Agriculture and Food

Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply

Nutrition Education in the Community Through SNAP-Ed

Brooke BoscoHello everyone! My name is Brooke Bosco, and I am a rising senior majoring in Dietetics. This summer I am an extension intern working with the UConn School and Family Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education Program (SNAP-Ed). UConn Healthy Family CT SNAP-Ed works towards accomplishing Connecticut’s goals and objectives to deliver nutrition education and physical activity messages to SNAP-Ed recipients and those who are eligible. We focus on delivering fact-based, tailored nutrition education to our target population of income-challenged adults, families, and children who may be experiencing food insecurity. We reach these groups in different towns including East Hartford, New Britain, Manchester, Willimantic, Enfield, and Hartford.

Part of my work is delivering direct and indirect nutrition education in different areas of the community, including elementary schools, senior centers, public libraries, community events, food pantries, and Foodshare mobile. I am also working with other SNAP-Ed team members to enhance the material on Healthy Family CT’s website and social media accounts, which also focuses on reaching our target audience with nutrition education. We hope that our education increases our audience’s knowledge and skills to achieve healthier diets and access local and affordable healthy food. We also hope that it improves their willingness to consume a healthier diet and increase physical activity.

I developed an interest in community nutrition during my supervised practice training this past spring semester. Nutrition education is so important in low-income communities because it helps to prevent nutrition-related health issues such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. These health issues can create even more hardship and financial burden for this community. It has been an amazing opportunity to be a part of this effort! I encourage you to check out UConn Healthy Family CT’s website (https://healthyfamilyct.cahnr.uconn.edu/) and social media accounts with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

Junteenth (June 19th) – Jubilee Day, National Independence Day, Black Independence Day

June 19th is Juneteenth!  The word “Juneteenth”, a combination of June and nineteenth, also known as “Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Emancipation Day, National Independence Day and Black Independence Day”.   The slaves were freed on January 1, 1863, but it took a long time for word to reach other parts of the United States.  On June 19, 1865, the Union Army informed the enslaved people in Galveston, Texas about the Emancipation Proclamation, making them among the last freed.  First celebrated in Galveston in 1866, Texas made it a state holiday in 1979.  Designated as a federal holiday in 2021, Juneteenth focuses on family and joyfulness through parades, music, dance, and delicious Southern Soul Food!  The types and preparation of food also have significant meaning. There are often grilled or barbequed meats, and festive red foods and beverages; red represents the struggle and lost lives as well as resilience of the people.

Here are some recipes that you may want to prepare with your family to celebrate Juneteenth

Hoppin’ John with Okra and Oven Fried Fish

 

BBQ Chicken, Southern Style Potato Salad, Grilled Corn

Juneteenth flag and spice tea punch

Grandma’s Spice Tea Punch

red velvet cake and Juneteenth flag

Juneteenth Red Velvet Cake

June/2022 Written by and 📷Photo Credit by: U. R. Taylor, MS, RDN, CDN 📷

#UConnEFNEP #UConnExtension #AskUConn  #Juneteenth

Soil-biodegradable plastic mulch: Is it right for you?

By Shuresh Ghimire, UConn Cooperative Extension and Andy Radin, URI Cooperative Extension

Something important for you to consider: your use of plastic mulch in vegetable production. This is especially worthy to think about given that plastic mulch isn’t just for tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant anymore. Most small-scale growers use it for onions, lettuce, herbs, and more. You’ve no doubt heard about biodegradable mulch, but possibly not so great things. Here are some important questions you may have, and some real answers.

  1. Can plastic mulch actually “degrade?” Yes, and No.

First, the NO.

Degradation caused by sunlight, heat, moisture, and mechanical stress results in ever-smaller fragments of plastic, ultimately becoming what are called “microplastics.” According to a quick search on Google Trends, this word as a topic has increased dramatically over the last 5 years, which corresponds to an increase in our understanding of just how pervasive these pollutants are on land and in the oceans, and the possible and probable effects they have on species richness and diversity. It’s a disturbing and inescapable fact that plastics are changing the planet for the worse.

Now for the YES!

