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.
High technology greenhouses across Connecticut provide cover for many types of plants. Bedding plants, edibles (vegetable and herb transplants, greenhouse vegetables grown for production), ornamental herbaceous perennials, hemp and poinsettias all grow in greenhouses.
UConn Extension supports the Connecticut greenhouse industry with information and educational programming on sustainable production methods. In Connecticut, the greenhouse industry is a significant part of agriculture. Greenhouse and nursery products are Connecticut’s leading source of agricultural income.
Approximately 300 commercial greenhouse businesses have eight million square feet of production space under cover. In addition, many Connecticut farmers have added greenhouse crops to their businesses to increase income.
UConn Extension offered 111 training sessions to Connecticut wholesale and retail greenhouses with 1,566,088 square feet of intensive greenhouse production and 1,021,000 square feet of outdoor container production in 2019. Diagnostic trouble shooting, grower visits, phone calls, emails and text messages helped growers not participating in the intensive program offered by our UConn Integrated Pest Management (IPM) educators.
One grower stated, “I would like thank you for all the guidance and information that you provided the interns and me this year. I always receive a new piece of information that helps me keep the crops on track for that excellent product.”
Greenhouse production continues to be one of the largest segments of Connecticut agriculture, and the success of the industry helps build the infrastructure that other operations depend on.
Check out this handy pruning guide and refresher from our Sustainable Landscaping and Nursery IPM Educators. This was written for professionals, and is also applicable to home gardeners just getting started with the basics of pruning. It includes links to other resources for continued learning as well!
– Identify the purpose of each pruning job. (Table 2)
– The amount of living plant material that can be re-moved at one time depends on the age and level of establishment of the plant (Table 3).
– Dead, broken, or diseased plant material can be pruned at any time of the year.
– To rejuvenate multi-stemmed shrubs, remove one or more of the oldest stems at the base each year to stimulate new shoots to arise from the base of the plant. Many flowering shrubs bloom more prolifically on younger, 2 to 3-year-old wood. Shrubs that respond well to having some of the 3+ year-old stems removed include forsythia, weigela, deutzia, mock orange and beauty bush.
– Newly established hedges should be pruned early in the growing season to promote the desired growth and density. More established hedges may be kept vigorous and dense by thinning out older branches, which will encourage new growth.”
We’re offering a Vegetable Production Certificate Course, beginning on March 12, 2020. It’s a hybrid format, online and in-person for new and beginning farmers. This year only, we have a special introductory fee of $100 or $150 plus $4 convenience fee depending on the course option you choose.
Farmers of all experience are encouraged to join the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, University of Connecticut, and the American Farmland Trust on Thursday, January 9, 2020 from 9 AM to 1 PM at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon, Connecticut to hear the latest in IPM/biocontrol, soil management, and water programs.
Aaron Ristow of the American Farmland Trust will discuss his findings on the economic and environmental impacts of soil health practices. This is a free program and pesticide credits will be offered.
It is Christmas in July for the greenhouse producers who grow poinsettias. In order to have plants that are blooming for December sales, greenhouses start the process early. Poinsettias require months in the greenhouse before they are ready to be purchased and taken home.
Leanne Pundt, one of our Extension educators was scouting the plants for whitefly immatures at one the Connecticut growers last week and took these photos.
Evan Lentz and Casey Lambert spent the summer of 2018 as undergraduate interns scouting for diseases and insects at vineyards and small fruit farms throughout the state with the iPiPE grant through the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
iPIPE is the Integrated Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education. It’s a weather and pest-tracking tool for growers to use. The program uses technology to categorize endemic pests, users, and data. Extension Educator Mary Concklin has a two-year iPiPe grant.
“We collected information on farms, uploaded it to iPiPE, and shared our results with the growers,” Evan says. “I got to know many of the farmers and
their day-to-day routines. Some of them really cared that we were at the farm, and we were a resource to help with their problems.”
Evan graduated in May of 2019 with a major in Sustainable Plant and Soil Systems, and a minor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He starts graduate school in the fall. “I highly recommend Extension internships to anyone, in any major,” he concludes.
Casey Lambert (’19) and Evan Lentz (’19) won 2ndplace honors for their poster and presentation at the national meeting for the USDA-iPiPE project (Integrated Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education) held in Raleigh, NC February 4-6. Mary Concklin, Fruit Extension Educator, PSLA, is the grant PI. The primary focus of the project was to provide grape pest monitoring and IPM information by working closely with CT grape growers during the 2018 season, uploading the information to the iPiPE website and writing newsletter articles. In addition, they collected and tested plant tissue samples for sap nutrient analysis – a new area of fruit plant nutrition. Another part of their work involved working with blueberry and strawberry growers to validate 4 pest models for the NEWA system (Network for Environment and Weather Applications) located at Cornell. These includedstrawberry Botrytis and anthracnose models which would alert when the risk of infection during bloom and fruit ripening by the pathogen is either low (none), moderate or high; the blueberry maggot degree day model alerts when to hang traps to monitor adult emergence; and the cranberry fruitworm degree day model is used to predict the onset and end of egg laying and to time blueberry fruit protection with insecticides that are low risk to pollinators.
