Agriculture and Food

Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply

UConn Native Plants and Pollinators conference

The third biennial Native Plants and Pollinators conference will be held Friday,
November 5, 2021, beginning at 9 a.m., virtually via Zoom. 

Register at!
Early Registration $30.00, by Thursday, September 30, 2021

$35.00, after September 30, 2021
Students, $15.00 with valid school ID

Join us for 4 hours of presentations featuring current science-based research and information
on supporting pollinators in managed landscapes. This program is designed for growers and
other green industry professionals, landscape service providers, landscape architects and
designers, town commissions, municipalities, schools, and homeowners. Learn how native
plants support pollinator health throughout the year!

Session topics: 

  • The Language of Flowers: An Introduction to Pollination Ecology 
    Rebecca McMackin, Director of Horticulture, Brooklyn Bridge Park 

The vast majority of plants rely on pollinators to reproduce. From bees, to butterflies, to birds
and bats, these pollinator partners shaped the evolution of flowers, giving us so much of the
beauty we appreciate today. However, these exciting dynamics, in which a flower’s pollen is
carried to a stigma, are fraught with trickery, bribery, thievery, and of course, salacious plant sex. This lecture will cover the basics of pollination ecology. Why do plants have flowers? How did they evolve? And specifically, what are flowers doing? Why are they so pretty and smell so good to us, non-pollinating primates? By the end of the presentation, you will be able to “read” flowers and come to know the true desires of the organisms you cultivate.

Rebecca McMackin is an ecologically obsessed horticulturist and garden designer. By day, she is the Director of Horticulture for Brooklyn Bridge Park, where she manages 85 acres of diverse parkland organically and with an eye towards habitat creation for birds, butterflies, and soil microorganisms. In her imaginary free time, Rebecca writes about landscape management and pollination ecology, as well as designs the occasional garden. Her writing has been published by the New York Times, the Ecological Landscape Alliance, and the Landscape Institute.

  • Pollinator Plants for Small Spaces and Containers 
    Mark Dwyer, Landscape Prescriptions by MD 

The challenges of limited gardening space shouldn’t preclude you from considering beautiful and effective pollinator-friendly plantings. Even small spaces in the garden and containers can feature effective plant combinations that will become an oasis for visiting pollinators. We’ll discuss a wide range of plants (emphasis on natives!) and design ideas that will feature potent pollinator plants for containers and the garden spaces of limited size.

Mark Dwyer owns and operates Landscape Prescriptions by MD, a landscape design and
consultation firm, in Janesville, WI. He also manages the Edgerton Hospital (WI) Healing
Garden which he designed over 10 years ago. Prior to these endeavors, Mark was Director of
Horticulture at Rotary Botanical Gardens (Janesville, WI) where he managed the maintenance and improvement of that 20-acre botanical garden with talented staff and dedicated volunteers. Mark’s true passion is obtaining, growing, observing and photographing all types of plants.

  •  Beyond the Traditional Butterfly Garden: Supporting Lepidoptera with Native Plants 
    Andrew Brand, Interim Director of Horticulture, Coastal Maine Botanical Garden  

The popularity of native plants has grown leaps and bounds recently and rightfully so. They’re
tough and durable, demonstrate good resistance to drought, insects, and disease, provide food
and habitat for wildlife, and they’re beautiful. Most landscapes today may be aesthetically
pleasing, but they typically do not support the diversity of Lepidoptera that is found in properties made up mostly of native species. Andy will present a selection of native plants describing their attributes, habitat needs and highlight the important roles they each play in supporting a wide variety of Lepidoptera in our yards. Hostplants, those species on which eggs are laid and caterpillars eat, will be emphasized.

For 27 years, Andy Brand was employed at Broken Arrow Nursery in Hamden, CT, where he
was the nursery manager. In March, 2018 Andy joined the staff at the Coastal Maine Botanical
Garden as Curator of Living Collections. His responsibilities include plant selection and
introducing new plants to the Garden’s collection and maintaining plant records and labels. In
March, 2021 he was made Interim Director of Horticulture. Andy is past President of the Connecticut Nursery and Landscape Association and is an avid naturalist. He is a cofounder and past President of the Connecticut Butterfly Association. He has put his interest in native plants to use as a volunteer for the New England Plant Conservation Program where he has helped monitor historical sites of endangered native plants. He has spoken to groups throughout the east on a range of topics including native plants, new and unusual ornamentals, butterfly gardening, and Maine butterflies and their life histories. Andy
also contributes articles to national magazines including Fine Gardening. Andy, along with his
wife, Michelle lives in Bristol, Maine. Checkout his Facebook page, Seeing Nature:
Observations from New England, a page dedicated to native flora and fauna.

  • Bees, Pesticides and Politics: Challenges and Opportunities for Sustainable Urban
    Landscapes, Daniel Potter, Ph.D., Professor, University of Kentucky 
    Pesticide Recertification Credits – 4 (PA and all supervisory categories)

This talk will help attendees better understand why bees and other pollinators are in peril, the
role of insecticides and other factors in pollinator decline, and how land care professionals and gardeners can safeguard pollinators when managing lawn and landscape pests. Pollinator
conservation initiatives that can be implemented by homeowners, garden centers, and land care professionals will be discussed, as well as best woody landscape plants for supporting bees and other pollinators.

