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Home  > Multimedia > Downloadable Audio > Sustainable Agriculture Radio Show Archive

Sustainable Agriculture Radio Show Archive

Green Talk LogoThe National Center for Appropriate Technology's Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight is a weekly Internet radio show. The show covers a wide range of topics on sustainable agriculture, including on-farm production of biodiesel, integrated pest management, growing crops for farmers' markets, organic crop certification and federal farm policy. Host Jeff Birkby, ATTRA outreach director, interviewed regional and national experts.



The archives from the 2009 season are listed below.

October 5, 2010
Small-scale Biodiesel: Production, Safety, and Sustainability

Biodiesel fuel is made from oilseeds, vegetables, or animal fats, and can be a truly sustainable alternative to petroleum. Do-it-yourself biodiesel production is feasible and economical for many small farms and ranches. During this episode of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, host Jeff Birkby interviews Al Kurki and Rich Dana, energy specialists with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). We’ll discuss the history of biodiesel development, how to decide if biodiesel production is right for your own farm, tax and safety issues, and the bigger sustainability context of producing and using this renewable resource.


Listen | 56:21 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

September 28, 2010
Raising Chickens Locally and Sustainably

Large centralized factory farms and processing facilities account for the vast majority of poultry products on American breakfast and dinner plates. But there's a growing trend to raising poultry on smaller farms in open pasture. Better flavor, more humane treatment of birds, and closer attention to handling and processing are a few of reasons consumers are flocking to pasture-raised poultry. In this episode of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, host Jeff Birkby interviews NCAT poultry specialist and pastured poultry farmer Terrell Spencer. We'll discuss the regulatory, production, and processing issues in pastured poultry systems. We’ll also help the consumer decipher the difference between free-range, organic, cage-free, and other poultry labels. The growing interest in poultry raised in urban areas will also be examined.


Listen | 56:27 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

September 21, 2010
Military Veterans in Sustainable Agriculture: The Farmer-Veteran Coalition

Military veterans returning to rural communities often have difficulty finding jobs. At the same time, America’s small rural farms are facing a crisis, since few young people are entering agriculture and taking over farming operations. During this episode of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, host Jeff Birkby interviews Michael O’Gorman, executive director of the Farmer-Veteran Coalition. This innovative nonprofit works with communities to find sustainable agricultural career opportunities for returning veterans. The organization helps secure a safe and healthy food supply through veteran job training and placement in the expanding area of sustainable agriculture.


Listen | 56:26 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

September 14, 2010
Sustainable Agriculture in the Heartland: NCAT's Midwest Regional Office

The Midwestern United States has seen an explosion of interest in sustainable agriculture. The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) recently opened an office in Iowa to help with the growing need for sustainable agriculture information in this region. During this episode of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, host Jeff Birkby interviews the staff of NCAT’s Midwest Regional Office. We’ll explore the variety of sustainable agriculture programs NCAT manages in the heart of our nation’s Farm Belt. Topics discussed will include reducing energy use in sustainable pork production, providing fresh local food in “farm to school” programs, small-scale meat processors for rural communities, and innovative projects that turn food waste to natural gas in biodigesters.


Listen | 54:14 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

September 7, 2010
USDA Certified Organic: What it Means for Producers and Consumers

Many foods in the grocery store are labeled organic, but does it really mean anything? The answer is definitely yes! The label “USDA Certified Organic” can only be placed on foods that are grown and handled according to strict federal standards. Many farmers who convert from conventional to organic agriculture become strong supporters of organic methods. Organic farmers improve the soil with natural materials and avoid harmful pesticides. And consumers are choosing organically-certified food because of its taste, nutrition, and benefits to the environment. During this episode of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, host Jeff Birkby interviews Pamela Coleman and Ann Baier, agriculture specialists for the National Center for Appropriate Technology. Both Ann and Pamela have many years of experience with organic certification.


Listen | 56:58 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

August 31, 2010
Federal Support for Fresh, Local Food — The USDA Farmers' Market Promotion Program

More than 6,000 farmers markets are now active in the United States – with several hundred new farmers markets springing up in 2010 alone. These farmers’ markets offer fresh-picked fruits and vegetables, as well as meats and dairy products from surrounding farms and ranches. Through the Farmers Market Promotion Program, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) supports the growth of farmers’ markets with over $10 million in grants on deck to be awarded in the coming year. During this episode of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, host Jeff Birkby interviews Debra Tropp and Carmen Humphrey, two USDA branch chiefs in Washington DC with responsibilities for managing this innovative farmers’ market grant program.


