Author: Stacey Stearns

Highlights of Extension

collage of pages from Extension highlights publication

Our 2022 Highlights of Extension report shows how UConn Extension continues innovating to meet audiences and partners around the issues identified in the strategic initiatives set forth by the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources.

Youth programs, water quality, and geospatial education are all part of the sustainable landscapes and climate portfolios and featured throughout this issue. In agriculture, we continue partnering with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, innovating aquaculture production in the state, and serving new and beginning farmers.

The work of our financial literacy program is needed now more than ever and aligns with our other health programming. All programs center diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, and this work is ongoing. UConn Extension educators and volunteers continue to improve the lives of residents in all 169 cities and towns. Extension is steadfast in our commitment and will continue evolving alongside those we serve.

We invite you to explore the progress made over the past year and join us in future programs.

Read our report online at

Today: Matching Gifts for our Master Gardeners

master gardener volunteers in front of a gardenIt’s the final day of UConn Gives! Yesterday was a great day as we reached the halfway mark towards our $20,000 goal. So many of you stepped up and donated to the Master Gardener program – Thank you to all who have donated thus far!

But now it’s the home stretch and we’re hoping to finish as the group with the most donors. If we do, the Master Gardener program receives an additional $5,000 from the UConn Foundation AND an additional $500 from our college’s dean, Indrajeet Chaubey.

We finished yesterday in first place, but keeping the top spot is not guaranteed.

If you have already donated, thank you! If you haven’t, please consider a modest donation that will add to our donor tally. Your $5 or $10 donation could be the one that puts an additional $5,500 in our account. Generous folks like you who understand the good that Master Gardeners do in our communities can make the difference in this campaign.

Your gift will support the program by providing financial resources, meaning we can concentrate on what we do best – gardening and teaching. As a primarily self-funded program, any amount is appreciated – and, whether it’s $5, $25 or $100, your donation gets us closer to the $5,500 bonus!

Please help us grow our future – go to before 7 PM TODAY. Thank you!

Why Support Extension During UConn Gives

It’s UConn Gives, a 36-hour giving initiative that brings UConn Nation together to support and celebrate what they care about at UConn. We are asking you to support our Extension programs during this event. Matt Syrotiak and Stacey Stearns share information about the 4-H and Master Gardener programs, and why your support of $5 can help these programs grow and expand:

Support these programs at and

Support Extension During UConn Gives

UConn Gives logo 2023

Extension program participants everywhere know that we are committed to providing an exceptional experience. During UConn Gives, a 36-hour giving initiative on March 8-9, program participants, faculty, staff, and friends worldwide come together to give back and celebrate what they care about at UConn Extension.

Please join us in supporting our Extension programs - $5 is an immense help and unlocks matching gifts too.

master gardener volunteers in front of a garden

Extension Master Gardeners

Extension Master Gardeners share their knowledge and their passion for horticulture and the environment throughout Connecticut. Using the knowledge and the skills gained in the training portion of the program, Master Gardeners provide research-based information and assistance through classes, clinics, workshops, and community outreach projects, More than 9,000 participants have assisted and encouraged homeowners, schools, municipalities, and many other community groups.

Give to the Master Gardeners:

master gardener volunteers in front of a garden

UConn 4-H

The 4-H Centennial Fund provides unique leadership, civic education and workforce preparedness opportunities through state, regional and national 4-H events. UConn 4-H reaches over 18,000 youth each year with exciting learning opportunities.

three images of youth in forest

Youth Environmental Changemakers

Your generous gift will enable high school students from underserved Connecticut communities to get paid while participating in our award-winning 9-month environmental education program! The Conservation Ambassador Program (CAP) includes a one-week action-packed, hands-on field experience at the Storrs campus, followed by a local environmental action project tailored to the student's interests and community needs.
Give to Youth Environmental Changemakers:
woman running tests in laboratory

Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory

CVMDL is dedicated to improving and developing state-of-the-art diagnostics for the protection and monitoring of animal health not only in Connecticut but across the United States. As part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) and as the only Nationally Accredited laboratory in New England, CVMDL is at the forefront of disease surveillance. Advances in testing will ensure enhanced safety for our pets, our food supply, and people.
Give to the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL):
Joe and Zhai in the meat lab

Animal Science Meat Laboratory

The UConn Meat Science Laboratory was built for college teaching and commercial service of slaughtering, processing, and meat packaging in the 1950s and has been primarily used for teaching and research since the 1990’s. The funds raised by UConn Gives will contribute to equipment repair and small upgrades in the UConn Meat Science Laboratory.
Give to the Meat Lab:

Apply to Become a Summer Intern with Extension

UConn Undergraduate Students: Apply for one of our summer internships. We have 18 opportunities available throughout the state. Learn more and apply at

Get paid and gain valuable in-the-field experience in your chosen discipline at an in-state Extension office location.

