Community

Part-Time Agriculture Program Coordinator In-Training Position Open

making the three sisters recipe with members of the Mashantucket tribe
Extension educators make the Three Sisters recipe with members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.

We are seeking a part-time (20 hours/week) Agriculture Program Coordinator-in-Training to work on our Mashantucket Pequot Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP). The incumbent will work collaboratively with a team of Extension professionals, tribal members, and leaders to empower members of Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (MPTN) and communities through nutrition education and youth engagement. This includes a mix of responsibilities related to youth engagement, nutrition education and agriculture programming. The position is based in the MPTN reservation, which is located in Mashantucket, CT though the individual hired will be an employee of the University of Connecticut.

Read the full position description, including details on how to apply.

Fairfield County 4-H Grows True Leaders: Youth Garden Club Serves the Community

4-h youth at food pantryThroughout the summer, 20 youth in the 4-H Community Garden Club have managed a one-acre garden in New Milford. They were led by leaders Anna Loor and her daughter Amira. Each youth worked eight hours every week at the garden and during 4-H time, learned the principles of seeding, planting, weeding, harvesting and garden pests. Critical thinking skills were used as they solved various gardening problems such as: 

  • Is this a good garden bug or a bad one?
  • How much water do these plants really need?
  • Why isn’t this one growing as well as the others? 
  • How big does this vegetable need to be before I can harvest them?

 As a 4-H club, they had a monthly business meeting lead by youth officers. Youth met with the 4-H Educator weekly to learn how to develop an agenda, lead a meeting, use Robert’s Rules of Order, and meet the criteria for being a club in good standing. After much discussion during the business meeting, it was determined that for their community service project, they would donate one day’s harvest to a local food pantry.

 August 27th was the day they choose to donate the harvest. At 7:30 am, in the misty rain, all 20 youth and their parents started harvesting and cleaning the vegetables. By 11:30, over 300 pounds of produce was cleaned and packed into a truck and the trip to the Danbury food pantry began. At the food pantry, the volunteers were so delighted to receive the fresh vegetables. The pantry opened for the day a few hours after the delivery, with people getting the fresh vegetables that just that morning were still in the ground! 4-H Does Grow True Leaders! The 4-H Community Garden club will continue serving their community in Bethel and Danbury through their civic engagement initiatives.

 

Article by Edith Valiquette

UConn Extension Releases Evidence-Based Information Sheets on the Impacts of Trails

Meriden TrailUConn Extension and the National Park Service are pleased to announce the publication of the Impacts of Trails info-sheet series. As communities throughout the U.S. and the world cope with the devastating toll of COVID-19, the pandemic has brought a renewed focus on the importance of local trails. 

These one-page color, downloadable resources provide evidencebased information on the impacts of trails on physical and mental health, building community, stimulating economies, and fostering climate resilience. Each includes key data points from existing literature, a case study and a short list of recommendations. Communities highlighted include Meriden, Connecticut, New Haven, Connecticut, Canton, Connecticut, and Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

The health info-sheet includes six major benefits that trails have on promoting health. It recommends that communities animate trails with programs, increase public awareness about trails, and engage people not currently using trails. A case study on the Walk and Talk with a Doc initiative between Get Healthy CT and Yale Medicine in New Haven documents how trails have improved health outcomes for residents.

Trails drive economic development in communities through their positive impact on property values, expenditures at local businesses, and quality of life, among other attributes. The authors recommend that communities take a systems approach, connect their trails with downtown amenities, and engage and involve anchor institutions and local property owners in trail development. The Farmington Canal Trail in Canton provides further evidence of how the trail increased economic activity in the town.

Woman in Meriden“Our vision was a trail network that offered something for everyone in the community, from easy walks around Lake Mansfield to a rigorous hike along our piece of the Appalachian Trail,” says Christine Ward, Director of the Great Barrington Trails and Greenways in Massachusetts. Trails in any community are catalysts for increasing environmental awareness, creating connections, and strengthening community resilience. Steps to build community with trails include programming, analyzing trail use, and thinking community wide.