Dr. Daniel Potter is Professor of Entomology at the University of Kentucky, where for 43 years
his research has informed strategies for sustainable management of pests and beneficial insects in urban landscapes nation-wide. Dan is an award-winning teacher and a frequent invited speaker at conferences around the world. He has received national leadership awards from the Entomological Society of America, Professional Land Care Network, American Nursery and Landscape Association, U.S. Golf Association, and other scientific and industry organizations.


TO PAY BY CHECK: download the registration form or email
Questions about registration?

Contact: Alyssa Siegel-Miles,

This program is brought to you by Victoria Wallace, Dept. of Extension,

and Jessica Lubell, Dept. of PSLA.
We look forward to seeing you on November 5!

pollinator conference flyer

Apply to Become a UConn Extension Master Gardener

2022 classes will include hybrid and virtual options

vegetable gardenFall is a great time to plan for next year’s gardening activities! Apply now for the 2022 UConn Extension Master Gardener Program. Classes will be held in New Haven, Norwich, Tolland, Torrington, and Stamford. The deadline for applications is Friday, October 18, 2021.

“The program provides the opportunity for beginner, intermediate or experienced gardeners to increase their personal knowledge of the practice of gardening … The program allows you to meet with like-minded people over a common interest – growing plants,” says Advanced Master Gardener Ken Sherrick of Middletown.

UConn Extension Master Gardeners have an interest in plants, gardening, people and the environment.  Specifically, they are willing to share their knowledge, passion and enthusiasm with their communities, providing research-based information to homeowners, students, gardening communities and others. They receive horticultural training from UConn, and then share that knowledge with the public through community volunteering and educational outreach efforts. UConn Master Gardeners help with community and museum gardens, school gardens, backyard projects, houseplant questions and more.

Four of the program cohorts will be in a hybrid class format, with three to four hours of online work before each of 16 weekly in-person classes, running from 9 AM to 1 PM. There will be one entirely online evening cohort, on Thursdays from 5:30 – 9:30 PM, hosted by the New Haven office.

Classes begin the week of January 10, 2022. Subject matter includes basic botany, plant pathology, soils, entomology and other aspects of gardening such as plant categories, native plants, and pest management. After the classroom portion, students complete 60 hours of outreach experience during the summer, along with a plant identification project.

“The Master Gardener program gave me an understanding the role of plants and insects within the ecosystem, which fostered a passion for removing invasive plants,” says Advanced Master Gardener Karen Berger of Canton, who now volunteers on a project to remove invasives, replacing them with native plants that benefit the local environment.

The program fee is $450.00, and includes all needed course materials. Partial scholarships may be available, based on demonstrated financial need.

For more information, visit the UConn Extension Master Gardener website at , where both the on-line and paper application are located.

Tackling Food & Justice, Youth Style!

youth food justice zoom event powerpoint and participantsOn Wednesday, August 18th, The CT Farm to School Collaborative partnered with The CT Youth Food Program Alliance to host a virtual event, for youth, by youth!

The virtual event included a career panel, and mini-workshops, that were hosted by the following Youth MCs, Sayaada Arouna of Grow Hartford Youth Program, Melyssa Cristino of Grow Windham, and FoodCorps CT Alumni, Ms.Vetiveah Harrsion.

Thank you to our CT Farm to School Youth Planning Committee Interns, Darlenne Cazarin, Common Ground High School Alum, Treyvion Taylor of Nonprofit Accountability Group, Fatima Santos of Stamford Public Schools, and adult lead planner, Ally Staab FoodCorps CT Alumni.

This event was created with the intention to expand opportunities for youth in CT farm to school.  What better way than to engage youth in educationally fun workshops related to nutrition, food justice, careers, and farm life. Local CT community leaders were our workshop facilitators and career panelists.

At the end of the event, students were sent a Certificate of Contribution, and Grow Kits from UConn Extension’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). Students also were invited to become youth participants in UConn’s EFNEP Program.

Birch Mill Farm – Connecticut Dairy Farm of the Year 2021

New England Green Pastures Connecticut Dairy Farm of the Year 2021

Kinsella familyWe are delighted to announce that Katlyn and Tim Kinsella of Birch Mill Farm have been selected as the 2021 New England Green Pastures Connecticut Outstanding Farm. Birch Mill Farm is located in Falls Village in the bucolic northwest corner of Connecticut. They are proud first generation dairy farmers and along with their young family, Emma and Henry, they milk 45 cows made up of Brown Swiss, Ayrshire and Holsteins. Tim and Kate grew up in the agriculture community, both their grandparents are retired farmers and as kids they raised and showed purebred dairy cows and were very active in 4-H and FFA. After high school Tim went to work full time on a local dairy farm and Kate worked as a DHIA milk tester. In 2009 when a good friend and long time farmer decided to retire, Tim and Kate were given the opportunity to rent the farm and purchase his 28 young stock. Those young stock along with the 5 milk cows they already owned became the foundation for their now, herd of 100 head consisting of 50 mature cows and young stock.