  • Food
  • Health
  • Nutrition
  • Sustainability
  • Research
  • Agribusiness
  • Youth Education
  • Community Development
  • Marketing

photos of three of the summer interns

Learn where Extension offices are located across the state here so you can apply to an internship that is close to where you will be living this summer.

Get paid while learning and working in a career-oriented role. Most of these roles are for an average 18-20 hours per week over the 10 week summer period with some requiring a bit of weekend and/or evening hours, although these circumstances vary by position. Some of these positions for employment are contingent upon the successful completion of a pre-employment criminal background check.

UConn Extension is the premiere public engagement program at the University of Connecticut. Extension has eight offices in strategic locations statewide as well as the Sea Grant office at the Avery Point campus and the administrative office on the Storrs campus. Extension programs cover the full spectrum of topics related to food, health and sustainability. Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of the 169 municipalities across the state. Extension has approximately 100 faculty and staff in the Department of Extension with another 20 faculty and staff with partial Extension appointments in the academic departments of the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources.

Internship Timeline

Applications due: March 26, 2023

Selected Interns Notified: by April 10, 2023

Internship starts: May 8, 2023 or later

Learn more and apply online.

Celebrating George Washington Carver

Black background with green yellow and red stripes, the title "black history" and the words "black history month 2023: faith"George Washington Carver infographic

As the first African American who attended Iowa State University, George Washington Carver earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. An expert in plant research and development, Dr. Carver was recruited to Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, by the Black Educator, Booker T. Washington. Some of Dr. Carver’s accomplishments include:

👉🏾Taught black farmers how to rotate plants for healthy soils and better crops

👉🏾Invented the “Jessup Wagon”, a traveling demonstration wagon to teach farmers

👉🏾Developed over 300 products from peanuts and over 100 for sweet potatoes

👉🏾Wrote over 40 simple language bulletins, including advice and recipes



George W. Carver: An Uncommon Educator, Record-Journal,,Feb 4,2023. (accessed 2.15.23) (accessed 2.15.23)

📷Credit: George Washington Carver (

Feb/2023 Written and created by: U. R. Taylor, MS, RDN, CDN  and Lindsey Brush

#BlackHistoryMonth #AskUConn #UConnEFNEP #UConnExtension 

Deploying Sugar Kelp Seed String

The collapse of the lobster fishery in the late 1990s forced many lobstering families to find alternative ways to make a living on the water. While many transitioned into shellfish aquaculture, one lobsterman was interested in adding a new crop into his business: sugar kelp. DJ King (King Lobsters) cultivates shellfish and sugar kelp on his underwater leases. Anoushka Concepcion and Connecticut Sea Grant staff have been working with Mr. King, and others, to find successful ways to expand kelp farming in Long Island Sound. In this video, Mr. King briefly explains why he made the transition into kelp farming, what he most enjoys about farming kelp and some of the challenges he faces. 

Q&A with Dr. Mayra Rodríguez – Urban Community Forestry Educator

Mayra RodriguezDr. Mayra Rodríguez joined UConn Extension in August 2022 as our Urban Community Forestry educator. We sat down for a Q&A with her about her Extension program and interests.

How did you get interested and involved in forestry?

I’ve been told that my path to forestry is a bit unconventional, but I think this just proves that we all can experience the field in different ways. I grew up in the San Juan metropolitan region of Puerto Rico. Although I had little interactions with local natural spaces, I used to love seeing what my grandmother would grow in the backyard of her small city house. She would often tell me what each vegetable and herb could be used for, from cooking to medicinal home remedies.

Once in university, I joined our ESA SEEDS chapter and was in charge of maintaining our urban community garden as well as holding numerous public workshops. In the meantime I did several internships where I learned about natural resource management as well as work with a local community-led nonprofit organization to promote conservation in urban areas. After graduating with my Bachelor’s in Biology, I enrolled in a PhD program in Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University. From there, onwards, I’ve supported local groups, agencies and organizations in grounding natural resource planning in equity.

Tell us about your course work and career before coming to UConn?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a PhD in Forestry and Natural Resources. I did my undergrad at the University of Puerto Rico in Bayamón and my graduate degree at Purdue University. During undergrad, most of my coursework was unrelated to my current field of work but I did take courses in Ecology and Plant Biology. As graduate students, we were expected to take a course in Extension. This was my first formal introduction to the Cooperative Extension System in general.

Prior to working with Extension at UConn, I was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Vermont. There, I supported the Spatial Analysis Laboratory and their tree canopy assessments, working with many city agencies throughout the United States.

What is the most challenging part about your field?

Forestry is a male and white dominated field. So far, the most challenging part has been dealing with what means to be a Hispanic woman in forestry.

Because of the nature of my work (which centers on environmental justice and working closely with underserved communities), it can also be challenging to convey the importance of equity in planning, management and decision making. Sometimes, our privilege blinds us from how others experience the world.

And the most rewarding?

The most rewarding part of my work is seeing positive change take place as its related to inclusive and equity-based practices in urban forestry.

What are your goals for your new position with Extension?