Listen | 55:47 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

August 24, 2010
Agriculture Information: The ATTRA project

The ATTRA project has served as the nation’s leading source of sustainable agriculture information for more than two decades. ATTRA has developed hundreds of free publications on production practices, diverse crop and livestock enterprises, innovative marketing approaches, and organic certification. And over a dozen technical specialists working on the ATTRA project search out answers to questions from farmers on all aspects of sustainable farming. During this episode of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, host Jeff Birkby interviews Dr. Teresa Maurer from the National Center for Appropriate Technology, who serves as Project Manager for ATTRA.


Listen | 58:00 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

August 17, 2010
Pasture-raised Beef and Dairy: New Regulations, New Opportunities

Pasture-based livestock and dairy products are discovering new lucrative markets in grocery stores and farmers' markets throughout the United States. And grassfed and organic beef and dairy often command a premium price. Pasture-based livestock can also increase the health of the soil, as well as increase the overall viability of the farming operation. During this episode of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, we will cover the difference between “grassfed” and “grass finished” beef, the health and ecological benefits of pasture-based livestock systems, new federal regulations on pasture access, how farmers and ranchers are marketing their products, and what the future holds for small and medium-size pasture-based livestock operations. Host Jeff Birkby interviews Lee Rinehart, a Certified Grassland Professional (as conferred by the American Forage and Grassland Council). Rinehart is also director of the northeastern office of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT).


Listen | 55:55 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

August 10, 2010
Permaculture: Designing Ecological Landscapes

Permaculture is the ecological design of sustainable, small-scale, intensive human habitats. These habitats integrate human dwellings, microclimates, plants, animals, soils, water, and energy into productive communities. First developed in the 1970s in Australia, the permaculture model is based on “permanent" food production systems that mimic natural landscapes. Permaculture principles are now practiced worldwide, as farmers and gardeners design food and dwelling systems around productivity, efficiency, and the use of biological resources instead of fossil fuels. In this episode of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, host Jeff Birkby discusses permaculture principles with permaculture designers Andy Pressman (of NCAT’s Northeast Regional office) and Paul Wheaton, founder of the website.


Listen | 55:34 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

August 3, 2010
Sustainable Agriculture Research on the Farm: The SARE Program

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE) offers grants for on-farm research, education, and professional and community development. SARE has awarded more than $170 million in grants in the past two decades, providing support to over 4,000 research initiatives. During this episode of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, host Jeff Birkby interviews Dena Leibman, National Communications Manager of the USDA-funded SARE program. We’ll explore the history and successes of SARE’s innovative grant and outreach projects, and discuss trends in sustainable agriculture practices and on-farm research.


Listen | 56:46 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

July 27, 2010
Family Farms - Can We Keep Them from Disappearing?

Family farms today are under tremendous pressure. Agricultural land is being turned into residential and commercial developments at alarming rates. And the aging of today’s farmers (most of whom are over 55) leave many farmers wondering if they can resist the development pressure when they retire. At the same time, beginning farmers are suffering from lack of access to capital, and lack of access to land. During this radio show, host Jeff Birkby will discuss these issues with Kendra Johnson of California FarmLink, and Rex Dufour, Regional Director of NCAT's California office. Successful techniques for helping beginning farmers acquire land will be discussed, along with ways to assist retiring farmers transition their farms to the next generation.


Listen | 57:48 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

July 20, 2010
Pollinator-friendly Farming

Our nation’s fruit, nut, and vegetable supply depends on insect pollinators. But our conventional agricultural systems aren’t friendly to pollinating insects. Conventional agriculture also relies heavily on only one insect, the European honeybee, to pollinate most of our crops. In this episode, host Jeff Birkby interviews Eric Mader, National Pollinator Outreach Coordinator for the nonprofit Xerces Society. Also joining the program will be Rex Dufour of the National Center for Appropriate Technology. Eric and Rex will discuss the importance of pollinators in sustainable agriculture, and ways farmers and gardeners can attract beneficial insects to pollinate crops.


