Agriculture and Food

Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply

Rooting for Winter – Put Local on Your Tray

Are you root-ing for winter?
Winter roots include carrots, beets, potatoes, and more! Click here for ideas on how to incorporate these delicious roots into your meals.

Put Local on Your Tray’s “Root-ing for Winter” campaign is working towards connecting schools with local farmers to increase the incorporation of local root vegetables in school meals.

Click to find additional information and resources

PLOYT winter

 

What is Extension – New Video Released

UConn Extension connects thousands of people across Connecticut and beyond each year, with the research and resources of the University of Connecticut’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. We are comprised of more than 100 educators and a vast network of volunteers. UConn Extension works collaboratively to build more resilient communities through educational initiatives aimed to cultivate a sustainable future and develop tomorrow’s leaders. The work of UConn Extension connects communities and individuals to help make Connecticut a better place to live, and a better place for future generations.

2021 Vegetable Production Certificate Course

vegetables in a greenhouse with vegetable course text on them lettuce with vegetable course text on it

We’re offering a Vegetable Production Certificate Course, beginning on January 20th 2021. 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. See the course description here.

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

Register Here.

Farm Flavor Magazine Features Extension Programs

group of people in masks at a farm
Commissioner Hurlburt doing farm visits to meet with producers to discuss the challenges they faced.

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, farmers urgently needed access to the newest information on government compliance, health protocols, federal aid and more. UConn Extension put together its own website for COVID-19-related information for both farmers and consumers on production, distribution and processing. UConn Extension also responded by organizing an initiative that enlisted UConn 4-H members and volunteers to distribute more than 144,000 pounds of surplus milk and other products from Connecticut dairies to 53 food pantries in the state.

Read the full article and the article on the work our Connecticut Sea Grant program is doing.

Eat SMART in the New Year!

Written by UConn registered dietitian-nutritionist Donna Zigmont, RDN, CD-N

 

Goal Setting graphic
Source: Free goal setting clip art

Every January, millions of Americans make New Year’s resolutions to make positive changes in their lives. After a very difficult 2020 due to COVID-19, we are hopeful that 2021 will be more promising for all of us. Many of us have had to put our own health and well-being on pause during the pandemic due to emotional and financial stress, changes in our routine, loneliness, caring for loved ones, or homeschooling our children.

With the start of a new year, it’s a good time to think about making positive changes to improve our nutritional health.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Focus on making small, doable changes in your habits that you can do over time. This is the best way to change behaviors for the long-term.
  • Write your goals down on a piece of paper (or enter them on your computer, tablet, or Smart phone!). This can improve your chances of reaching your goals. It’s like making a personal contract with yourself!
  • bullseye target and goalsEnlist the support of family and friends. Sharing your goals with others makes your goals more concrete or real. Plus, family and friends can provide you with encouragement and help motivate you to reach your goals.
  • Use SMART goals to maximize your success.

What is a SMART goal? SMART goals are much more than simply stating something you want to accomplish. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time based.

  • fruitsSpecific – Make sure your goals are very specific, rather than general, in terms of what you want to accomplish. Instead of saying “I will eat healthier,” be more specific as to how you will eat healthier, such as “I will eat more fruits and veggies.”
  • Measurable  Have a way to track and measure your success to know if you’ve met your goals. Include numbers whenever possible! Are you working on trying to eat more whole grains? Set a measurable goal such as “I will eat at least one serving of whole grains daily.”
  • Achievable – Set goals that are realistic – goals you can achieve without setting the bar too high. If you typically eat donuts every day of the week, are you realistically going to be able to give them up altogether? Nor should you. Make a starting goal to cut back on eating donuts to 3 days a week, eventually eating donuts only as a special treat
  • calendarRelevant  Make sure you are working on a goal that makes sense to you and fits in with your other goals. If you’re not motivated to work on including more low-fat dairy foods in your diet, select a different goal to work on.
  • Time-Bound  Set a target date to achieve your goal. Again, use numbers here! Such as, “I will eat seafood at least once a week this month.”

Here are more examples of SMART goals:

“I will eat a piece of fruit for a snack 4 days out of the week for the next 2 weeks.”

“I will try a new recipe with beans this week.”

“I will fill half my plate with veggies at dinner 4 nights this week.”

“I will drink 8 ounces of water with each meal this week.”

“I will try 2 new whole grains this week, like barley and quinoa.”

