agriculture

Highlights of Extension Report

Committed to a Sustainable Future

Highlights of Extension report cover with blue bars and photos of agriculture, health, and sustainabilityConnecticut has faced challenges related to sustainable landscapes, food and agriculture, health, and the climate for generations. As problems are solved, new issues arise. Our educators faced the unprecedented challenges of 2020 and pivoted programs to offer life transfor­mative education despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Programming moved to virtual environ­ments through online certificate programs, virtual field days, WebEx meetings, and YouTube videos. Our educators created and released 318 new videos on YouTube. These videos reached 305,200 people and had 39,501 viewers that watched 1,200 hours of Extension instruction.

One of every nine Connecticut residents struggled with food insecurity before COVID-19. For many individuals and families, challenges surrounding food inse­curity increased when the pandemic arrived and continued throughout 2020. The stress associated with food insecurity challenges one of the most basic human needs and deepens income and health disparities.

UConn Extension programs addressed the food insecurity challenges that our community members are facing due to COVID-19. Educators coordinated dairy foods donations to help address food inse­curity challenges—facilitating the donation of over 160,000 pounds of dairy products statewide.

Extension works collaboratively with our partners and stakeholders to find solutions that improve our communities. We serve thousands of people every year. Our work is in every town and city of the state and the broader impacts make Connecticut a better place to live for all of us.

The human, environmental, and agricul­tural issues that we face change. The needs of our residents’ change. Our commitment to providing life transformative education remains steadfast.

Read the report at s.uconn.edu/extensionhighlights.

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.

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

UConn Extension: Committed to a Sustainable Future 

fall newsletter collage of three pictures and story titles

Connecticut has faced challenges related to sustainable landscapes, food and agriculture, health, and the climate for generations. As problems are solved, new issues arise. UConn Extension educators work in all 169 cities and towns of Connecticut to help solve the problems that our residents, communities, and state face. Connecting people with agriculture, the natural environment, and healthy lifestyles are critical components to a sustainable future. Extension works collaboratively with our partners and stakeholders to find solutions that improve our communities for the next generation.

Read the fall newsletter.

Let’s Talk GMOs: A New Online Course from UConn CAHNR

let's talk GMOs text on blue and green backgroundAre 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 a new online course, Let’s Talk GMOs: Creating Consistent Communication Messages. This course introduces participants 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 synchronous course is launching in January 2021; it has six online modules and three optional virtual sessions with instructors. The introductory cost is $150.

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. Extension educators, land-grant communicators, and agricultural producers 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 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.

Registration for the course opens in late November. Those interested in receiving an email when course registration opens can fill out this form: http://bit.ly/LetsTalkGMOs_signup or email Stacey.Stearns@uconn.edu for more information.

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 https://gmo.uconn.edu/ for additional resources from the team.

Extension Program Receives USDA-NIFA Grant to Help Beginning Farmers Prosper

Yoko Takemura and Alex Copper showing off their labor
Yoko Takemura and Alex Cooper from Assawaga farm enjoy showing off the fruits of their
labor. (Photos courtesy of Assawaga farm).

Beginning farmers in Connecticut are changing the face of agriculture. With their values driven, sustainable-minded farming practices, they are filling the direct-to-consumer marketplace with high quality food grown intensively on small parcels. Since 2012, UConn Extension, part of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, and its partners have responded to the growing number of beginning farmers with core training in production and business management. In recent years, it was clear that advanced-level beginning farmers (with 6-10 years of experience) were facing more complex challenges as they grappled with decisions about scale, diversification, infrastructure, and risk.

Starting this winter, UConn Extension and partners will respond to this emerging need with a new grant funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The grant is Solid Ground 2: Weaving Together Expert Trainings and Peer Networks for Sustained Beginner and Advanced-Beginner Farmer Success in Connecticut. It is a three-year project funded at $525,000 that builds upon the accomplishments of the existing Solid Ground Training Program to deliver increasingly relevant, high quality trainings that respond to beginning farmer skill gaps at the appropriate level.