Listen | 56:42 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

July 13, 2010
New Trends in Sustainable Agriculture

During the past two years we've seen a tremendous increase in the public demand for locally produced food and the awareness of sustainable agriculture. New national programs have been launched to identify and remove barriers to local food access, while at the community level the number of farmers markets has skyrocketed. During this episode of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, host Jeff Birkby interviews Margaret Krome, Policy Program Director for the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, Margaret will describe recent trends in sustainable agriculture, and where sustainable agriculture production and the demand for locally produced food may be taking us in the future.


Listen | 56:13 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

October 1, 2009
Local Government Support for Sustainable Agriculture

Zoning ordinances, progressive tax incentives, and agricultural land trusts are just a few of the tools that local governments are using to support local farming around their communities. During this episode of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, host Jeff Birkby interviews Margaret Krome, Policy Program Director for the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, on the impact of local government regulations on sustainable agriculture. We’ll discuss what communities across the nation are doing to encourage local agriculture, and how antiquated zoning laws in growing urban areas are being updated to keep and encourage sustainable agriculture operations.


Listen | 55:37 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

September 24, 2009
Federal Farm Policy and Sustainable Agriculture

Innovative federal farm policies and programs are critical to ensuring the future of sustainable agriculture, family farming, and healthy local foods for consumers. During this episode of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, host Jeff Birkby interviews Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Hoefner will discuss exciting new developments in federal farm policies and programs that support sustainable agriculture. These programs include new beginning farmer initiatives to reduce entry barriers for the next generation of farmers and ranchers, transition support to help farmers catch up with consumer demand for organic and other certified foods, new programs to encourage healthy local foods in our school cafeterias, conservation assistance for good land stewardship, and other federal initiatives that will help make our farms more profitable and environmentally sustainable, and healthy local food more available.


Listen | 54:57 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

September 17, 2009
Organic Small Grain Production

Organic small grains represent an important part of the organic retail market. Organic grain production currently accounts for only 0.5% of the total grain production in the United States, but the demand for organic grain is growing. During this episode of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, host Jeff Birkby interviews crops specialist Susan Tallman, Topics discussed include organic small grain production, weed control, soil nutrient management, crop rotation, and organic grain marketing strategies.


Listen | 54:21 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

September 10, 2009
Minorities in Agriculture

Asians, Latinos and other minorities comprise a growing segment of U.S. farmers, bringing not only ethnic diversity to agricultural systems, but also crop and livestock diversity. But these minority farmers face unique challenges. In addition to the normal economic, market and technical challenges all farmers face, minorities are often confronted with language and cultural differences as they navigate access to markets, information, technical assistance, and other resources. In some cases, they may also experience discrimination. On the other hand, minority farmers have great strengths and opportunities, including expertise in specialty crop production, familiarity with ethnic niche markets, and access to a growing number of targeted programs providing training, business incubation, and business loans. During this radio episode, host Jeff Birkby interviews Marisa Alcorta and Hannah Lewis, two experienced practitioners in the area of minority farmer outreach and assistance.


Listen | 53:27 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

September 3, 2009
Energizing Your Farm-Harvesting Wind, Sunlight, and Energy Efficiency

Farming today depends on razor-thin profit margins. But harvesting the wind, solar, and biomass energy on your farm, as well as making all your farm operations more energy efficient, can help your farm make a healthy profit. During this episode of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, host Jeff Birkby interviews farm energy specialists Dave Ryan and Vicki Lynne with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). We’ll discuss what’s involved in profitably generating electricity from wind and solar power on your farm. We’ll also discuss how you can find hidden dollars by using energy more efficiently in your farm buildings and farming activities. Finally we’ll shed a light on energy success stories from farms around the nation, and focus on information resources you can tap to help make your farm produce more energy and save wasted dollars through energy efficiency.


Listen | 54:36 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

August 27, 2009
Urban Farming: Cultivating Food and Communities

Urban farming is not a new concept, but it is gaining new support. Large cities like Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Seattle, and Toronto have initiated substantial programs to foster urban agriculture. Urban farming involves land use decisions, producing nutritious meals of local foods for schools, creating employment and job training, food processing and delivery, creating of clean, green working spaces in urban areas, developing citywide systems of composting waste, and much more. Urban farms throughout the United States are growing tons of food on small plots, provisioning farmers' markets, restaurants, food banks, and community-supported agriculture share boxes. Urban agriculture today has the potential to relieve food insecurity, strengthen community bonds, and to bolster local and regional economies. During this episode of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, host Jeff Birkby interviews Lee Rinehart, who has written and lectured on this new urban farming movement sweeping the nation.