Climate change will bring many public health and safety threats to our communities and trails enhance resiliency through mitigation and by providing habitats for plants and wildlife. Trails also help decrease the carbon footprint of residents as more use the trails for travel. Communities enhance resiliency on their trails by making them feel safe and protected, encouraging residents to replace short vehicle trips, and connecting to transportation networks. A case study of Meriden shows how the trails and open space saved the downtown from flooding. 

 

View all the impact sheets with the full benefits of trails and recommendations for community leaders at https://cttrailcensus.uconn.edu/trail-impact-series/.

 

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

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

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Food and Nutrition Security in Fairfield County

Seniors Eating Well Program:

A community partnership between UConn Extension SNAP-Ed Food Security project, Elmwood Hall Senior Center, Danbury Farmers’ Market and Clatter Valley Farm provides a free produce box ($10 value) for seniors in need.  SNAP-Ed provides nutrition education materials following the Penn State Seniors Eating Well curriculum and includes a postcard with QR code that links to our UConn Extension YouTube channel community nutrition playlist.  The “Market on the Move” program was designed as a way to keep seniors safe during COVID-19 and as a way to continue to provide nutrition programming with the senior center closure. Social distancing, masks required, all participants remained in their vehicles and produce boxes/nutrition materials were placed in their passenger seat or trunk based on individual comfort level.  Senior Center staff coordinated with senior participants and distributed boxes on-site the day of, Danbury Farmers’ Market provided funding to support the produce, SNAP-Ed food security provided nutrition materials, recipes and a small incentive for each participant (ex: grilling tongs in July). Future programs are planned monthly throughout the Connecticut growing season, August, September and October 2020.

vegetables

woman dressed as tomato car with UConn CAHNR Extension sign

 

Danbury Farmers’ Market YouTube:

SNAP-Ed has been a long standing community partner of the Danbury Farmers’ Market Community Collaborative (DFMCC) providing on-site indirect or direct nutrition education for the past 12 years. In the past 5 years, SNAP participants have benefited from direct nutrition education via a 30 minute bilingual nutrition presentation and cooking demonstration.  This year given COVID-19, only farm vendors are permitted at the market.  SNAP-Ed needed to be a bit more creative in 2020.  SNAP-Ed Food Security is providing to market-goers weekly bilingual recipes, nutrition handouts and a postcard with QR code that links to low cost bilingual videos. SNAP-Ed Food Security partnered with the Danbury Public Library to offer a Zoom presentation, participants were encouraged to use SNAP or pandemic SNAP benefits at the market which allows doubling of SNAP benefits and as an incentive for their participation were provided a reusable insulated grocery tote at the market. All SNAP-Ed Food Security videos are posted on the UConn Extension YouTube channel, Danbury Farmers’ Market YouTube channel, and to social media outlets. If market-goers watch the Danbury Farmers’ Market YouTube videos and report back to the cashier at the farmers’ market, additional incentives from DFMCC include a free $3 plastic coin towards produce purchases.

YouTube Page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCo2hcRxQSIxJdHoOZ7JZRSA

EFNEP and SNAP graphic

Summer Library Program Brings 4-H STEM to New London County Youth

little boy holding his STEM project from New London County 4-H summer library programThe 4-H Summer Library program in New London County started seven years ago with a program at the Waterford Library. The program added a few libraries every year. This year 12 libraries in the county are participating.

Pamela Gray, the UConn Extension 4-H Educational Outreach Coordinator for New London County leads the program. Therese Foss, an Extension Public Service Technician; and Sara Tomis, a UConn student and summer intern, also work on the summer library program.

“COVID-19 forced us to create a virtual program instead of offering the program in-person at each library,” Pam says. “While we miss seeing everyone, shifting to a virtual program is allowing us to serve more libraries and impact a larger number of children.”

The theme this summer is Be A 4-H Brainiac. All the activities begin with the letter “B” and include breakouts, blazing bugs, breakfast nails, and buckle up eggs. Towns with libraries participating in the program include Colchester, Franklin, Groton (the library and the sub-base), Jewett City, Lebanon, Ledyard, Norwich, Preston, Sprague, Voluntown, and Waterford.

“The Waterford Public Library is pleased to partner with New London County 4-H again despite challenging times,” librarian Jennifer Smith tells us. “Many families have expressed interest and relief to know their kids can continue to participate in fun library STEM related virtual programming this summer.”