“The new grant leverages the capacity, talent, and integrity of partner organizations to meet the needs of beginning farmers that were unmet through our Solid Ground trainings in previous years,” says Jiff Martin, the Extension Educator leading the project. “We also intend to help address the very real barrier of finding farmland for new and beginning farmers, including the unique challenges created by structural racism when farmers of color seek farmland.”

While there are many excellent opportunities in agriculture, beginning farmers and ranchers have unique needs for education, training, and technical assistance. For those within their first 10 years of operation, it’s vital they have access to capital, land, and knowledge and information to help improve their operations’ profitability and sustainability.

“Beginning farmers can be divided into two groups – early-stage and advanced-level beginning farmers,” says Charlotte Ross, one of the project co-coordinators. “Slightly more than half (52%) of beginning farmer operators have been operating a farm for six to 10 years, and the remainder (48%) have been farming for five years or less.”

Beginning farmers comprise 28% of the principal operators on Connecticut farms, and there are 2,132 beginning farmers in total. The Solid Ground program is targeting 700 farms that earn between $2,500 and $50,000 individually. The average age of Connecticut’s beginning farmers is 47.9, only slightly higher than the national average of 46.3.

“While beginning farmer owned farm businesses are generating $97 million in product sales, only 32% can farm as a primary occupation, and most (79%) depend on off farm-income at varying levels. This is the reality of small farming enterprises in Connecticut—they are often part-time, seasonal businesses that generate tremendous value to our communities in terms of land stewardship and local food markets but are typically not at a scale to support multiple employees with fair wages and benefits.” Martin states. The next three years of the Solid Ground Program will help beginning farmers build critical peer networks with each other, gain insight on entrepreneurial models, discover cost-saving DIY infrastructure projects for the farm, and improve their skills in agroecology, agriculture mechanics, urban agriculture, and soil health.

UConn Extension and its partners will work together to deliver exceptional training and networking opportunities that are practical, convenient, and accessible. UConn Extension will serve as the administrative and communications foundation on the project. Two school-based agricultural education organizations will host Agriculture Mechanic trainings for beginning farmers. Front-line community-based organizations led by people of color will plan and deliver urban farming training in the cities of Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven. Two statewide non-government organizations with a strong base of beginning farmer members will work together to implement peer networking. A regional non-government organization will coordinate matchmaking events for farmland seekers. The structure of decision-making embedded throughout this project ensures that voices of color are empowered to steer training priorities.

Project leaders will strive to deliver services in a manner that ensures equitable access to learning opportunities. The project’s overall approach recognizes the integrity and new knowledge that the beginning farmer community, and the organizations they belong to, can offer to the broader agriculture sector in our state.

UConn Extension team members include Nancy Barrett, Matt DeBacco, Kip Kolesinskas, Charlotte Ross, Rebecca Toms, and MacKenzie White. Partner organizations on the project are Connecticut Northeast Organic Farming Association, Land For Good, Love Fed Initiative, the New Connecticut Farmer Alliance, Connecticut Farmland Trust, American Farmland Trust, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Green Village Initiative, the Keney Park Sustainability Project, Park City Harvest, the Nonnewaug High School Agri-Science program, the Rockville High School Agri-Science program, and the Connecticut Farm Bureau Young Farmers Committee.

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.

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.

Urban Agriculture in Bridgeport

Blumenthal and urban ag students

Extension works on urban agriculture projects in cities including Danbury, Stamford and Bridgeport. We are collaborating with food accessibility and food justice organizations in Bridgeport to build capacity growing fresh vegetables.

Growing sites include schools, community centers and capped brown fields. Partners provide healthy food and train underserved, diverse audiences in farming.

UConn Extension offered two urban agriculture courses in Bridgeport, collaborating with Green Village Initiative. We implemented a year-round urban agriculture program in both English and Spanish. Fifteen urban residents from Bridgeport completed the 2018 program.