Degradation of plastic by microorganisms, known as biodegradation, is very much a real thing, provided the plastic is made of the polymers that microbes can consume. Soil-biodegradable plastic mulch breaks down into CO2, water, and microbial biomass.

But let it be stated right here up front: except for paper-based mulches, there are no biodegradable plastic mulches that are approved for use by certified organic farms in the United States. (See Box with NOP standards for reasons why.) If you are a certified organic grower, you cannot make the switch. You are permitted to use paper-based mulches, as long as they do not contain any synthetic materials. However, as they reduce the soil temperature, these do not perform well in our cold springs and early summers when warmth is desired. Further, our (usually) plentiful rainfall and warm summer weather causes rapid breakdown of these materials.

But if you otherwise do use plastic mulch, please read on as we consider a list of potential issues with the use of soil-biodegradable mulch (BDM.)

  1. How much do BDMs break down during the growing season?

Ghimire et al. (2018) found that among 4 products they tested for pumpkin production for two years in Mount Vernon, WA and Knoxville, TN, by the end of the season, less than 8% of the soil originally covered became exposed in Mount Vernon, and that was less than 25% in Knoxville. At Mount Vernon, the 2-year average daily air temperature for the pumpkin growing season (June–September) was 63 °F, RH was 76%, and total rainfall was 6 inches (4 inches in year 1 and 8 inches in year 2). At Knoxville, the 2-year average daily air temperature was 77 °F, RH was 80%, and total rainfall was 10 inches (14 inches in year 1 and 5 inches in year 2). These mulches really hold up during the season they are applied!

rows of vegetables covered in white biodegradable mulch
A variety of vegetable crops grown on BDM in Gresczyk Farms in Litchfield, CT. Photo: Shuresh Ghimire
  1. How do yields on BDM compare to yields on polyethylene (PE) mulch materials? list of USDA National Organic Program Rules

Our team also looked at that over several years and found relatively similar yield results between BDM and PE mulch. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to state this definitively because in a survey of comparative studies, Martín-Closas et al. (2017) found better performance, worse performance, and equal performance between BDM and PE. But these were in a wide range of soil and climate conditions. The chances of BDM performing better than PE in an exceptionally wet summer in eastern North Carolina are slim- the stuff will break down more rapidly, so you do take something of chance there.

  1. Will last year’s mulch bits disappear by the time I am prepping beds this coming year?

Visual assessments of macroscopic BDM fragments (>2.36 mm) show that after 4 years of annual BDM application from 2015 to 2018 in northwest Washington, mulch recovery from soil in spring 2019 ranged from 23 to 64% of the amount applied (area basis), indicating there was no accumulation of mulch fragments in the soil even after repeated applications (Ghimire et al., 2020). Recovery further decreased to 4-16% (mass basis) 2 years after the final mulch incorporation in fall 2020 (Griffin-LaHue et al., 2022). Only paper BDMs (e.g. Weed Guard Plus) show 100% biodegradation within the timespan of this study, but the conclusion from the study was that BDMs are degrading and do not accumulate in soil after repeated use. The longevity is strongly influenced by soil texture [see footnote], climatic factors (annual rainfall, annual average air temperatures), and product formulations. As you might expect, biodegradation is more rapid in warmer, wetter climates and in medium textured soils which have the benefits of good water-holding capacity as well as decent porosity.

Yes, there is differential breakdown among the products, and some of it remains for up to a few years. Products that perform the best within a season also probably leaves residues for longer. These are often thicker. But that doesn’t mean it leaves behind microplastics. The limits of instrumentation make it nearly impossible to document the final-most end-stage of decomposition of soil biodegradable plastic, whereas microplastics are actually detectable.

  1. Isn’t BDM more expensive than PE mulch?

Yes, it really is more expensive to purchase the material- two to three times more, depending on thickness. Plan to lay out more cash on the front end of the season. BUT: don’t forget to calculate how much you can save on the back end. There’s an easy to use calculator available for download here. [Note: this link will take you to an Excel spreadsheet on your browser tab. You can download it by clicking on the “File” menu in the upper left-hand corner of the spread sheet and then click on “download.” After doing that, make sure that you enable the macro features.]

