UConn Extension was pleased to host Mr. Nick Edgar, distinguished Winston Churchill Fellow and Chief Executive of New Zealand Landcare Trust, exploring innovative local food and sustainable agriculture initiatives in the U.S. Thank you to the farmers who hosted us!
The White House recognized UConn Extension educator Jiff Martin as a Champion of Change for Sustainable and Climate Smart Agriculture in October. The program features individuals who are doing extraordinary things to inspire and empower members of their communities, Martin was one of 12 individuals from across the country selected for this honor.
Jiff reflected on her role in sustainable and climate smart agriculture:
“When I came to Connecticut 13 years ago, I advocated on behalf of environmental leaders and farmers in Connecticut whose common cause was the preservation of working farmland. This coalition, Working Lands Alliance, taught me the vital link between our quality of life and the land that sustains us.
Now I work with Cooperative Extension, connecting people to the farmland, farmers and flavors of local food. I am just one of so many champions for change in our food system. Through our new farmer trainings, I have met bright, new farmers that are driven to feed their communities while sharing the realities of small-scale farming. I respect our partner organizations that use innovative food projects to improve their communities’ health and equity. And I am full of hope, thanks to the young emerging leaders that I meet through our AmeriCorps programs, FoodCorps CT, and Connecticut Food Justice VISTA Project.
In New England we have the capacity to produce and consume more of our own food through locally owned farming, fishing, and food enterprises. I see hundreds of endeavors across the region, from school gardens to incubator farms to food hubs to mobile markets. Without a doubt, our food system transformation is well underway.”
Jiff Martin is an Associate Extension Educator in Sustainable Food Systems, at University of Connecticut’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources.
I heard the peepers last night for the first time this year. There have already been a couple of sunny, almost warm, spring-like weeks in my neighborhood. Recently the overwintered rye has switched its dull reddish-green color scheme to bright green.
I remember reading a couple of years ago that stands of overwintered rye, if killed early, will provide the most nitrogen value. Incorporating the young plants when they are just beginning to grow, will give as much as a 30-50 lb N credit. Providing soils are dry enough to drive onto, the best time to kill winter rye is when plants are no more than 6-8 inches tall and shortly after they have greened up.
Usually a light harrowing can kill winter rye when root crowns are small and the young stalks are not yet fibrous. Allowing rye to continue to grow will put on biomass, however, the early spring nitrogen credit will be lost. Nitrogen scavenged the previous fall and held in its roots throughout the winter will be utilized to put on rapid spring growth. Additional nitrogen will be required to mineralize it, when incorporated into the soil later in the spring.
If significant biomass is one’s goal, as well as field grown nitrogen, it’s better to seed a legume into one’s fall planted winter rye. Let the green manure cover crops grow to full maturity late into May or early June. Then turn them under and allow them to slowly break down to feed later summer cash crops.
Meanwhile, utilize the extensive root growth of an overwintered cover crop and benefit from the value of its winter carry over of “free” nitrogen. Many overwintering cover crops give the most value if you turn them under quite early.
— Eero Ruuttila,
Sustainable Agriculture Specialist – Scaling Up Program
UConn Extension – Tolland County
Information on early killing of spring cover crops came from the March 2011 Cornell VegEdge newsletter, authored by Thomas Bjorkman
The 124-acre 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm is located in the northwest section of Bloomfield, Connecticut. Hartford entrepreneur and retailer Beatrice Auerbach deeded the farm to the CT 4-H Development Fund in 1976. Founded in the early years of the twentieth century, Auerfarm had been honored many times as a model site that included 60 purebred Guernsey cows, 20,000 chicken and 300 apple trees. Today, the Auerbach legacy to the 4-H Education Center is expressed through the variety of 4-H education programs offered to families and children in the areas of gardening, agriculture and environmental science. Over 15,000 students and family members participate in year round 4-H curriculum based school science programs, animal clubs, and Junior Master Gardening activities.
Visitors are invited to walk the property, go to the animal barn, the blueberry and raspberry beds and tour the newly established herb beds and the organic Master Gardener/Foodshare garden located on the hill above the animal barn. The children’s herb garden, “Thyme in Auer Garden,” developed in 2012, provides a new area of horticultural discovery as butterflies, birds and flowers present themselves in a symmetrical raised bed. Children readily access and experience the colors, smell, and taste of the New England hardy perennials while they learn that plants provide medicine, flavorings, aroma and seed for wildlife. With funding from a generous friend of the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm and the hard work of Master Gardeners and volunteers, the herb garden has become a place to pause and reflect on the beautiful surrounding landscape.
The Master Gardener/Foodshare garden is a quarter acre vegetable garden used by Master Gardeners and 4-Hers as a demonstration site for learning the basics of environmentally responsible vegetable and flower production. Students study growing conditions through understanding soil, water, insect, and disease management. The garden offers multiple opportunities helping in the seasonal progression of growing plants as well as observation of wildlife, especially birds. Approximately 300 volunteers come out to help the Master Gardeners on the weekends. Enjoying the farmland setting and giving back to the community provides a meaningful reward for the volunteers. They do seeding, weeding and harvesting of approximately 3600 pounds of fresh produce for distribution to the community kitchens in and around Hartford.
The 4-H Education Center is open to the public daily throughout the calendar year. You can see video of the gardens here.