Now you try it! Record one SMART goal you want to focus on. Check to see that it is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time sensitive. Ask yourself: What specific part of my diet will I work on first? How will I track and measure my success? Can I realistically achieve this goal? Is it relevant to me and am I motivated to make this change? What is the short-term time frame I will work on this goal? This week, the next 2 weeks, this month?

Once you reach your goal, set another SMART goal to work on. Before you know it, your small changes will add up to HUGE results!

Make it a goal to try a plant-based, meatless meal this week!

Veggie Pizza Pita Pockets – Makes 1 Serving

Ingredients
Veggie Pizza Pita Pockets1 pita, whole wheat (or use whole wheat English muffin)
4 Tbs. tomato sauce, unsalted
4 Tbs. shredded mozzarella cheese, part-skim
2 of the following vegetables: (or use more to increase your veggies!) green & red peppers, sliced mushrooms, chopped broccoli, chopped red onion, chopped spinach

Instructions

  1. Spread tomato sauce on pita.
  2. Sprinkle various chopped vegetable over sauce.
  3. Sprinkle cheese on top of vegetables.
  4. Microwave 35-45 seconds or broil in oven until cheese melts. Slice in half, let cool, and enjoy!​

One Skillet Meal – Makes 4 Servings

Ingredients

One Skillet Meal1 package broccoli (10 ounces, frozen, can also use mustard greens, collard greens or spinach)

2 cans stewed tomatoes, low sodium (about 30 ounces)

1 cup brown rice, cooked

1 can white beans (15 ounces, rinsed and drained)

Pepper, oregano, basil, or hot pepper (other spices to taste)

Directions

  1. Steam greens in the stewed tomatoes using a small pan, pot, or electric skillet on medium-high heat.
  2. Cook greens 10 to 20 minutes, until they are as soft as you like them. Stir gently.
  3. Add the rice, canned beans, and seasonings; cook until heated through.

For more tasty, low-cost recipes visit Healthy Family CT Recipes:  https://communitynutrition.cahnr.uconn.edu/recipes/

UConn SNAP-Ed logoThis material was funded by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
This institution is an equal opportunity employer.

 

Women in Livestock Business: Marketing for Profit [Online]

New England Women in Livestock Business Winter Virtual Conference

Want to fine-tune your marketing and financial management skills and build a more resilient livestock farm business? Join us for three afternoons in February to learn, network, and share ideas with regional specialists and fellow women livestock farmers. This conference is intended for New England women livestock producers of all experience levels. Breaks and opportunities to network will be provided throughout the day and sessions will be recorded and shared. This is all for free, all you have to do is register.  Link to join the meeting will be sent upon registration.

Tuesday, Feb. 2. 12-3 pm. Mind Your Business: On the first day, we’ll kick-off with a Keynote and dig into details about financial management, learn how to analyze and use your records to make decisions, how to successfully work and talk with grant and loan agencies, and break out your numbers to gain tips to analyze the profitability of your products.

  • Keynote Speaker Author, Consultant, Coach, Rebecca Thistlethwaite: “This Is Our Moment: How Small & Mid-Scale Livestock Producers Can Thrive in 2021”

Wednesday, Feb. 3. 12-3 pm. Strengthen Your Markets: On day two we’ll discuss ideas for how you can strengthen, pivot, or develop your marketing plan. How are you communicating with customers in a virtual world? What strategies have you developed to target your customers, tell your story, and get your products to people? What can we do to amplify quality products, from the farm to the table?

  • Matt Leroux, Agriculture Marketing Consultant: “Strategic Marketing”, learn how a focused strategy and specific efforts can reduce your marketing labor needs and make every step count.
  • Dahlia Dill, Chandler Pond Farm, VT: “What works for you? Communication Through Social Media”

Thursday, Feb. 4. 12-3 pm. Innovation and Collaboration: We’ll focus on innovative ways producers in the region have successfully found their niche for selling meat and milk. We’ll also discuss some of the challenges producers have faced in 2020 in marketing their products and how collaborating for cooperative marketing might work in favor of the typical New England livestock producer. Day three will be closed with a final Keynote to send participants home with motivation and food for thought.

  • Producer Panel: Innovative Ways to Sell Meat and Milk
  • Producer Panel: Collaborating for Cooperative Marketing

Demand for local livestock products is booming this year, don’t miss out on this opportunity to take a look at your business and see how you can better attain your financial goals through strategic marketing that is suited to your business.

