Agriculture and Food

Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply

‘Completely Connecticut Agriculture’ Explores the Creativity and Resilience of Connecticut Farmers

Alyson Schnedier, Jon Russo and Zach Duda with words Completely Connecticut Agriculture over the photoIt’s easy to take our food supply for granted while strolling through the abundant aisles of a grocery store. We do not often consider how our food gets to the store or where it comes from. A group of students in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) is bridging the communication gap between agriculture and consumers in a new documentary film, “Completely Connecticut Agriculture.”

Zachary Duda, Jonathan Russo, and Alyson Schneider are agricultural advocates and vocalize the importance of the industry while inspiring others to do the same. All three are CAHNR Agriculture and Natural Resources majors, graduating in May. The students met as high school agriscience students, and later served together as state officers in the Connecticut FFA Association. The idea for the documentary about Connecticut agriculture formed while they were state officers.

Read more or watch the documentary online.

The Low Down on Selecting Tomatoes

heirloom tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes grown by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Photo: Noah Cudd

Vegetable gardening is very popular these days, and even more so since the COVID outbreak.    Anyone new to this hobby is quick to hear some terms being thrown around when describing different types of vegetables. Knowing the meaning of these terms gives prospective gardeners some key information that helps them pick varieties of vegetables most suited to their needs. All living creatures, known to man, are classified according to species and genus. So for instance, all tomatoes are classified as Solanum lycospersicum.

To start off, I already used the term “variety”. This term is used rather loosely in horticulture and is incorrectly interchanged with “cultivar”. Both refer to the differences in the species of plant you have chosen. Varieties refer to naturally occurring deviations from the original species. They typically come true to seed. Cultivars have been purposely cross-bred from two or more different species. Plants must be either vegetatively propagated or started from hybrid seed each year. These varieties or cultivars have names and are associated with specific characteristics.  For example when I say “Sweet Millions” tomatoes, a person familiar with this cultivar knows that they are cherry tomatoes, indeterminate, very flavorful, and highly productive. For the sake of this article, I will stick with tomato examples, but these terms could apply to many vegetable species and cultivars.

Our tomato plants contain both male and female flower parts. Because of this, they are easily pollinated by wind or bees. This is problematic for greenhouse tomato growers, so they will hand pollinate the tomatoes with paint brushes or even special electronic devices that shake the flower to accomplish pollination. Fortunately for us outdoor gardeners, we do not need to do anything special for pollination to occur. 

Probably the best place to start is talking about “open pollination.” This is essentially how Mother Nature does things. There is a large population of organisms that have genes for individual traits, or characteristics. If we stick with our tomato example, think of: size, color, growth habit, disease resistance, plant height, etc. In my example, the population of tomatoes living in the wild in a certain area would have a lot of genetic diversity. As we all have experienced, the weather can vary from year to year. Genetic diversity in the population is nature’s way of ensuring that some organisms will survive and reproduce. Likewise, different parts of the country (or the world) will have different weather, climates, and microclimates.  Certain traits or characteristics are an advantage or a disadvantage depending on where you are living.  Over time, a population of tomatoes will see an increase in the genes that help it survive in the local environments. These would be considered different varieties of tomatoes.   

Some growers like to have open pollinated plants. They see which tomatoes produce the best and then save seeds from those plants to be planted the following year. In this way, the gardener is essentially developing a variety of tomato that is perfectly suited to living, growing, and even thriving in that particular area of the world. In addition, the gardener may also select for certain traits he or she prefers, like low acid, yellow tomatoes for example. Over time, the gardener may select and replant only the seeds of the plants that conform to certain pre-determined criteria.  Eventually the plants will breed true, or have the same set of characteristics, year to year.

Click here to read more.

Pick-Your-Own Revisited

strawberries

Last year we held a virtual discussion on how to deal with Pick-your-own in the age of COVID. This year we will revisit this topic with several growers sharing what they did that worked, maybe didn’t work as well as expected or at all, will keep this year, or will drop because it may not be needed. With vaccines and an ever changing landscape it may be a moving target. It is safe to say we all liked the masks because it resulted in less eating in the field. Keeping the requirement?  Let’s chat and get prepared as an industry for the upcoming season. Join UConn Extension and growers including Jamie Jones, Jones Family Farms, Shelton CT; Russell Holmberg, Holmberg Orchards, Gales Ferry CT; Michaele Williams, Bishops Orchards, Guilford CT; Don Preli, Belltown Hill Orchards, South Glastonbury CT; Andre Tougas, Tougas Family Farm,  Northborough MA; and Trevor Hardy, Brookdale Orchards, Hollis NH.