Below is what the calculator generated based on using 3- three-thousand-foot rolls of mulch on an acre. There are many assumptions built into this output, and the spreadsheet allows you to adjust all of those. But going with what they filled in for default estimates (labor rates, tractor time, dumping fees, and more), take a look.Per Acre Cost Comparison chart

In this case with all of the default values they started with (again, which you can adjust), it costs 11% more per acre. In case you’re wondering, many of the dollar values they used are on the generous side, so this may be an over-estimate. Over-estimating is always good in enterprise planning, at least to a point.

Other factors not accounted for in the spreadsheet:

  1. Aggravation/Procrastination factor: there’s nothing like an un-fun job to persuade you to do other things that seem less aggravating. But pulling out the drip tape is the only thing stopping you from disking over your plastic-mulched beds.
  2. Interference with timeliness of cover crop planting: getting those beds cleaned up speeds you towards getting your cover crop seed planted. Getting deep into the financial analysis, it’s entirely possible that the earlier cover crop planting recovers more nutrients and increases organic matter in your soil, which are things you can take to the bank.
  3. If you grow into the fall and winter, you have tunnels to clean up but also fall planting deadlines to keep. Deadlines like that can easily cause a delay of field cleanup because every day of waning daylight in mid to late September reduces fall tunnel crop growth.
  4. You are putting less polyethylene mulch onto the land and eventually, into the ocean. Hard to calculate costs associated with that, but they are real.
  5. Can it be applied in the field just like PE mulch?

Yes, more or less BUT three caveats:

  1. It is more delicate than PE so it has to be handled a little more gently.
  2. If it does get damaged while laying it down, decomposition will be accelerated
  3. MOST IMPORTANT- it should not be applied as tightly as PE mulch because it continues to tighten as the weather warms. If it is installed too tightly at first, it will split as it tightens up, and this will allow early summer weeds to take over.
  4. What are the common experiences of the growers using BDM in Connecticut?
  • PE mulch leaves more fragments in the field than BDM
  • The purchasing cost of BDM is greater than PE, so BDM appears to be expensive in the beginning of the growing season, but overall BDM is cheaper after accounting for disposal costs
  • Growers can prepare the field for cover crops at the end of the season when the crop is grown with BDM; the mulch is disked/harrowed in after the drip tape is removed, which does not require much extra field work. But in years with wet Fall, cover crops are delayed or cannot be planted when PE mulch is used
  • Even with mulch deterioration in the later season, no/minimal weed growth occurs
  • Some growers shared experience of mulch adhesion with cantaloupe, but has not affected marketability of crops
  • Removal of PE mulch and picking up fragments at the end of the season is the least liked job of growers
  • Weed control and yield is comparable between BDM and PE mulch
  • They do not have any concern with BDM fragments after incorporation in the field as their observation is that BDM degrades in a couple of years
pepper plants growing in rows covered by white biodegradable mulch
Pepper grown on BDM in Cold Spring Brook Farm, Berlin, Connecticut. Photo: Shuresh Ghimire

Think it over- it could change things for your late summer-into-fall transition… for the better. For a video testimonial from a Connecticut farmer, watch this video.

You still have questions about BDM, this FAQ FAQs about BDM might help.

Footnote: We did not specifically look at the relationship between soil texture and mulch biodegradation rate. However, a study from Brazil (Duarte et al. 2019) reports that the CO2 production was much higher when a biodegradable mulch was tested in sandy-loam textured soil compared to clay and sand-textured soil. In general, degradation rate would be higher in the soil where there are greater populations of microbial communities, the soil is not too dry or not too wet (balance of water and air in the soil pore/capillaries). This probably means greater degradation rate in sandy loam or silty loam soil than clay or sands.

