By Joe Bonelli, Associate Extension Educator In-Residence
UConn Extension hosted Ginna Rodriguez, a visiting Fellow from Columbia at the request of UConn Global Training and Development Institute (GTDI). Ginna is from the Universidad Javeriana and Universidad ICESI in Columbia and was at UConn participating in the Economic Empowerment Program at the GTDI. UConn Extension was asked to host Ginna based on her interest in working in agriculture with a focus on training women and young people to boost the economy in her region of Cauca and Nariño.
In addition to Ginna, the Fellows Program also included visitors from Costa Rica, Peru and Panama. The other Fellows spent time with Hartford Food Systems, Wholesome Wave, CBIA, Kenai Sports, University of Hartford Entrepreneurial Center and Rhode Island School of Design.
Ginna spent 8 days traveling throughout Connecticut learning about many of our Extension programs. On April 22nd, Ginna and I visited the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Norwich. She talked with Ron Clark, FSA Loan Officer, about FSA loans and other programs that are available to farmers. We also visited Blue Slope Country Museum in Lebanon. This is an agricultural museum with many artifacts from the nineteenth century. Then on April 25th, we visited with Jon Jaffee at Farm Credit East. Jon reviewed their many programs and services available to farmers. We also attended Rhode Island’s version of Ag Day at the Capital in Providence.
On April 23rd Ginna spent the day with Bonnie Burr visiting with Extension community partners in Hartford and went to the Capitol where they talked about how small businesses and volunteer advocates educate elected officials to try to secure greater funding to support economic viability and growth initiatives. Bonnie introduced Ginna to the Governor (see photo). Ginna also had the chance to observe and participate with Wanda Hamilton and Rineicha Otero as they were training 4-H teens to be project leaders for 4-H Fitness and Nutrition (FANS) programs. One outcome to this visit was arranging to have Rineicha’s Connecticut teens Skype with Ginna’s teens in Columbia to create international dialogue on teen leadership and community development activities.
Ginna with Governor Malloy
Ginna spent April 24th with German Cutz. They visited Youth Internet Masters’ students (YIM) in Stamford, Bridgeport and Danbury. In Stamford, students shared their experiences learning webpage design through a UConn Extension program. In Bridgeport Ginna visited a YIM student who is volunteering his time teaching technology to parents at a middle school. In Danbury, Ginna met with students who own their business. Students shared how learning webpage design has helped them advertise their own business and build their web site. Ginna also met with a Youth Development Educator from Extension to learn more about 4-H and with a nutritionist who talked about her family and nutrition programs for low income families.
On April 26th, Ginna accompanied Jiff Martin to the CT River Academy in East Hartford where the students (Grades 9-12) were participating in a school-wide conversation about food politics and justice. The students had all seen the new documentary, Food Stamped, and were invited through focus groups to have a discussion about what’s wrong with our food system, what needs to change, and what sort of commitment can they personally make to change our food system. Jiff facilitated student discussions, and then everyone in the school participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for their new school garden. Jiff and Ginna also visited the Good Shepherd Community Garden in Hartford.
On April 29th, Ginna and Joyce Meader visited a variety of educational facilities and private farms to discover the learning opportunities for local citizens. At UConn’s dairy barn they met a Manchester Community College student doing a video on dairy cow comfort. They also toured the agriculture education facility at the E.O. Smith High School. Then they traveled to Spring Manor Farm, run by the UConn EcoHouse students to visit a greenhouse for vegetables and a hen house for egg production. Their last visit was to a free-range swine farm in Eastford.
Ginna traveled to Avery Point to see our beautiful coast on April 30th. She joined Nancy Balcom, Tessa Getchis and Anoushka Concepcion in a meeting for shell fishermen held jointly with the CT Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Aquaculture. New time-temperature requirements to protect against Vibrio parahaemolyticus in oysters during summer months and a new Sea Grant initiative for a statewide shellfish management plan were the main topics. The day ended with a delicious dinner at Flanders Fish Market.
Jude Boucher provided Ginna with an overview of hydroponics on May 1st. Jude went through part of a presentation he used for the bedding plant meeting this winter, which showed all types of season extension methods and different growing techniques in high tunnels and greenhouses, including low-tech and high tech hydroponic systems. They also visited Jimmy Futtner and Bob Handle, vegetable growers in East Hartford, to conduct part of a soil compaction and organic matter survey between conventional-tillage growers and those using deep zone tillage, a form of reduced-tillage. Jude and Ginna dropped the soil samples off at the UConn Soil Lab where Ginna toured the lab and talked with Dawn Pettinelli, the lab manager, about the mission and function of the lab. Finally, they went to the Plant Science Research Farm where Ginna got to see different field preparation machinery, including a Zone Builder, and a field with strips prepared using conventional-till and reduced tillage. They also toured one of the greenhouses, where she helped to thin the seedling flats for the All-America Selections trial garden this summer.
Ginna’s visit was a cooperative and successful effort. I would like to thank everyone for contributing. We’re looking forward to continuing our collaboration with Ginna.