They maintain a 22,500 rolling herd average and they are proud of the latest DHI test of 82 pounds of milk per cow. They maintain high quality milk with average SCC far below 100,00- cells/mL. They have bred several Excellent Brown Swiss cows and are particularly proud of a favorite Brown Swiss cow who’s daughter has ranked in the top 100 for Heifer G-PPR. The secrets to their success is their commitment to high quality forage, cow comfort with the installations of water beds in their tie stalls, and a strong focus on hygiene in housing and milking time routines.

They are farming at a rented facility with 25 acres and rent an additional 500 acres. This additional land base supports a secondary hay business. Their forages consist of 100% BMR corn, grass and alfalfa. They use cover crops and have recently explored the feeding potential of this crop.

They have a strong commitment to the dairy industry and support local school activities and are involved in the local FFA and 4-H programs. They have leased calves to 4-H youth and Kate just became co-chair of the Goshen Fair Dairy Committee.

Over the last 12 years, they have focused on updating facilities to ensure cow comfort, hygiene and high quality milk, along with making high quality forages. The Kinsella’s consider themselves to be relatively ‘risk adverse’ and they make sure that all new investments will be economically sound. They are positive and resilient and maintain a can-do attitude that shows in all aspects of the farm. They look forward to moving their farm to the next level and they are great representatives of the sustainability of dairy farming in Connecticut. We congratulate Kate and Tim Kinsella on their achievements.

Respectively Submitted by, Sheila M. Andrew, Ph.D., Professor and Extension Dairy specialist, University of Connecticut

USDA Issues Statewide Farmland Disaster Declaration

FSA logoGovernor Ned Lamont announced late yesterday that farmers statewide will be able to apply for emergency disaster loans due to production loss based upon severe weather caused by Tropical Storm Elsa. Farmers have eight (8) months from yesterday’s date to apply for federal assistance.

Please contact your local FSA office to discuss emergency assistance that may be available to each agricultural producer.

We will continue to monitor potential disaster losses resulting from this evening’s remnants of Tropical Storm Ida. Should this storm prove worthy of the estimated rainfall, please report further crop losses arising from this evening’s storm to your local FSA office as soon as possible.

Online Course: Let’s Talk GMOs

let's talk GMOs text on blue and green background

  • Are you confused or do you have questions about GMOs?
  • Do you feel inadequate when discussing GMOs?
  • Are you given opposing information of GMOs and not sure what is right?
  • Do you wonder how the misinformation about GMOs spreads like a wildfire?

UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources is offering an online course, Let’s Talk GMOs: Creating Consistent Communication Messages. Participants are introduced to the basics of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). They will learn how to create consistent communication messages and manage dialogue processes about GMOs with various audiences. The asynchronous course is available on-demand; it has eight online modules with instructors from UConn. The fee is $49. Register online at

Most people have an emotional reaction to GMOs. They either love them or hate them. The majority already have an opinion about GMOs when the topic comes up. Participants will be comfortable sharing science-based information with their audiences after completing this course. Our role is to provide unbiased information that helps our audience form their own opinion and share their information about GMOs in a non-confrontational manner.

Participants in the course will learn more about the science of GMOs and how to talk about GMOs in small group sessions where those in the dialogue have differing opinions of GMOs. The course instructors and their modules are:

  • Robert Bird, a professor of business law in the Department of Marketing, presents the module on how misinformation spreads.
  • Bonnie Burr, the department head of Extension, presents the modules on public policy and GMOs, and difficult conversations.
  • Stacey Stearns, a program specialist with UConn Extension presents, the module on communication messages you can use and is the course facilitator.
  • Cindy Tian, a biotechnology professor in the Department of Animal Science, presents modules on the history of GMOs and dialogue management.

There are brief introductory and course wrap-up modules in addition to the six core modules. The first three modules take approximately one hour each. Participants should expect to spend two hours on the last three modules. Register online at

Let’s Talk GMOs: Creating Consistent Communication Messages is an initiative of the GMO Working Group in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. The group has a multi-faceted outreach campaign to educate the public on the science of GMOs, offering background on the diverse application of GMOs with research-based consideration of the risks and benefits. Visit for additional resources from the team or email for more information.

Urban Farmer Trainings in Hartford

Urban Farmers and Hartford area Friends!   

Get ready for Urban Farmer Trainings in Hartford!

August 21st and August 28th
At Keney Park Sustainability Project and KNOX Inc
9:00am to 4:00pm
Join the I Got Next Farmers (Lauren Little Edutainment, Samad Garden Initiative, Micro2Life and Derrick Bedward) as they cover topics such as 
  • Community Farming
  • Soil & Plant Health
  • Seed Saving & Plant Genetics
  • Regenerative Soil Amendments
  • Methods of Indoor
  • Soil-less Growing
  • Micro-green Growing
    Register here: by August 14th to claim your spot!!
    Micro-green Growing