Useful links

Job Openings with UConn Extension

UConn Extension is hiring! We have several positions open. Please visit the individual position links for full descriptions and information on how to apply:

Meet Solid Ground’s new Program Co-Coordinator: Brittany Hall! Inbox

Hey Farmers!
Just wanted to give a face to a new name you might see floating around to help with out Solid Ground Projects. Though we were so lucky and grateful to have Charlotte Ross for many years helping with the project, she has stepped down and Brittany Hall has taken her position!  Here’s a little bit about her and we hope you’re excited as we are to work with her!
Meet Brittany:
selfie of Britney
Brittany came to farming following a career in nonprofits where she wore many hats over the years, including: case manager, donations coordinator, volunteer coordinator, and wellness programs manager. Unbeknownst to her, the skills she learned in nonprofits would be valuable when she began farming in 2018. Since then she has been fortunate to learn from several farmers who have passed on their indispensable knowledge. She is passionate about food justice, providing healthy and organic produce to local consumers, and queering the food system. Brittany and her partner recently established Beets & Blooms Farm, an organic cut flower and vegetable farm in East Hampton, CT.
Using her background in farming and program management, Brittany comes to the Solid Ground team as Project Co-Coordinator, helping with farmer trainings; creating online programs that farmers can access from anywhere; and sharing the ingenious farm hacks she learns from local Connecticut farmers.

Hemp Fest Registration Open

hemp fest flyerDear hemp growers, service providers, and businesses interested in the hemp industry,

We invite you to join us for an educational and networking event on Thursday, June 2, 2022, from 3-7 pm at Running Brook Farms, Killingworth, CT. The educational portion will include farmer panel discussions covering Hemp IPM as well as reduced tillage for plant growth and soil health. The day will include updates from the field & greenhouse with a Hemp Tour at Running Brook Farm. USDA NRCS will be on site with the Soil Health Rainfall Demo to show the impact of runoff.

The second half of the event will include a Seed Swap and Clone Sale. Enjoy food and a chance to connect while listening to live music sponsored by CHIA. A variety of vendors and exhibitors will be at the farm for the duration of the event. This event will provide valuable resources for local producers seeking to make connections, gain knowledge, and connect with the Hemp community.

Register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2022-connecticut-hemp-fest-tickets-327616568977

This program is a joint effort of CT RC&D, USDA NRCS, UConn Extension, CT Department of Agriculture, and CT Hemp Industry Association (CHIA).

FSA Job Openings

Hartford/Tolland County FSA Hiring for Two Temporary Program Technician Positions

The Hartford/Tolland County Farm Service Agency (FSA) office in Windsor, CT is hiring two full time, Temporary Program Technicians (PTs). The deadline to apply is May 27, 2022.

Duties include general office activities supporting FSA programs administered at the field level. These positions will support other offices in Connecticut and local travel will be required. Mileage reimbursement will be provided for use of a personal vehicle but government vehicles may be available for use. The positions may be required to perform field visits for the purpose of measuring fields. Successful applicants must be reliable, have a professional attitude and enjoy working with the public.

If you are interested or know of someone who might be interested, please share this information with them. To apply please submit a copy of your resume to Jule Dybdahl at Jule.Dybdahl@usda.gov.

Contact Jule Dybdahl at 860.871.4097 if you have specific questions regarding the position.

Job Opening – Project Outreach Coordinator in Northeast Connecticut

Job Opening – Project Outreach Coordinator in Northeast Connecticut

(Accepting applications until May 30, 2022)

UConn Extension is actively seeking to fill a part-time, six month position of Project Outreach Educator in Northeast Connecticut. This is an exciting opportunity for the right person who is versatile, responsive, and demonstrates an interest in local food and farms in Connecticut.

PLEASE DO NOT APPLY UNLESS YOU ARE WILLING TO WORK EVENINGS AND WEEKENDS.

The Project – With funding from USDA, UConn Extension is leading a project in Northeastern CT, Grown ConNECTed, that is focused on increasing sales and customers for farms producing locally grown food. The target region includes over 130 local farm and food retail businesses in 23 towns of Northeastern CT. The project is led by a Communications Coordinator and guided by an Advisory Board of farm businesses.

