up in 2011, and amended with compost. Rows of many crop varieties are wide and close together.
Currently growing: radishes, kale, mustard greens, arugula, bok choi, turnips, scallions, two varieties of beets (one standard red variety and one with bullseye markings), two varieties of spinach, and three varieties of carrots.
Plot 3 is coming as soon as our tiller cooperates!
Plot 4 is coming as soon as our tiller cooperates!
Plot 5 is coming as soon as our tiller cooperates!
The garage houses NCAT's company Priuses, but SIFT also uses it for storage purposes. Most of our tools and hoses hang in here, as well as many of our seeds. We're also in the process of setting up a wash station on the north side of the garage to process our vegetables as we harvest them for sale at the farmers market and donation to the food bank or rescue mission.
Latest Temperature: 49.64 FLast Updated: 2013-05-19 03:39:37 MST
12' x 40'. Built in 2011 using untreated 2"x8" hemfir boards for the baseboards, rebar, 2" PVC pipes for the hoops, 1" PVC pipes for purlins, untreated 1x4" hemfir boards for hipboards, plywood for the north end, and 6-mil greenhouse film from Farmtek as a cover. The sides can roll up to the hipboards, approximately 4' above the baseboards, to provide air circulation in summer. Total cost: about $1,500.
Currently growing: Cover crop of wheat and peas.
Latest Temperature: 60.08 FLast Updated: 2013-05-17 14:05:15 MST
12' x 40'. Built in 2011 using untreated 2"x8" hemfir boards for the baseboards, rebar, 2" PVC pipes for the hoops, 1" PVC pipes for purlins, untreated 1"x4" hemfir boards for hipboards, plywood for the ends, and 5-mm Solexx as a cover. Total cost: about $1,800.
Currently growing: Nothing, but crop residue from last season was left in the ground to decompose and add organic matter to the soil.
Latest Temperature: 52.88 FLast Updated: 2013-05-17 12:27:25 MST
12' x 40'. Built in 2011 using untreated 2"x8" hemfir boards for the baseboards, rebar, 2" PVC pipes for the hoops, 1" pvc pipes for purlins, untreated 1"x4" hemfir boards for hipboards, and 6- mil greenhouse film from FarmTek as a cover. The sides can roll up to the hipboards, approximately 4' above the baseboards, to provide air circulation in summer. Total cost: about $1,500.
Currently growing: Cold-loving plants: arugula, mustard greens, spinach, radish, lettuce, mache, and scallions. In-bed composting is in progress in here, as well.
Latest Temperature: 59.18 FLast Updated: 2013-05-17 12:23:20 MST
12' x 40'. Built in 2011 using untreated 2x8" hemfir boards for the baseboards, rebar, 2" pvc pipes for the hoops, 1" pvc pipes for purlins, untreated 1x4" hemfir boards for hipboards, plywood for the north end, and 6-mil greenhouse film from Farmtek as a cover. The sides can roll up to the hipboards, approximately 4' above the baseboards, to provide air circulation in summer. Total cost: about $1,500.
Currently growing: Carrots and parsnips overwintering under low tunnels. In-bed composting in progress, as well.
Latest Temperature: 43.88 FLast Updated: 2013-05-19 03:18:24 MST
In addition to the greenhouse attached to the south side of the NCAT building (not pictured on this map), the SIFT farm includes this freestanding greenhouse. Built in 1978 as a demonstration of a low-cost passive solar greenhouse (meaning we add no additional heat), and facing due south to capture the maximum amount of sunlight, NCAT employees used it for years to grow vegetables in the raised beds. SIFT took over management of the greenhouse in 2011.
Currently growing in the freestanding greenhouse: Chamomile, onions, asparagus, parsley, catnip, chives, and cover crops of winter wheat and Austrian winter peas.
Currently growing in the attached greenhouse: Thyme, chives, oregano, onions, rosemary, mint, catnip, calendula, dill, and garden sage. Our freshly planted seed trays are living in here too, growing seeds of leeks, onions, asparagus, artichokes, parsley, lovage, marjoram, lavender, cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, bell peppers, chile peppers, eggplant, tomatillo, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choi, squash, melons, basil, cilantro, and a variety of flowers.
Constructed in 2011 from old shipping pallets, the majority of SIFT's composting happens in these six bins. With donations from local grocery stores, cafes, and community members, as well as scraps from around the farm, we build our own valuable soil amendment. Compost is great for adding nutrients to the soil, as well as binding together soil particles to improve soil structure and better retain water and nutrients—an essential when your soil is as sandy as ours.
Composting is essentially just speeding up the natural process of decomposition and using it to your advantage. It will work whether you have a fancy bin or a hole in the ground, whether you turn and aerate it regularly or leave it alone. But the fastest way to make great compost is to alternate layers of a few inches of "brown," high-carbon materials (like dried leaves, straw, strips of newspaper, coffee filters) with a few inches of "green," high-nitrogen materials (like fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells, garden scraps). Keep the pile moist and make sure air is getting inside by turning the pile with a shovel or pitchfork once every week or two. If it's getting aerated, the microbes in the pile doing all the decomposing should heat things up to about 140 degrees F. Once the pile has cooled down, if none of the inputs are recognizable and the compost smells like good soil, it's ready to use. If turning the pile isn't an option, it will just take a few more months to decompose. To learn more, check out Camille's Compost Tutorial, and the ATTRA publication, Composting: The Basics.
With the help of numerous volunteers from the food bank, AmeriCorps, NCAT, and Butte's Chief Executive, the food bank garden has broken ground! The Butte Emergency Food Bank has no space for a garden on their site, so we've located it at the SIFT farm. It will provide fresh, local produce for the food bank, which primarily gets donations of canned or processed foods. If you're interested in volunteering at the food bank garden and helping them grow fresh, tasty, nutrient-packed produce for those in need, email us!
The native hedgerow has arrived! We planted a variety of shrubs and grasses native to Montana in a two-row border around the SIFT farm. The outer row includes the saskatoon/service berry and chokecherry, which grow to about 12-14 feet, and the inner row includes golden currant, woods rose, and silverberry, which grow to about 6-8 feet. A third row of basin wildrye grass completes the hedgerow.
Native plants need little care and watering once established since they're adapted to the local climate, and their presence will both protect crops from strong winds and increase biodiversity—important in strengthening the health of the farm by attracting beneficial species that help pollinate and control pests. Before planting the hedgerow, there was just one shrub and one tree on the entire property, so the hedgerow will improve our farm's biodiversity exponentially.
Online news! The SIFT program's new website has an interactive map of our Butte farm as well as Zoe's blog, Carl's corner, and links to our Pinterest site and helpful sustainable-agriculture videos. >>Go At the SIFT project farm, we’re c…
Here in Butte, we’re locked a seemingly endless pattern of winter weather. With planting season just around the corner, will Mother Nature allow a sufficient season to see plants to maturity? We’re not sure, so we’re turning to Plan B—starting our seeds…
If you're not already doing companion planting, give it some thought as you plan your crops this spring. In this approach, diverse varieties of crops are planted together in order to achieve a better yield. Though crop diversity in general has many bene…