The summer library program lasts for 10-weeks. There are five activity kits and five breakouts, or virtual escape rooms. The activity kits and breakout rooms alternate weeks throughout the program. Each library received 12 kits that they distribute to youth. Waterford and Norwich received 24 kits each since their communities are larger. Children from ages five through 13 are participating at each library. The kits use curriculum from the National 4-H Council and the Junior Master Gardener program.

A parent shared, “The programming that you are offering through public libraries is fantastic. It adds some excitement to our week, and we are using the activities as a jumping off point for other projects, reading and fun. Thank you!”

“My favorite part about working with the libraries is that we bring a resource to them and their community that they don’t have,” Pam says. “As 4-H staff we have a skillset that many libraries don’t, and it’s a great partnership that brings new resources to the library and introduces other audiences to 4-H. We also reach a different community with the library programs than we do with our club-based programs.”

The libraries have found that this year’s virtual program has brought new participants that normally don’t attend programming. Smaller libraries have increased their participation level as well; in the past, they would have six or seven participants in-person, but with a virtual program are able to give out all 12 kits.

“We’ve really had a lot of success with the take-and-make program concept, and this has been an exceptional one that I certainly wouldn’t have been able to put together on my own,” says Frances McGrath of the Trumbull Library in Lebanon. “I’ve got people coming in who normally wouldn’t come to the library, which is how you know you’ve got a winner. This has been great and the flexibility it allows for has been really positive.”

Libraries receive their kits each week. The library then distributes the kits to the children. Drop off and distribution follow social distancing guidelines. Each activity takes about 20 minutes to complete, and youth join the Facebook Live video on the UConn 4-H New London County Facebook page on Wednesday mornings for their instructions.

“The Facebook live session creates a sense of community,” Pam explains. “It opened the program up so that youth participating see how many others are involved. I’m already working with the libraries on a hybrid model for next year so that we can serve as many children as possible. We’re also planning to keep the breakout rooms going once per month during the school year.”

The breakout rooms have three skill levels, easy, medium and hard, giving all ages an appropriate activity. The free Breakout educational app enhances math, science and reasoning skills and is popular with teachers.

“We greatly miss our classes with the 4-H teachers, who are always enthusiastic, well-informed, and engaging with school-aged children,” says Marguerite Rauch of the Subbase MWR Library in Groton. “We highly value all that New London County 4-H brings us and our Military Community via the 4-H Military partnership. The children love their 4-H summer Library programs, and they always fill up fast. This year was no exception. Summertime is when military families typically move, so our summer programming is often the way we meet new families and welcome them to the Library. This is the sixth summer I have worked with 4-H, and they rose to the challenge and created a full summer of activities to keep children busy, having fun, and learning, which is what libraries are all about.”

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more and enroll your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

Article by Stacey Stearns

Meet Bianca Castelan: Financial Literacy for Youth and Young Adults Intern

Hi, my name is Bianca Castelan and I am the Financial Literacy for Youth and Young Adults Intern for summer 2020 with the UConn Extension Financial Education Program.

At UConn, I am studying Psychological Sciences with a minor in Spanish. During my two years working in the Community Outreach Program Jumpstart I had the opportunity to work with preschool children teaching them topics like science, world cultures, and language. Through my role as a research assistant at the UConn Cognitive Development Lab, I gained experience using a coding software for three different games. These experiences taught me about the development of young children, research methods, and project management. Eventually, I hope to work in human resources. My other interests include running, baking (especially pastries), and video games. 

This summer, I am working with my supervisor on a financial game that will teach students and young adults how to manage their money. I hope to gain more experience in project management and to create a fun, educational experience for college and high school students. I am also creating animated videos for the Connecticut Saves social marketing campaign to promote saving among young adults. 

Dealing with Wind and Storm Damaged Trees

tree down across road in Brookfield, Connecticut on May 15, 2018
Photo: Jeremy Petro

Article by Tom Worthley, UConn Extension

This week on Tuesday, August 4, 2020, a striking example of one of those “severe weather events” we hear about from time to time occurred in CT. Tropical Storm Isaias, is being compared in the media to Super Storm Sandy and other severe storms in 2011 and 2012 in terms of power outages and other impacts from tree failures. Severe winds, downpours and tornado threats all were part of the wicked conditions that ripped limbs from and uprooted trees, downed powerlines and damaged buildings and vehicles. Many parts of our state remain without electrical service while crews clean up downed limbs and restore the lines. 