Summary of Primary Responsibilities – The Project Outreach Coordinator will deliver outreach across the 23-town region. Through outreach, there is a potential to tap into the social capital and networks that already exist in the region by engaging with town elected leaders, agriculture commissions, municipal employees, community-based projects, organizations and boards, as well as through tabling and making presentations about local food at community events. This approach will help build momentum for the regional marketing campaign, Grown ConNECTed.

Supervisor – Jiff Martin, UConn Extension Educator in Food Systems.

Work week – 20-30 hours per week with flexible hours. This position will require weekend and evening duties. Please do not apply if you are not available most weekends in the summer and fall. Some collaborative work (in the Vernon office) will be required, some focused work (at home) is expected, and some time traveling throughout the region for events, tabling, etc.

Candidates must provide their own transportation. The office is located at: Tolland County Extension Center, 24 Hyde Avenue, Vernon, CT 06066

Compensation – $25/hour. Timesheets are submitted every two weeks. This is a temporary, project-based position without benefits. There is an opportunity to renew the contract at least once after 6 months. This is a grant-funded position. Travel to events will be reimbursed at the federal mileage rate.

Duration – Position starts as soon as possible. Continuing or renewed employment in the following year is dependent on job performance.

Duties:

● Prepare, schedule, and implement presentations in targeted region about why and where to buy local food

● Table at farmers markets, agriculture/food events, as well as adjacent sector events (such as a health services fair or a festival where families are likely to attend) in targeted region to share communication materials, sign up residents for email, and build overall brand visibility in the region for consumers

● Distribution and delivery of marketing campaign materials to businesses, farms, town halls, farmers markets, food retailers etc in the region

● Help identify key events in the region that we should be participating in and complete registration and requirements for tabling

● Assist the Communications Coordinator in gathering content for digital and print communications, this includes updated info on farm locations, hours, products

● Provide critical input to the project team on what consumers are saying, what residents are looking for, and how town leaders are responding to the marketing campaign

Ideal Qualifications:

● Excellent time management and organization skills, including the ability to prioritize tasks while managing multiple activities and stay ahead of deadlines

● Strong presentation skills in group settings, both in-person and virtual

● Enjoys communicating with people from diverse backgrounds

● Is comfortable tabling in public settings, including setting up the display, being prepared to manage various weather conditions, maintaining engaging interaction with the public

● Familiar with region of Northeastern Connecticut; applicants from the region are strongly encouraged to apply

● Professional writing and email skills necessary to interact with public officials, business leaders, and other stakeholders

● Experience using social media, demonstrating an understanding for what works on different platforms

● Proven administrative skills, maintaining contact info, scheduling meetings, and managing Google Drive folders/docs

● Experience working with a project team, collaborative, or coalition that includes representatives of state agencies, municipalities, non-profits, and the private sector

● Works well independently as needed, good problem-solving skills

● Interested in the interconnected issues of food, health, nutrition, equity, and justice

● Must have own transportation

● Spanish speaking is a plus

● College degree preferred

To Apply – Send a resume and cover letter by May 20th to lauren.manuck@uconn.edu

The University of Connecticut is an Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity employer.

People of color, women, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, and members of traditionally underrepresented populations are strongly encouraged to apply.

Infant Formula Shortage

Infant Formula Shortage – y en Espanol

infant formula shortage infographicHave you or someone you know been impacted by the infant formula supply shortage?  You may be wondering how this happened and what to do about it. In February 2022, Abbott Laboratory, an infant formula company, recalled several of its formulas due to complaints about infants affected after formula consumption. In addition, there was bacteria found in part of their building that did not produce the formula.  Abbott voluntarily recalled those formulas. The formula recall plus the pandemic related food supply shortage has resulted in a nationwide shortage. There are some important steps to keep in mind so that all babies have enough and safe sources of needed formula and or breastmilk. Breastfeeding is always healthier for a baby’s nutrition and immune system, but some moms are not able to breastfeed or may not produce enough breast milk. Get advice from your doctor and nutritionist/dietitian. If you receive W.I.C. (Women, Infants and Children) Program benefits, you can talk with the program nutritionists about getting help with breastfeed techniques if you are breastfeeding or receiving formula sources that your baby needs.