The Food Justice AmeriCorps VISTA Project service program built organizational capacity in community food security and food justice. Food justice helps communities grow, market, and eat healthy foods. Our partners empowered their communities through food programs and services. Host sites shared best practices and learned new skills in engaging people through participatory decision-making. We had four VISTA service members in Bridgeport. Host organizations were: the Bridgeport Farmers Market Collaborative, CTCORE— Organize Now!, Green Village Initiative, and at Housatonic Community College.

Article by Bonnie Burr and Jiff Martin

Students’ IDEA Grant Will Showcase Innovative Agriculture

collage showing photos of three students, Jon Russo, Ally Schneider and Zach Duda
Jonathan Russo, Alyson Schneider, and Zachary Duda

A group of students from the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) received an IDEA grant from the UConn Office of Undergraduate Research. Their project will help bridge the communication gap between agriculture and consumers. Approximately two percent of the population is involved in agriculture, but we all need to eat every day. There is a growing disconnect between agriculture and consumers because they are not involved in agriculture. Misinformation about food and agriculture is also increasing. Connecting consumers to farms expands their access to relevant information.

Zachary Duda, Jonathan Russo, and Alyson Schneider are producing a documentary film, Completely Connecticut Agriculture: Agricultural Innovation. Their goal is to show consumers examples of innovative agriculture in our state. All three students are Agriculture and Natural Resources majors in CAHNR, graduating in 2021. Jon has a double major in Sustainable Plant and Soil Systems. Stacey Stearns of UConn Extension is serving as their mentor, and other faculty and staff from UConn Extension are serving in advisory roles on the project.

“Around the world there has been a large disconnect with consumers and producers regarding basic knowledge about agriculture,” Zach says. “We want to highlight some farms and programs in Connecticut that target that disconnect and better educate the public while helping them connect to agriculture.”

The idea for this project formed several years ago, when Zach, Jon and Ally were all serving as state FFA officers. Their experiences have shown them many aspects of Connecticut agriculture. The students understand how innovative and resourceful agriculture in the state is and wanted to bridge the disconnect between consumers and agricultural operations. They have also witnessed how Connecticut agriculture helps support a sustainable food supply for residents, and how uncommon commodities diversify and enhance farm profitability.

The three students will visit various farms across the state, meet with agricultural leaders, and film day to day operations as well as thoughts from farmers and leaders on the future of agriculture in Connecticut. The video will showcase innovation in Connecticut that breaks barriers through diversity, education, and disproves misconceptions about agricultural operations. The students will lead viewers through the film and connect with the consumer as they learn about each of the innovative agricultural operations along with the audience.

Filming will take place later this summer and into the fall. Social distancing guidelines for COVID-19 revised some plans. The students selected fifteen farms to include in their documentary – and each of the farms showcases one or more of the three theme areas:

  • Sustainable Food Supply,
  • Consumer Disconnect, and
  • Uncommon Commodities.

Local food is a buzzword that has gained popularity in recent years. Many consumers associate fruits and vegetables with local food. “We want to highlight how producers are using innovative techniques to yield more local food so we can show that there is so many more products for Connecticut residents to purchase when they are looking to buy local,” Ally says. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the importance of local food for many residents, and agricultural producers throughout the state have risen to the challenge by pivoting their business and finding new ways to deliver products to consumers.

A sustainable food supply is also environmentally balanced. It ensures that future generations can continue producing food and enjoying their lifestyle. “Through various practices such as no-till, renewable energy, fishing quotas, soil amendments, and crop selection we want to show consumers that Connecticut agriculture is becoming more environmentally friendly even as production is on the rise,” Jon says.

Some audiences view agriculture from a traditional mindset. The video will dispel traditional agricultural myths by showing uncommon commodities that farms are producing and selling. Examples of unique products on Connecticut agricultural operations include popcorn, chocolate, and flowerpots made from cow manure.

