Today, more than 50 million Americans live in "food-insecure" households, including more than 17 million children. Much of this food insecurity is the result of families living in areas where they don't have easy access to healthy, nutritious food. In these communities, known as "food deserts," families often turn to convenience stores and fast food restaurants for their meals. However, this isn't a great solution, since diets high in processed sugars and fats can lead to obesity, diabetes, and other diseases, not to mention nutritional imbalance.
But what if every community—even those in food deserts—could increase their food security by producing their own healthy food? NCAT believes they can. And through our Small-Scale Intensive Farm Training (SIFT) program, we are setting out to show them how. NCAT is developing a working, sustainably managed demonstration farm on five acres at our Butte, Montana, headquarters. This farm has begun to serve as the backdrop for an intensive, hands-on training program that will teach 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.
SIFT has benefits beyond helping communities meet their nutritional needs. Our training will focus on sustainable food production. This means teaching farmers how to grow food using natural approaches that help protect the environment, including improvements in water, soil, and air quality; protect ecosystems and wildlife; and reduce pollution that contributes to climate change. And, the SIFT program can help create economic revitalization in communities, provide valuable vocational skills, help improve community appearance and livability, and help reduce food costs.
As the world's population continues to increase, the need for new approaches to food production and to bring more land into agricultural production has never been more important. According to recent research estimates, agricultural production must increase 70% by the year 2050 to adequately meet our needs. NCAT sees our small-scale urban farm and SIFT program as a vital tool to making this increased production a reality.
The SIFT program will be developed in stages, and we've already begun. We invite you to join us on our journey as we grow a healthier future.