     Do

     Don’t

Do choose a safe infant formula. Don’t make homemade formula.
Do follow formula directions to prepare properly and safely, Don’t give watered down formula.
Do follow your doctor and nutritionist advice for formula. Don’t give your baby cow’s milk, toddler milk or milk substitutes (unless told by your doctor).
Do find safe places to buy or get safe donations. Don’t buy formula from unknown online sites or  from outside the United States.
If you do need breastmilk, find safe breast milk banks, Don’t accept breast milk donations from unknown sources.

Remember to wash your hands before preparing formula and to store formula or breastmilk properly.    Find Infant Formula   CT WIC updates   CT Formula Temporary Substitution List

*The Federal Government has now started emergency production as well as locating formula that meets FDA standards as well as locating formula sources from oversees  that meet FDA safety standards. 

Sources: https://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls-market-withdrawals-safety-alerts/abbott-voluntarily-recalls-powder-formulas-manufactured-one-plant  ; https://www.fns.usda.gov/ofs/infant-formula-safety; https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/InfantandToddlerNutrition/formula-feeding/choosing-an-infant-formula.html

Written and Compiled by

Umekia R. Taylor, MS, RDN, CDN, Heather Peracchio, MS, RDN, CDN, Sherry Gray, MPH, RD, Michael J. Puglisi, Ph.D., R.D. 

Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

05/2022 


Escasez de Fórmula Infantil

infant formula shortage infographic¿Usted o alguien que conoce se ha visto afectado por la escasez de fórmula infantil? Quizás se pregunte cómo sucedió esto y qué hacer al respecto. En febrero de 2022, Abbott Laboratory, una empresa de fórmulas para bebés retiró del mercado varias de sus fórmulas debido a quejas sobre bebés afectados después de su consumo. Además, se encontraron bacterias en partes de su edificio que no produjeron la fórmula. Abbott retiró voluntariamente esas fórmulas. El retiro del mercado de la fórmula, más la escasez de alimentos relacionada con la pandemia ha resultado en una escasez a nivel nacional. Hay algunos pasos importantes a tener en cuenta para que todos los bebés tengan fuentes suficientes y seguras de fórmula o leche materna necesarias. La lactancia materna siempre será más saludable para la nutrición y el sistema inmunitario del bebé, pero algunas mamás no pueden amamantar o es posible que no produzcan suficiente leche materna. Obtenga el consejo de su médico y nutricionista/dietista. Si recibe beneficios del programa W.I.C. (Mujeres, Bebés y Niños), puede hablar con los nutricionistas del programa sobre cómo obtener ayuda con las técnicas de lactancia si está amamantando o recibiendo suministros de fórmula que necesita su bebé.

Qué Hacer

Que No Hacer

Elija una fórmula infantil segura. No haga fórmula casera.
Siga las instrucciones de la fórmula para prepararla de manera adecuada y segura. No le dé fórmula aguada a su bebé.
Siga los consejos de su médico y nutricionista para la fórmula. No le dé a su bebé leche de vaca, leche para niños pequeños o sustitutos de la leche (a menos que se lo indique su médico)
Busque lugares de confianza para comprar u obtener donaciones seguras. No compre fórmula en sitios de internet desconocidos o fuera de los Estados Unidos.
Si necesita leche materna, busque bancos de leche materna seguros. No acepte donaciones de leche materna de fuentes desconocidas.

Recuerde lavarse las manos antes de preparar la fórmula y almacenar adecuadamente la fórmula o la leche materna.  Find Infant Formula   CT WIC updates   CT Formula Temporary Substitution List

Fuentes:https://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls-market-withdrawals-safety-alerts/abbott-voluntarily-recalls-powder-formulas-manufactured-one-plant  ; https://www.fns.usda.gov/ofs/infant-formula-safety; https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/InfantandToddlerNutrition/formula-feeding/choosing-an-infant-formula.html

Escrito y compilado por:

Umekia R. Taylor, MS, RDN, CDN, Heather Peracchio, MS, RDN, CDN, Sherry Gray, MPH, RD, Michael J. Puglisi, Ph.D., R.D. 

Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

05/2022