Listen | 54:53 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

August 20, 2009
Local Food in School and College Cafeterias: Making it Happen in Your Community

Serving locally-grown food in school and college cafeterias is a wildly popular idea. Purchasing local food for cafeterias keeps money circulating in local communities, and lessens environmental impacts by reducing food transportation costs. And food served fresh from the farm is usually healthier and tastier than food shipped from hundreds of miles away. Schools and colleges across the United States are interested in using locally-grown foods, but face a surprising number of barriers including tight budgets, understaffed kitchens, labyrinthine food safety laws, and a lack of local food producers, processors and distributors. During this edition of Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight, host Jeff Birkby interviews Crissie McMullan, who will discuss techniques that work to overcome the challenges and bring local food to lunch trays in school and college cafeterias.


Listen | 56:26 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

August 13, 2009
Farmscaping—Ecological Pest Control

Farmscaping is a whole-farm, ecological approach to pest management. Farmscaping uses hedgerows, border plants, cover crops, and water reservoirs to attract and support populations of beneficial organisms including insects, bats, and birds of prey. Farmscaping requires more knowledge on the part of the grower than conventional pest management. But the investment needed to learn farmscaping techniques can result in reduced pesticide use and lower pesticide costs, reduced risks of chemical residues in farm products, and an overall safer farm environment for wildlife, plants, and farm families. Ecological pest management is based on preventing pest problems before they happen. With this approach, farmers can avoid the costs of pesticides as well as the fuel, equipment and labor used to apply them. Jeff Birkby interviews farmscaping expert Rex Dufour, who leads us through techniques and successes in managing the farm landscape to promote ecological pest management.


Listen | 55:37 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

August 6, 2009
Rural Life in the 1940s—Lessons for Agriculture Today with guest speaker Evelyn Birkby

Sustainable agriculture isn't just about growing crops and livestock. It's also about sustaining the farm families and communities that produce those local foods, organic grains, grass-fed beef, and other healthy farm products. Over the past 50 years, the number of farm families and communities in the United States has rapidly declined. During the 1940s, the United States had more than six million farms, with an average farm size of under 200 acres. But today we've lost more than two thirds of those farms, and the remaining farms average almost triple the acreage of those small farms in the 1940s. This episode of Spotlight on Sustainable Agriculture will explore some of the approaches to farm life and community living that were common the rural Midwest in the 1940s, and how we can learn from those experiences to keep our farm families and farming communities sustainable today.


Listen | 56:07 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

July 30, 2009
Sheep and Goats for Profit

Sheep and goats are important sources of milk, meat, and fiber for millions of people around the world. Sheep and goats also improve pasture and remove unwanted vegetation. In years of drought and wildfires, the animals' ability to graze down flammable undergrowth can be crucial. Meat goat production in particular is on the rise as American farmers become more aware of the meat's popularity among immigrant groups. In this broadcast, Jeff Birkby with the National Center for Appropriate Technology interviews two livestock experts on the booming market and production issues involved in raising and marketing sheep and goats.


Listen | 57:28 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

July 23, 2009
Biodiesel—Small Scale Production and Economics

Biodiesel fuel can be made from filtered waste vegetable oil, animal fats, oilseed crops like sunflower, and even the oil emitted by algae. Biodiesel has many benefits as a liquid fuel source, but it can also raise environmental and economic concerns. During this broadcast we'll talk to three national experts on the trends and future in on-farm biodiesel production, including crop and soil handling issues, scaling up the process, and pollution issues. We'll also look at the economics of small scale biodiesel projects on the farm and in local communities. Locally produced biodiesel fuel can truly help us change the way we think about transportation and energy.


Listen | 47:21 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

July 16, 2009
Using Hoop Houses to Extend Your Growing Season

In many regions of the United States, vegetable growers can ask for a premium price if they can bring their crops to farmers markets or restaurants earlier in the year than other growers. Likewise, there is a premium for high-quality produce late in the fall or during the winter, when few other growers are harvesting. Growing crops in low-cost greenhouses called "hoop houses," can help farmers extend their growing season and increase their profits.


Listen | 43:58 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3

July 9, 2009
Healthy Pastures, Healthy Livestock

A healthy pasture is the foundation of sustainable livestock production. Well managed pastures and thoughtful grazing management can often make the difference between profitability and loss for farmers and ranchers faced with high feed costs.


Listen | 45:28 min Download mp3 Download Full mp3


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This page was last updated on: February 10, 2015