When you register for this conference, you will be eligible to participate in part-three of the New England Women in Livestock Business which includes field days in the spring/summer to see other New England farms who are selling in innovative ways and producing top-quality products using sustainable practices,  meet your fellow participants, and learn how you can strengthen your livestock farm business to also be resilient and sustainable!

     

This material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2018-70027-28588.  This program is in partnership with UNH Cooperative Extension, UVM Extension, UMaine Cooperative Extension, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, and The Tri-State SARE Project.

Cost: Free!

Click Here to Register

Original Post 

Best Management Practices for Farm Websites

Why Build a Website for your Agricultural Business

Websites are an important tool to have for your agricultural business. A website provides an online presence and establishes your credibility as a business. Building a website might seem to be a daunting task but this document is here to provide best management practices for building, designing, and updating a website.

Website Domain and Hosting

The first step to building a website starts with picking a domain name and a place to host your website. Your website’s domain name is specific to you and is your internet “address”. Your website’s domain name is specific to you and is your internet “address”. For example, UConn Extensions’ domain name is www.cahnr.uconn.edu/extension and the Walmart retail company’s domain name is www.walmart.com. When picking a domain name, you want it to be unique to your business and close to your farm name. To see what name options are available a domain name search should be conducted.

A domain name can be registered in one of two ways. First, companies like GoDaddy or Namecheap can be used to register a domain name. This step does cost money but is essential to having a website online. The price of purchasing is usually a yearly fee and is less than $20.00/year (depending on the company you select). Wherever your domain name is registered it must be published to WHO.IS and Registration Data Access Protocol (RDAP) for it to be official. These programs are a database for all registered domain names on the internet. Another option to consider is that a domain name can also be purchased through a website builder (companies like Squarespace, Wix, etc.). The price for a domain name and hosting fees are combined. There is an option to have a free domain name through a website builder. Your domain name would look like this, yourname.sitebuildername.com. This option doesn’t look very professional.

infographic image
Download a fact sheet.

Choosing a web hosting/builder platform is the next and most important step when starting a website. Website hosting and the building of a website will take time, effort, and money. Look around at the different options available. Popular web hosting sites to consider include Wix, Weebly, Square Space, and WordPress. These are only a few of the more popular sites and each one offers different options.

Wix offers very easy and helpful designs that make designing your website simple even for those that are technology challenged. There are helpful widgets and ready to use templates available. A storefront can be set up on your website and event bookings can also be taken. Wix offers “farm & garden” templates that can easily be made to fit your agricultural business. The cost to have your website hosted using Wix starts at $18/month or $23/month for an e-commerce option.

Square Space is small business focused and has options for e-commerce. Templates are available to build on, but I had a hard time navigating and editing their templates is challenging. The cost per month starts at $12 or $26 for an e-commerce option. Square Space offers a very professional front for your business, but it takes time to learn and navigate their website building tools.

WordPress comes highly recommended for business and is widely used by Connecticut agricultural businesses. Templates are picked by the pages and it is easy to navigate. Your website is built and maintained through a dashboard and that may be unfamiliar at first. There are support options if you need help. A recommended price option for this company is $25/month. WordPress offers Google Analytics. This allows you to monitor your online presence and the traffic brought to your website. Google Analytics is a service that allows you to track website activity and gives useful information.

If you are looking to spend little or no money on your website there are a few options; however, it doesn’t look as professional to a customer. To save money don’t buy a domain and use free web design companies. These include Bluehost (has options as low as $4/month), Wix (free for a year), WordPress (free), and Weebly (free). When you go for a cheaper or free option the user experience is slower since you are sharing internet space with other websites.

Once you pick a web hosting/building platform company it is hard to change to a different one. When picking a company consider the cost, knowledge, time required to build and maintain the site, how easy or complex the builder is, and available space you are allowed for your site. Before choosing a web hosting/building platform look at the websites they are currently hosting and look around before making a decision. Your online experience should be just as easy for you as it is for your customers. Maintaining a website requires dedicated time, effort, and money. A business should budget about $250-$400 a year for a website if they want to provide a professional online appearance.

Website Design

man sitting at an Apple computerIt is one thing to have a website, it is another thing to have a well-designed and informative website for visitors. In general, items that are at the top of the page are large, have a strong contrast of color, and are surrounded by white space that creates high visual prominence. This means that a reader’s eyes are drawn to this spot and are more likely to be seen. Important information you want to be seen should follow those guidelines.