Pick-Your-Own Revisited

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Beginning at 7 pm

Free, registration NOT required. Join us using the following link:

http://bit.ly/PickYourOwn-COVID

Job Opening: Evaluation Specialist/Academic Assistant II

venn diagram of Extension programs with food, health and sustainabilityPosition Location: Storrs, CT

Position Description: Reporting to the CAHNR Associate Dean for Extension, the Evaluation Specialist works with an interdisciplinary team of faculty and staff in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). The Evaluation Specialist provides leadership to build Cooperative Extension’s capacity to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of Extension’s instructional programs in achieving desired results and to contribute to individual, community and organizational learning and performance improvement. Capacity building includes initiatives such as conducting evaluation studies, facilitating professional development opportunities, supporting program accountability and reporting functions.

Duties and Responsibilities:
• Conduct program evaluations for multiple purposes, i.e. reporting requirements for granting agencies, and audiences on an ongoing basis.
• Provide leadership for Cooperative Extension’s internal efforts to build individual, team, and organizational evaluation capacity to improve program effectiveness through professional development including technical assistance, training, resource development and dissemination.
• Lead CAHNR initiatives specific to evaluation to programs.
• Collaborate and provide technical support to Extension faculty and staff delivering programming to local and statewide communities, groups, agencies, organizations and individuals.
• Independently travel to and carry out field work throughout the geographic region including urban, rural and remote locations and work and/or programming sites.
• Provide leadership for annual planning and reporting of Extension programs to federal funding partners.
• Advance CAHNR’s commitment to equity and inclusion by 1) considering sources of bias and structural inequity based on race, ethnicity, disability, gender, and sexual orientation, and 2) facilitating and evaluating programs that address the burden these injustices impose on members of the campus community and residents of the state where appropriate.
• Write, publish and share articles, curricula and program designs that contribute to understanding and support the scholarly practices of evaluation.
• Cooperate with other research and Extension personnel to develop strong, integrated programs.
• Collaborate on and submit grant proposals for initiatives consistent with and in support of the purpose of this position.
• Provide relevant information to public officials, legislators, the general public, and other interested parties to communicate Extension’s value.
• Develop and use an appropriate system for reporting and evaluating programs to UConn Extension and to clients, colleagues and other Extension collaborators as needed.
• Research, gather and compile information from multiple sources utilizing various systems and techniques to conduct qualitative and quantitative data analyses and reporting.
• Attend and participate in state and national program activities as appropriate, meetings, committees and local, state and national conferences; represent and serve as a representative of the Department of Extension.

Read more information, including application instructions – search 495055.

Getchis recognized with award for pandemic response efforts

Tessa Getchis shows samples of three species of shellfish found in Long Island Sound, clams, mussels and oysters.
Tessa Getchis shows samples of three species of shellfish found in Long Island Sound: clams, mussels and oysters. Judy Benson / CT Sea Grant

Connecticut Sea Grant Aquaculture Extension Specialist Tessa Getchis will receive a Service Excellence Award in the University of Connecticut chapter of the American Association of University Professors’ 2021 UConn-AAUP Excellence Awards.

The awards have been given annually since 1997 in six categories, and this year focused specifically on responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Getchis, who also holds the title of senior cooperative extension educator, is being recognized for her role in the various responses to the impact of pandemic shutdown on the state’s commercial shellfishing industry. This included a quick-turnaround survey done early in the shutdown to assess the economic fallout on shellfish farmers. That was followed by assistance programs that included: hiring commercial shellfish workers to rehabilitate the state’s natural shellfish beds; development of a website to share information about direct-to-consumer seafood markets; buybacks of oversized oysters; and assistance with applications for various government financial aid programs.

“We were able to provide some early relief to shellfishermen, and we’re really motivated to keep going, because this wasn’t a one-time impact,” Getchis said.

She stressed that the entire response would not have been possible without the contributions of colleagues at CT Sea Grant and the state Department of Agriculture Bureau of Aquaculture.

“It was and is a team effort,” she said.

CT Sea Grant Director Sylvain De Guise said the award is well deserved.

“It reflects on the recognition of her passion, teamwork, continued leadership and energy,” he said.

Her award will be given in a virtual ceremony on April 28. Also receiving a Service Excellence Award will be three assistant professors, Milagros Castillo-Montoya, Sharde Davis and David Embrick. Ten others will receive awards in teaching excellence, teaching innovation, research and creativity.

To read more about the pandemic response efforts, visit:

https://seagrant.uconn.edu/2020/10/30/shellfish-farmers-stay-afloat-with-innovation-financial-aid/

https://seagrant.uconn.edu/2020/06/04/project-expands-support-for-ct-shellfish-industry/

https://seagrant.uconn.edu/2020/03/26/response-launched-for-severely-impacted-aquaculture-sector/

Original Post

Compost Sale

compost facility

Spring 2021 UConn Compost Sale Details

Pick-up date: Friday, April 16th 1-4 PM and Saturday, April 17th 10 AM – 3 PM
Rain date(s): Friday, April 23rd and/or Saturday, April 24th

$25 per yard. Customers must purchase a minimum of ½ yard.