“Educating farmers in sustainable, profitable and environmentally-sound food production practices benefits every man, woman and child in the country directly, on a daily basis, by helping to maintain a safe and secure food source. Knowledge of effective IPM practices helps prevent excess application of pesticides by otherwise frustrated growers,” Jude Boucher says.
The name Jude Boucher is synonymous with vegetable production in Connecticut. Jude joined UConn Extension in 1986 as the Extension Educator for vegetable crops Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
Jude provided cutting-edge solutions to growers on pest management and crop production problems, keeping them competitive on the local, regional, and national level. A multi-faceted approach is used in vegetable IPM that reaches a vast number of growers, not only in Connecticut, but; throughout the Northeast. During the growing season, Jude worked with numerous farms to improve their business and address crop issues as they arose. From conventional to organic farms, new farmers to experienced farmers; Jude worked with everyone and improved their economic viability and production.
Diversifying a Traditional Farm
Jude assisted Fair Weather Acres in Rocky Hill in diversifying and building resiliency to the challenges Mother Nature provided. The farm is over 800 acres along the Connecticut River. Jude advised Billy and Michele Collins on ways to diversify their marketing efforts and the number of crops they grow, after flooding from Hurricane Irene in 2011 washed away much of the crops, and left the farm in debt.
Originally, the farm received IPM training on three crops: beans, sweet corn, and peppers. With diversification, Billy began producing 55 different varieties of vegetables. Jude taught him pest management for his new crops, and the Collins hired an Extension-trained private consultant to help monitor and scout pests and implement new pest management techniques.
“I encouraged and advised Michele on developing a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) venture on their farm and introduced them to other successful CSA farm operators,” Jude says. “Michele started the CSA with 120 members in 2012, and – through a variety of methods – has exceeded 500 summer CSA shares.”
Michele and Billy give back to Extension by speaking at state and regional conferences, hosting twilight meetings, research plots on their farm, and UConn student tours. “Jude has been an integral part of the growth and diversification of our farm. His extensive knowledge and passion for agriculture, coupled with his love of people and farmers in particular, made him an unrivaled asset to Connecticut agriculture,” Michele says. “Jude taught us, advised us, and offered us unlimited guidance in many areas including IPM, alternative farming concepts, marketing, and agribusiness just to name a few.”
Building a New Farm
Oxen Hill Farm is a family enterprise in West Suffield that began when the Griffin family inherited an idle hay and pasture farm with the intent of creating an organic vegetable and cut flower farm.
“Besides small-scale home vegetable and flower gardens, they had no experience operating a commercial vegetable and cut-flower business,” Jude says. “They signed up for training with me, and the first year, 2009, started with an acre of organic vegetables and cut flowers.”
Despite the challenges of their first year, they expanded their business in 2010, growing from 36 CSA members to over 150. Oxen Hill enlarged their acreage onto their parents’ home farm, to almost 20 acres of crops, and learned to grow everything from artichokes to zucchini. The farm continues to flourish.
Finding a Better Way
Jude worked with farmers throughout the region on deep zone tillage (DZT). “DZT allows a grower to prepare a narrow seedbed, only inches wide, rather than exposing the surface of the whole field to wind and rain,” Jude explains. “Farms can also till deeply, right under the crop row to loosen any hardpan that has formed after years of using a plow and harrow. This allows the soil to absorb and retain more water and allows the plants to extend their roots deeper into the soil. The system also improves soil quality over time.”
Due to his work, there are Extension programs in every New England state advocating the use of DZT, and over 45 growers in the region have switched to DZT. Although he retired in 2017, the work of Jude carries on in the farmers across the state. They organized a grower’s organization, and are looking forward to working with our new vegetable crops Extension educator, Shuresh Ghimire, who started on July 1st.
Each year, UConn Extension Educator Jude Boucher helps commercial vegetable growers find sustainable solutions to pest problems. The program emphasizes healthy soils, balanced plant nutrition, proper pest and beneficial identification, scouting and monitoring techniques, preventative management strategies, reduced-risk pesticide selection application, and resistance management.
Farmers apply to become part of the program, as space is limited to 12 farms per year. Those accepted into the program receive weekly, or every-other week farm visits from Jude, as he provides education and guidance for the specific challenges the farm is facing. This year’s farmers are from 9 different towns, with operations varying from 2 to 120 acres of vegetables, with over 40 different vegetable crops being grown.
“This group were all so young,” Jude says, “they gave me confidence that we do have some talented young farmers getting into the business and willing and able to take over for the next generation.”