The homepage is the most important page because this is the page everyone sees when coming to your website and you want to make an impression. A logo, your motto/tag line, location, and basics of what you offer should be included on the home page. A clear navigation menu should be available to guide a viewer to more of your content. Social media and a quick way for people to contact you should also be available on the homepage. With all this information to include you don’t want the homepage to be too crowded because you want the viewer to explore the rest of the website. Less is more when it comes to information on a home page.

Pictures are very important to include on your website. Photos are an easy way to display your products and attract the attention of the viewer. Ideally, they should be your own high-quality photos. If you decide to not use your own photos keep in mind there are copyright infringement laws and if not followed can cost a lot of money. Make sure when using other’s photos, they are labeled for reuse and are royalty free photos. You can find photos labeled for reuse on Google or another website like unsplash.com. It is easier to use your photos that are unique to you!

Once photos are uploaded to your website make sure that you fill in “alt text” or alternate text. This means labeling your photo with a description. For example, if a photo of an apple orchard is uploaded the alt text could be “row of apple trees with red apples hanging against a blue sky”. Alt text also helps if a photo won’t load properly on a website and with page views. A properly labeled photo can help garner more page views due to the search algorithm. Another benefit of using alt text is for the visually impaired. Color blindness affects a person’s viewing experience by making your website impossible to read. Color blindness can affect 1 in every 20 visitors to your site. Contrasting colors on different ends of the color spectrum work the best for people with color blindness. White and black are the best example of this. Elements should have more than one indication. For example, a link should be underlined as well as bold or a different color. Making your website accessible for different groups of people shows you care and helps with page views in the algorithms.

An “about” page is a very good idea to include on your website. This tells the visitor who is behind the business. This builds a connection with the viewer and is known to be one of the most visited pages on the website. A summary of the people involved in the company and history should be included. Achievements and what makes you stand out from your competition should also be included. This summary doesn’t have to be lengthy. The goal of this page is to put a face with the name and business.

A products page should be included on the website. This page allows you to put details about the products your business offers. Although you mentioned briefly the products available on your home page this is where you can dive into the details. If you offer products for different groups of people (ex. retail or wholesale) consider making two different pages for the different groups. Product pages can also be split by seasonal products (spring, summer, fall, or winter sales). If one product is really important to you and has a good deal of information, it can have its own page (e.g., CSA).  Information to have includes short descriptions of products and what to expect when purchasing.

If you know you want to start selling products online, an e-commerce package should be purchased when picking a web hosting site. E-commerce requires a website builder to have more capabilities which is why it costs a bit more. This page should be user-friendly for both you and a customer. High quality photos of products and a description are required and help a sale go through. An integral part of e-commerce is how payments will be accepted. Using online payment services like Paypal or Square allow a customer to securely purchase your products online. One of the pitfalls to e-commerce for small business is transaction fees. For example, Square and Paypal charge 2.9% plus $0.30 per payment.

A contact page is essential for allowing communication between your business and visitors. An address, phone number, email, and hours should be included on this page. It is important to note that whatever contact information is put on the website is out for the masses to see. If you don’t want people getting your cell phone number don’t put it on your website. A contact form should also be included on this page for an easy way for visitors can get in touch with you. Most website builders have template forms already built-in; you just need to enable it. To ensure your contact form is used for its intended audience install a tool such as reCaptcha. Internet bots, which are automated programs, could fill out your form and mess with your data.  To use this free tool all you have to do is register on the reCaptcha website or use the built-in tool on the website builder.

Besides the navigation bar at the top of the page, a footer is an important tool that is critical to your page. A footer can be found at the bottom of pages and is the same throughout the website. A list of all your pages should be here and quick contact information should also be available at the bottom of the page. Another suggestion is your address and hours of your business. This should act as a site map. A site map is a list of the pages that are on your website. Footers allow your website visitors to easily navigate important information about your business and website.

Website maintenance should be done regularly to ensure your website is relevant and to address any issues such as outdated products or broken links to other websites. Put aside an hour every month or at the least every season to look over your website. If your website doesn’t work properly or is hard to navigate, potential customers will leave your page, and this could mean lost revenue. It doesn’t look professional to have out of date information on your page. Making sure your website is secure is also important to maintain. Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certification is a free program that provides a layer of security for your website. It protects information from hackers. You can notice if a website uses SSL by looking for a lock near the web address.

 A well designed and maintained website is helpful to your agriculture business in this digital age. It is important to establish an online presence and your credibility as a business. Take your time building a website and most of all have fun taking your business online. 

Download an infographic with these website suggestions.

Article by Emily Syme