Author: Stacey Stearns

Protect Humans and Animals from Mosquitoes

mosquito biting a human

The presence of mosquitoes carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus (EEEV) on the rise in Connecticut, according to surveillance program from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and testing from UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Protect both humans and livestock with these steps:

Heather Peracchio Recognized for Community Contributions

man and woman with an award
Heather Peracchio receiving her 40 Under 40 award from P.J. Prunty, President of the Danbury Chamber of Commerce.

UConn Extension professionals work in communities throughout the state, to apply the university’s research in practical settings and help improve lives. Heather Peracchio, an Extension professional based in Fairfield County, exemplifies these attributes for her work in community nutrition.

Peracchio, a registered dietitian and certified dietitian-nutritionist, joined UConn Extension in 2012, after receiving her Master of Science from the UConn Department of Allied Health Sciences and serving four years as an assistant extension educator with them. This summer, she was recognized as a 40 Under 40 award recipient for Fairfield County.

Fairfield County 40 Under 40 Honorees are diverse, passionate, and committed difference makers that are transforming the county through their professional and community contributions. In a typical year, the nomination pool exceeds 250 submissions making the 40 Under 40 Awards one of the premier recognition opportunities in the region. Following a rigorous review and selection process, all Honorees are chosen by a judging panel of past 40 Under 40 winners, community leaders, and program hosts and sponsors, based on professional and community achievements.

What is often forgotten by those who have healthy nutrition and access to foods that make them feel energized and satiated, is how hard it is to go about daily tasks, especially work responsibilities, while feeling hungry. Nutrition plays a vital role as it provides the energy needed for life. However, when individuals lack the knowledge of its significance or the means to access nutritious food, their focus shifts from thriving in various aspects of life, including work, to merely surviving. Peracchio is giving people a chance to fuel their bodies in a way that will allow them the energy and fulfillment to go above and beyond. When participants are supported by a nutritious diet, companies will flourish with new and bright ideas.

With Extension, Peracchio is the supervisor of the county Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and the UConn Extension Center Coordinator for Fairfield County. Her accomplishments are many, improving the quality of life for those who reside in Fairfield County. She has designed and delivered educational programs that provide nutrition education to low-income families. Peracchio also works as the SNAP-Ed Food Security – Program Educator, and has since April 2012, engaging local and state partners such as schools, community centers, farms, senior centers, and food banks by providing nutrition presentations and series using science-based curriculum. These include Families Eating Smart and Moving More; Choosing Health: Food, Fun and Fitness; Teen Cuisine; Eat Smart Live Strong; Seniors Eating Well.

Peracchio works collaboratively with community partners to seek funding and create timely and relevant programming. Examples include a partnership with the Danbury Farmers Market Community Collaborative where she secured $13,000 in Covid-19 resiliency funding to provide local produce boxes and nutrition education to urban families who had limited access to the farmers’ market. Another partnership with the Walnut Hill Church yielded $16,000 for her efforts through Share Our Strength Food Insecurity grant reaching families with children aged 0-5 to provide food and cooking skills.

As the EFNEP supervisor, Peracchio supervises and works with the program assistant and EFNEP program aide. Together they plan, organize and implement series of nutrition education classes for diverse youth and adult audiences throughout Fairfield County. Her collaborative projects including incorporating EFNEP education within the Growing Gardens Growing Health project in Norwalk, 4-H Teen Urban Gardening Project in Bridgeport and the 4-H Soccer and Nutrition program in Danbury. With the assistance of the interns, she supervises from UConn Extension and Nuvance Hospital Dietetic Internship (Norwalk and Danbury hospitals), an impact has been made on the health and nutrition in Fairfield County communities.

“Heather is one of those leaders who leads by example, she does not just tell people what to do, she is right there with them. She creates a highly collaborative environment where all get to contribute. She inspires those on the team to always look for more ways provide the education a training that helps grow people. Like the food she helps to get into the hands of the needy, she also brings a spirit to those she works with that encourages them to grow themselves,” said Scott Farrell, a community partner and assistant director of admissions at Naugatuck Valley Community College.

Peracchio creates shared goals that help inspire and motivate those in need to live their best life. She always creates a positive and inclusive work environment where all get to contribute and grow as individuals. Through her leadership she established partnerships with 60 preschool centers, 30 public schools and 25 food pantries. Peracchio knows how to bring the proverbial village, in this case Fairfield County, together to support its residents while feeding both their body and mind.

“I believe that what sets Heather apart from others is her compassion and willingness to help,” Farrell continued. “She is always supporting those around her, be it her work family, to those moms in her mom group or others in the community, to her own family where she is a living example to her three kids of what it means to care and make a difference. She just does not say things are important, she gets involved with the organization that can impact the people she serves.”

Her service to the community includes the Connecticut Food Policy Council, Danbury Farmers’ Market Community Collaborative, Norwalk Food Providers, Danbury Food Collaborative, Connecticut Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics board of directors, and many others.

As they say, actions speak louder than words and Peracchio is always on the go and ready to make things happen. Learn more about the UConn EFNEP program and the resources available statewide at

Author: Combined Reports

Annual Beef Cattle Auction

male student with Angus beef animal

The 2023 University of Connecticut (UConn) Beef Cattle Auction is set to occur on Sunday, October 22, 2023, at the Cattle Resource Unit (CRU) on Horsebarn Hill Road in Storrs, CT 06269. This year’s event will offer both in-person attendance and the opportunity for virtual and live bidding through Wolf Auction Group. Sale animals will be available for public viewing starting at 10:00 AM, with the auction officially commencing at 12:00 PM.