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. Our Extension educators are working with the various agricultural operations featured in the documentary to help them adopt innovative practices and create a sustainable food supply.

Our students are helping bridge the communication gap between farmers and consumers with their documentary that will showcase the innovative agriculture practices happening right here on farms in Connecticut. Farming has many positive aspects that will be the focus of the film. The students plan to address agriculture’s challenges as well and share Connecticut agriculture’s story with consumer audiences. Film screening will be in the spring of 2021.

Educator Spotlight: Bill Davenport

Bill Davenport with a dairy heifer at his home farm
Photo: Litchfield Hills Photography LLC

After thirty-three years as an agriscience teacher at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, William Davenport has found his way back to his early grounding in 4-H. He began work as assistant extension educator in charge of 4-H programming in Litchfield County in July 2019. Davenport is a graduate of the college, having earned bachelor of science and master of science degrees in animal science, then sixth year in administration and supervision at Southern ConnecticutState University.

“We are pleased to have Bill join the Extension team as an accomplished agriscience educator who brings a wealth of experience in STEM, agricultural literacy and leadership development,” says Bonnie Burr, assistant director of UConn Extension. “Bill will be carrying out programs with the county’s 929 youth ages 5-19 and eighty-nine enrolled/ trained volunteers. He will also be developing and implementing statewide 4-H livestock-related programs.”

Growing up in Litchfield County, Davenport loved being a member of 4-H. He attended UConn with the idea of becoming a 4-H agent. But when the position in his county was filled by a new young agent, it was suggested he consider ag education. He changed his focus and set a new goal.

“Now I’m back to my original plan and I’m very excited to have this second career in my life,” he says. Davenport plans to build the 4-H program and expand the clubs. “I love teaching and have enjoyed working with high school students. As an agriscience teacher, I was heavily involved with FFA, and now I have the opportunity to bring agriculture to younger kids.” One of his goals is to increase after school 4-H programming as a way of introducing additional students to 4-H.

“The program has unlimited potential,” he says. “Particularly for families with young children looking for an activity that is wholesome and educational, while being open and welcoming to all students of any background.”

“The basis of 4-H is teaching the importance of farming and the natural world, but it also includes so many life skills such as public speaking, leadership, communication, self-confidence and community service, as well as STEM programs and many other activities.”

Those life skills will go a long way toward helping students in their careers. To highlight this point, Davenport asked one of his students to speak at a regional FFA advisory meeting.

He says, “These meetings are attended by people in the agricultural industry.  An industry expert stood up after this student’s presentation and said that she interviews for hundreds of positions a year and would hire the presenter immediately as she had not observed such poise and confidence in many applicants with advanced degrees. That’s what we teach in 4-H and FFA.”

Davenport would like to see state 4-H and FFA work together. “Think of what we could do collectively to help agricultural literacy and the agricultural industry,” he says.

Davenport grew up on a dairy farm and found 4-H dairy and livestock judging to be a rewarding experience. He plans to revitalize interest in 4-H livestock judging. “I’d like to develop 4-H teams that compete nationally. I’d also be interested in mentoring UConn judging teams.”

As an educator, Davenport has received numerous honors, including 2004 Connecticut State Teacher of the Year, USA Today’s 2005 All-USA Teacher Team, 2004-2005 NAAE Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher for Region VI and 2005 NAAE Syngenta Advocate for Agricultural Education Teacher Award. He is a member of the Connecticut State Board of Education and the National FFA Alumni and Supporters Council and served on the National FFA board of directors from 2013 to 2016.

Davenport houses twenty registered Ayrshire and Holstein dairy cows at his brother’s dairy farm, near the Connecticut border in Ancram, New York, and five heifers at his family homestead, Toll Gate Farm, in Litchfield. He lives with his wife Jill (Perham), also a UConn animal science graduate, and two daughters, Megan, a junior majoring in animal science and agricultural education at UConn and Allison will be at UConn in fall 2020.

Article by Jason M. Sheldon