Devona's 2020 Starts

ATTRA Resources for Resiliency

By Devona Bell, Director of Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Communities & Local Foods

Here on my farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia, I am extremely eager to get my garden started. Due to the uncertain times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am motivated to achieve greater self-sufficiency and resilience for my family. I know that so many others are feeling this, as well.

Devona Bell's homemade seed-starting shelf is perfect for her small-scale farm needs

Devona’s homemade seed-starting shelf is perfect for her small-scale farm needs.

This week I visited with my friend Ron Juftes, owner of 7Springs organic farming supply store, and he told me they have been much busier than usual since COVID-19 hit. This global crisis provides a stark reminder of why growing food and supporting my farmer neighbors is so important.

On our farm we have a small orchard with blueberry bushes, apple trees, and pear trees, and a big garden that helps to feed my family and some of the community. Right now, I am busy prepping my garden space, starting seeds in a makeshift indoor greenhouse, and sowing cold-hardy plant seeds in my smaller garden beds (lots of peas and greens).

As I get my seedlings started, I’m thinking about the importance of self-reliance and community resilience. This is a good time to hunker down at home, and that means having plenty of food on hand to get through this crisis. I’m reaching out to local producers to purchase half a cow to go into the freezer, as well as vegetables they have harvested from their hoop houses, which have a head start on my gardens.

Growing our own food, and being able to source from local farms, creates a sense of security during turbulent times. More than ever, I’m focused on keeping my family in good health. We know that fresh vegetables, fruit, and pasture-raised meat and animal products are high in the vitamins, antioxidants, omegas, and minerals we need to stay healthy. Local Harvest is a great resource for finding local farmers to fill your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry.

dog outside with blueberries

Devona’s livestock guardian dog Gus watches over the blueberries.

Accessing ATTRA Resources

In light of the pandemic, NCAT strives to continue serving farmers in creative and meaningful ways. For example, our Agriculture Specialists are currently producing a series of new videos, sharing what we are doing on our farms and homesteads right now, in hopes of giving you ideas for building food security and resiliency at home and in your communities. Tune in here to the first of our ATTRA team videos.

NCAT’s ATTRA program’s mission is to serve farmers nationwide with resources and technical assistance to help in all stages of their growing enterprises. Here are just a few of the ATTRA resources that we think will be useful for you at this time.

Scheduling Vegetable plantings for Continuous Harvest

Companion Planting & Botanical Pesticides: Concepts & Resources

Start a Farm in the City

Composting Basics

Small-Scale Livestock Production

Climate Change and Perennial Fruit and Nut Production: Investing in Resilience in Uncertain Times

Sustainable Season Extension: Considerations for Design

Specialty Crops for Cold Climates

Fruit Trees, Bushes, and Vines for Natural Growing in the Ozarks

Community Orchards

Potting Mixes for Certified Organic Production

Also, please tune in and subscribe to our videos and podcasts, where we cover a wide variety of topics related to sustainable agriculture. A few that you might find useful include:

Community Gardens and Sustainable Agriculture

Crop Planning 101

Production to Address Community Needs

Chicks or Pullets for Eggs

The Evolving Poultry Operation

Food Safety: Hand Washing

Composting: You Can Do It!

Pastured Poultry Production and Profitability

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

Finally, tell us what issues you’d like us to tackle. Send your topics, questions, and ideas to

Here’s to good health, good food, and a strong local and regional farming system for us all!

ATTRA is the nation’s largest sustainable agriculture information service. NCAT’s ATTRA website hosts over 850 farming resources, including publications, tipsheets, videos, podcasts, webinars, blogs, and tutorials.