All animals will receive a rabies vaccine prior to the sale date. Final weights will be posted prior to the sale date. Purchased animals must depart from the UConn campus by 3:00 PM on October 23, 2023.

For a detailed roster of cattle up for sale and a link to join the virtual auction (available in mid to late October), please visit 

For additional information, please contact Mary Margaret Smith, Executive Program Director – Dairy & Livestock Units, via email at

Report the Spotted Lanternfly (SLF)

spotted lanternfly adult and juvenileadult spotted lanternfly

If you see something, say something. The Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) seriously threatens Connecticut agriculture and other plants we enjoy. Help the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station control the SLF by reporting and eliminating this invasive pest. Learn more at

Bonnie Kegler: Empowering Youth with UConn 4-H

Bonnie KeglerBonnie Kegler (’88 CAHNR, ’90 NEAG) joined UConn Extension and the 4-H program in Windham County as an assistant extension educator in July, after an award-winning teaching career at Killingly High School in the agricultural education program.

“I want youth in the UConn 4-H program to have a sense of accomplishment on any level, whether it’s receiving a ribbon at the 4-H fair, being recognized for their contributions, or being in a peer group among other people with similar interests,” she says.

Bonnie was an agricultural education student at E.O. Smith High School and wanted to be a veterinary technician. She went to Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas; at the time, their vet tech program was the second highest rated in the country. She only intended to stay two years but discovered the livestock judging team.

“It changed my life, I didn’t even know they had one,” Bonnie says. “I love decision making with the information you have, and the confidence that comes with making that decision and living with the consequences.” She ended up coaching the team her senior year at Sul Ross, a significant recognition for her livestock evaluation and teaching skills.

After graduating, she got a job at a veterinary practice in West Texas, it was the only practice for 100-miles, so they treated all animals. Bonnie recalls taking a metal coffee can with rocks out to the barn section of the clinic to feed or treat animals, shaking the can along the way to scare the rattle snakes, who slithered out of the barn.

Bonnie returned to Connecticut in 1985, and pursued a masters degree in animal science, also coaching the livestock judging team at UConn, and then earned a teaching certificate from the Neag School of Education.

She loves education and animals, so it was a natural fit to teach agricultural education in the high school setting. Bonnie was always involved with 4-H through her own children too and adds that she loves watching the relationship and learning process between kids and animals.

“Watching youth find out something they didn’t know or get better at something excites me,” she says. “They want to improve, those ‘aha’ moments and watching growth, or having someone get recognized for something they’re passionate about, and helping kids understand how much they are capable of accomplishing. Seeing youth understand that what they know and the skills they have is the coolest thing, and it carries over to adult education too.”

Connecticut has a lot to offer, and Bonnie enjoys living in Mansfield with her husband, and spending time on the shoreline. She also raises and shows Hampshire sheep, and participates in dog agility with Tucker, her Corgi.

Her positive impact is already being felt by youth in Windham County, she led her first 4-H Fair shortly after joining Extension in July and is currently recruiting youth and adult volunteers for the program. Bonnie is also working on statewide agricultural and food literacy programs to educate residents. All her work with UConn 4-H is united in the effort to empower youth to make a positive impact and reach their full potential.

“Youth need to hear from someone that believes they have the ability to do something. I see things in kids where they weren’t sure they would be good, and I give them a different way to look at it,” Bonnie concludes. “I help them understand that what they know is valuable. If they’re willing to learn there isn’t anything they can’t do.”

Visit to learn more about the UConn 4-H program, enroll your youth member, or become a volunteer.

Meet Joanna Woodward

Joanna WoodwardJoanna Woodward recently joined UConn Extension as the Master Gardener Coordinator for Tolland County. Prior to joining Extension, she spent 30 years in corporate IT working in training and help desk services, project management, library and information services, and then technology adoption and education. Joanna emigrated from the United Kingdom almost 20 years ago and earned her bachelor in science in Technical Management.

What is your area of interest?

Since retiring and completing the Master Gardeners program, I have an interest in native plants and landscape design with a view to supporting wildlife in our gardens. I maintain my interest in technology adoption and education which began in the early 90’s training secretaries how to use word processors. I was lucky to be around at a time when technology was being introduced into the workplace for the first time.

What excites you the most about working with UConn Extension?

I’m looking forward to engaging with each of the Tolland County Master Gardeners, with the team of Master Gardener Coordinators and looking to collaboration opportunities with other Extension programs. The 2024 program will be online in Tolland so I’m excited to use my previous experience as a technology educator to engage with the new interns.

What is one thing you hope people will learn from you and your work?

I hope the new Master Gardeners enjoy their gardening learning experience and become even more curious about the natural world through the program.

What is your favorite thing to do in Connecticut?

I enjoy walking with my dog in the Connecticut state parks.

What are some of your hobbies and other interests?

I am a Master Gardener volunteer at the Connecticut Audubon Society Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center in Old Lyme and at Camp Harkness in Waterford. I belong to the local garden club and manage their website. I have recently purchased a Cannon DSLR camera and am learning about nature photography. I am a member of two book clubs, one in the U.S. and one in the U.K. and listen to audio books and subscribe to gardening podcasts. I love watching British TV programs (Gardeners World included of course) which keep me connected to my family back at home. My family here consists of my husband, three grown up children, two moggy cats and a cockerpoo.

Ask UConn Extension: When do I prune my hydrangea?

blue and white hydrangea

If the shrub blooms in spring, then prune immediately after bloom period next year. If you prune it now, flower buds will be lost. If it blooms in summer, prune now or in the spring. Endless Summer hydrangea macrophylla blooms on current season growth and old wood, pruning will still result in some flower loss, but pruning can be done now if you can’t wait.

Answered by the UConn Home & Garden Education Center