Payment must be made online by credit/debit card only.
*Payments must be received by 5 PM on Thursday, April 15th.*

Pick-up Location: UConn Compost Facility, 1396 Stafford Rd., Storrs, CT 06269.
Please follow the signs.

Make online payments here!

IMPORTANT RULES:

– Please bring Proof of payment (A picture of your payment receipt or the actual printed receipt.) Those who have not prepaid online will be turned away.
– Customers must wear a mask and stay in their vehicles.
– No boxes, pails, buckets or bags.  Compost will not be loaded by hand (shovel) by customers or UConn Staff.
– Trucks and trailers only. Compost will be loaded by a UConn tractor.

You will be asked to leave if you do not follow these rules.

Please contact Mary Kegler at 860-486-8567 with any questions.

UConn EFNEP Celebrates National Nutrition Month

vegetables on a white dinner plateMarch is National Nutrition Month! This past year has proven that nutrition and health are more important to all of us than ever. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is UConn Extension’s outreach nutrition program in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). Since EFNEP’s inception as a USDA demonstration program in 1968, community educators work with low-income, limited resource families with children to learn how to food shop, prepare and eat more healthily as well as increase physical activity.

National Nutrition Month is a natural connection for EFNEP’s year round healthy lifestyle education. Designated in 1973 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, this promotion began as a weeklong campaign to promote the profession as well as to communicate nutrition messages to the public. As a result of growing consumer interest, there was a transition to month long event in 1980. Each year a theme is chosen to embody health through nutrition and physical activity.

This year’s theme is Personalize Your Plate because everyone is unique in regard to body type, goals, cultural background, taste preferences and experiences. During this unprecedented past year, EFNEP has pivoted along with the rest of the world to social media for connection and engagement with friends, family and acquaintances. Through the EFNEP Facebook page and Extension Instagram and website, messages have included recipes, video short talks and cooking demonstrations to highlight how to Personalize Your Plate. Join us on social media and our websites to learn more about nutrition and healthy lifestyle education.

National Nutrition Month Video Topics:

March is National Nutrition Month: English https://youtu.be/b-nDAgkU9ks
                                                        Spanish https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GpfOweLl-s
What is EFNEP: English https://youtu.be/9NeSq0Tk2es
                           Spanish https://youtu.be/fRh7QoiyX3Q
                           Spanish https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGE3HrSJ30Y&feature=youtu.be

Article by Umekia R. Taylor, MS, RDN, CDN; UConn Educator/EFNEP Supervisor

Reference

Denny S. National nutrition month: a brief history. J Am Diet Assoc. 2006;106 (3):365-366.

All Paws In – Join Us for UConn Gives

UConn Gives All Paws In logo

In a time of extraordinary circumstances, UConn has adapted by seeking new opportunities and new ways to keep UConn Nation connected in a socially distant world. Through all the change and uncertainty, there has been one constant—our commitment to providing an exceptional education to our program participants. During this year’s UConn Gives, a 36-hour giving initiative, you can celebrate this commitment to excellence through giving. We invite you to join us on Tuesday, March 23rd and Wednesday, March 24th in supporting one or more of our initiatives:

Extension programs cover the full spectrum of topics aligned with CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces

Our educators faced the unprecedented challenges of 2020 and pivoted programs to offer life transformative education despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of the 169 municipalities across the state.

4-H Members Share Project at National Agriscience Summit

UConn 4-H Litchfield County was one of seven 4-H groups in the country to be selected to create and submit a five to seven minute video to be made available to participants at the 2021 National 4-H Agriscience Summit held earlier this month. The video highlights the county’s Community Action Plan entitled Operation Community Impact, which helped address food insecurity in the county by securing donations of milk that were distributed to local food pantries and over 1,400 different food insecure families through 14 different deliveries over the past 10 months. Thank you to all our 4-H members, volunteers, Extension educators, and others for moving this to a statewide initiative.

Job Opening: Urban Agriculture Assistant/Associate Extension Educator

farmers market
Urban agriculture students at the Danbury Farmers Market.

Job Opening: Urban Agriculture Assistant/Associate Extension Educator

 
The Department of Extension is seeking applicants for a full-time (11 month), non-tenure track Assistant/Associate Extension Educator, primarily based at the Fairfield County Extension Office in Bethel, CT. Extension Educators are community-based faculty who make a difference in communities by connecting community needs with University resources. Position level/rank will be commensurate with experience working with Extension. Anticipated start date is July 2021.