For my part, because of the sudden and severe nature of the winds, and the near-continuous rain of leaves and branches falling, I was as nervous I ever remember being about a storm event and the potential for damage to my humble little house from trees and limbs. Sure enough, one large limb did get ripped off and came down about 20 feet from where my car was parked. While there remains, of course, a mess of smaller twigs, leaves and branches, there’s no real property damage, thank goodness, but it was close. The storm seemed to be over almost as quick as it began, and now, just like many folks around the state, I’m faced with a clean-up task. It’s not a real problem for me; that broken limb is at the edge of the woods and will make a nice neat little pile of firewood. I’ll be able to salvage the tree it came from and make even more firewood and a couple of decent oak saw-logs.

For many people, however, the task of cleaning up storm-damaged trees is not as straight-forward and simple. Storm-damaged trees are fraught with abundant problems, dangers, and risks. Cleaning up and salvaging downed, partially down or damaged trees can be among the most dangerous and risky activities an individual can undertake. It cannot be emphasized enough that without a thorough knowledge of equipment capabilities, safety procedures and methods for dealing with physically stressed trees, an individual should never undertake this type of work on their own. The very characteristics that make the wood from trees great structural material can turn leaning, hanging or down trees into dangerous “booby-traps”. Damaged trees can spring, snap, and move in mysterious ways when people cut them, and can cause serious and life threatening injuries. Just because your neighbor or relative owns a chain saw, it doesn’t make them qualified to tackle a large tree that is uprooted or broken. Contacting a Licensed Arborist, or Certified Forest Practitioner with the right equipment, training, and insurance, is the best alternative for addressing the cleanup and salvage of storm damaged trees, and avoiding potential injury, death, liability and financial loss.

That said, there are a few things a homeowner can do about trees that are damaged and/or causing other damage around a homesite:

  • First, from a safe distance note the location of any and all downed utility lines. Always assume that downed wires are charged and do not approach them. Notify the utility company of the situation and do nothing further until they have cleared the area. 
  • Don’t forget to LOOK UP! While you may be fascinated with examining a downed limb, there may be another one hanging up above by a splinter, ready to drop at any time.
  • Once you are confident that no electrocution or other physical danger exists, you can visually survey the scene and perhaps document it with written descriptions and photographs. This will be particularly helpful if a property insurance claim is to be filed. Proving auto or structure damage after a downed tree has been removed is easier if a photo record has been made.
  • Take steps to flag off the area or otherwise warn people that potential danger exists.
  • Remember that even if a downed tree or limb appears stable, it will be subject to many unnatural stresses and tensions. If you are not familiar with these conditions, do not attempt to cut the tree or limb yourself. Cutting even small branches can cause pieces to release tension and spring back, or cause weight and balance to shift unexpectedly with the potential for serious injury. Call a professional for assistance. 
  • Under no circumstances, even in the least potentially dangerous situation, ever operate, or allow anyone on your property to operate a chainsaw without thorough knowledge of safe procedures and proper safety equipment, including, at the minimum, hardhat, chaps, eye and hearing protection, safety-toe boots and gloves. A chainsaw injury is not something you put a band-aid on and go back to work. It will be a life-altering experience.

An assessment of the damage to individual trees, or more widespread damage in a forest setting is best undertaken by an individual with professional expertise. Homeowners should contact an arborist to examine trees in yards or near to structures, roads or power lines.  A Certified Forester is qualified to evaluate damage in the woods to trees and stands and advise landowners about the suitability of salvage or cleanup operations. The CT-DEEP Forestry Division can provide information about contacting a Certified Forester or Licensed Arborist. Check the DEEP website: https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Forestry/Forestry or call 860-424-3630. The CT Tree Protective Association maintains a listing of licensed arborists at their web pages: www.ctpa.org .

While a nice tidy pile of firewood from a tree that was damaged in a storm may be the silver lining, it is not worth the risk of injury to yourself or someone else when tackling a very dangerous task without the proper knowledge, equipment or preparation.