The goal of my extension programs is to create an inclusive atmosphere where we can ensure that deliverables from forestry and environmental efforts are in alignment with the priorities of communities who have been historically excluded from planning, research, and extension.

What will success look like for Extension?

Extension has many wonderful programs. I think I will call myself successful if I can bridge the gap that exist in our efforts in reaching underserved or historically marginalized populations.

How can we all (residents in Connecticut) make a positive impact on environmental justice?

At an individual level, by being conscious of how our decisions towards the environment (as basic as they may be) not only impact us but others as well. In our communities, we can support local groups, organizations and/or initiatives that strive to dismantle structures of racism and discrimination impacting the fair and equitable access to nature and its benefits for all.

What is one thing you want everyone to know about forestry/the environment?

That we all deserve quality of life, which means we all deserve access to clean air and water, healthy forests, ecosystem services, etc. However, this is also tied to having other needs met such as housing, food, and employment. Pursuing environmental goals do not have to occur in exclusion of providing access to these basic goods.

2023 Vegetable Production Certificate Course

vegetable course flier page onelettuce with vegetable course text written on it

We’re offering a Vegetable Production Certificate Course, beginning on January 30th 2023. It is a fully online course for new and beginning farmers who have 0-3 years of vegetable growing experience or no formal training in agriculture. The participants will learn answers to the basic questions about farm business planning, planning and preparing for vegetable farm, warm and cool-season vegetable production techniques, season extension, identification of biotic and abiotic issues, and marketing. The price of the course is $149. 

Please contact the course coordinator, Shuresh Ghimire (, 860-870-6933) with any questions about this course.

Registration deadline: January 23, 2023

Register at

Course Description

This vegetable production course is designed to benefit beginner vegetable producers who have 0-3 years of vegetable growing experience or no formal training in agriculture. The participants will learn answers to the basic questions about farm business planning, planning and preparing for vegetable farm, warm and cool-season vegetable production techniques, season extension, identification of biotic and abiotic issues, and marketing.

  • The course consists of seven online modules, each of which include a self-paced video, supplemental material, and a short quiz.
  • The slides presented in the video are also provided in a downloaded PDF file for note-taking and future reference.
  • The supplemental materials are great addition to your personal reference library and valuable resources for all farmers.
  • The module quizzes are designed to test your knowledge of the key points within the specific module.
  • Each module is expected to take you approximately one hour to complete, although this varies by user.

Course Learning Objectives

At the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Develop a farm business plan, which will help you keep records, manage time more effectively, and price products.
  • Explain the characteristics of a suitable site for commercial vegetable crop production and adjust as needed.
  • Perform soil sampling protocols for nutrient analysis.
  • Explain full season tasks involved in vegetable farming including planting, in-season care, harvesting, and post-harvest considerations for some warm-season and cool-season vegetables.
  • Scout and identify biotic and abiotic issues.
  • Explain tools for season extension.
  • Understand different strategies, resources, options, and models for direct-to-consumer retail.
  • Identify additional reliable and fact-based informational resources on topics related to vegetable farming.

Table of Contents

  1. Pretest: 25 questions
  2. Farm business planning: Developing a farm business plan and enterprise budgeting
  3. Plan and prepare for vegetable farm: Site selection, soil test, and cover crops
  4. Warm season vegetables: Crop selection, planting to harvesting and post-harvest management
  5. Cool-season vegetables: Crop selection, planting to harvesting and post-harvest management
  6. Identification of pests and abiotic problems: Identification of diseases, insects, nutritional and other issues
  7. Season extension: Differences among low, caterpillar, and high tunnel; Opportunities and challenges in high tunnel growing; Micro-environment management
  8. Marketing: Different strategies, resources, options, and models for direct-to-consumer retail.
  9. Post-test: 25 questions

Course Dates (2023)

While this is an asynchronous course which you may work through at your own pace between Jan 30 and March 16, a recommended class schedule is listed below:

Jan 30 – Feb 4          – Complete the Online pre-test (pre-course quiz)

Feb 5 – 9                   – Module 1 – Farm Business Planning

Feb 10 – 14               – Module 2 – Planning and preparing for a vegetable farm

Feb 15 – 20               – Module 3 – Warm Season Vegetables

Feb 21 – 24               – Module 4 – Cool Season Vegetables

Feb 25 – Mar 1        – Module 5 – ID Pest and Abiotic Problems

Mar 2 – 6                 – Module 6 – Season Extension

Mar 7 – 11               – Module 7 – Marketing

Mar 12-  16              – Complete the post-test

Course Instructors

Abby Beissinger, Former Assistant Extension Educator, UConn

Bruce Gresczyk Jr., Gresczyk Farms

Jiff Martin, Extension Educator, UConn

Joe Bonelli, Associate Extension Educator, UConn

Kip Kolesinskas, Consulting Conservation Scientist

Shuresh Ghimire, Assistant Extension Educator, UConn

Steve Munno, Massaro Community Farm


Please contact the course coordinator, Shuresh Ghimire (, 860-870-6933) with any questions about this course.