In a Paradise Threatened, Teaching Girls to Be the Change They Want to See

sky and land view from Dominican Republic
Photo: Tessa Getchis

Tessa L. Getchis, aquaculture extension educator and aquaculture extension specialist for Connecticut Sea Grant and UConn Extension for the last 20 years, spent last August through December in the Dominican Republic with her husband Ryan and their two school-aged daughters. While past trips to this island nation had been vacation-length recreational time, this was an extended stay with a decidedly challenging mission. She would be teaching marine science to middle-school aged girls from impoverished families, taking on some big problems while imparting hope and empowerment. The University of Connecticut and Connecticut Sea Grant supported her project there, and this story was originally published in the Spring-Summer 2020 issue of Wrack Lines, the magazine of the Connecticut Sea Grant College Program, located at UConn Avery Point.

 

This past fall I had the incredible opportunity to move my family to a Caribbean island, take on a new job as a middle school marine science teacher and be part of an organization that’s cultivating future female leaders in environmental activism.

My family has been traveling to the north shore of the Dominican Republic for more than a decade. This country, which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with its neighbor Haiti, is a place of unimaginable beauty. Palm trees sway over wind-swept beaches, coral reefs span turquoise waters, waterfalls tumble over jagged green mountains and narrow streams meander through grasslands. Its diverse landscapes make it perfect for ecotourism including hiking, diving, surfing, windsurfing, whale watching and more.

Life is also a lot slower. (It’s a stark contrast to living here in the Northeast.) Dominicans are known for their friendly nature, and always greet you with a smile. When they say hello and ask about your day, they really want to know!

We immediately fell in love with the country and its people, but while we were enjoying the sand and sun, we realized they have been dealing with some serious challenges. Most people in this part of the Dominican Republic live in poverty, without sufficient food or clean drinking water.

They lack access to a quality education and some children are forced to sell items on the street or beg for money to support their families. The majority of children attend public schools that are only offered for a half day, and fewer than 20 percent of girls make it past the eighth grade. A rapidly changing climate with extreme flooding followed by drought, and relentlessly rising seas further threaten their personal safety and food and water security.

And then there is the garbage. The country is grappling with the amount of trash, especially plastic, entering its waterways and the looming threat of the microscopic pieces that it will continue to break into for hundreds of years. This plastic problem is so particularly grave here that a documentary Isla de Plastico (Cacique Films, 2019) was recently produced to draw attention to the widespread impacts.

It is still paradise – just paradise threatened.

It was difficult to witness such adversity in the midst of what for us was paradise (and what we considered our second “home”). As my husband and I thought about how difficult it would be if our two young daughters had to grow up in these conditions, our hearts sank. They’ve never had an empty belly. They drink from a faucet, never thinking that there might be a limited supply or that the water could make them sick. Our biggest trash problem is when collection day falls on a holiday and we have to store bags in the garage for one extra day. We felt motivated to do something to contribute, but these were huge problems and we were just visitors.

Read more at:  https://today.uconn.edu/2020/06/paradise-threatened-teaching-girls-change-want-see/

Connecticut Residents Asked to Report Receipt of any Unsolicited Packages of Seeds

department of agriculture logo(HARTFORD, CT)- The Connecticut Department of Agriculture (CT DoAg) and The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) have been notified that several Connecticut residents have received unsolicited packages containing seeds that appear to have originated from China. The types of seeds in the packages are unknown at this time and may be invasive plant species. The packages were sent by mail and may have Chinese writing on them. Unsolicited packages of seeds have been received by people in several other states across the United States over the last several days.

Please do not plant these seeds. CT DoAg and CAES encourage anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds from China to immediately contact their state plant regulatory officials, Dr. Kirby Stafford at 203-974-8485 (Kirby.Stafford@ct.gov) or Dr. Victoria Smith at 203-974-8474  (Victoria.Smith@ct.gov ). Please hold on to the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone contacts you with further instructions. 

Invasive species wreak havoc on the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects and severely damage crops. Taking steps to prevent their introduction is the most effective method of reducing both the risk of invasive species infestations and the cost to control and mitigate those infestations.

https://portal.ct.gov/DOAG/Press-Room/Press-Releases/2020/Connecticut-Residents-Asked-to-Report-Receipt-of-any-Unsolicited-Packages-of-Seeds