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Author Archives: UConn Extension

National Ag Day

Katy-Katelyn

Happy National Agriculture Day! UConn CAHNR students, and Connecticut 4-H alumni Katy Davis and Katelyn Williams are in Washington DC today for National Ag Day Training – two of only 12 4-H students selected nationwide to participate.

National 4-H Council is pleased to offer this agriculture leadership opportunity for college students to represent 4-H in the 2017 National Ag Day events in Washington, D.C. Students are participating in a training at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center. The Agriculture Council of America (ACA) sponsors 100 student representatives from across the country to participate in the training and attend the National Ag Day activities on Capitol Hill. The students—from FFA, AFA, 4-H and Student NAMA—put a face on the future of agriculture and personally emphasize the importance of agriculture in our everyday lives.

April Classes with Lifelong Learning

CLIR group

CLIR classes for April, held in Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot campus, all from 1:15-2:45 p.m. except for Memoirs and Great Decisions.

 

Memoir Club – Thursdays, April 6, 13, 20, 27 from 10:15-11:45

Great Decisions:  topics in foreign policy – Tuesdays, April 11, 18, 25  from 10:15-11:45

What is The Enlightenment? – Thursdays, April 6, 13, 20, 27

UConn President Susan Herbst – Wednesday, April 12

The Nationalist/Populist Reaction to Globalism: A Threat to Democratic Forms of Government – Tuesday, April 18

They Return: Our Defender and Prosecutor – Wednesday, April 19

Savor the Moment: cultivating awareness using mind-body experience – Friday, April 21

Under the Hood of Genetically-Engineered Crops – Tuesday, April 25

Legal and Constitutional Origins of Racism in America – Wednesday, April 26

Celebrate Dairy in March with Put Local on Your Tray

dairy smoothieDuring the month of March, the Put Local On Your Tray program is partnering with school districts across the state to feature local dairy. Put Local On Your Tray helps Connecticut school districts serve and celebrate locally grown products. Through a combination of technical assistance and promotional materials, the program works with schools to build a culture of health in the cafeteria, celebrate school nutrition programs, and support local agriculture.

Why local dairy? “Dairy is produced year round in Connecticut,” shares Dana Stevens, Program Coordinator for Put Local On Your Tray. “Dairy farming is an important part of our agricultural landscape, and the majority of Connecticut schools already purchase dairy that is regionally produced in the form of milk. Milk arrives at the school just 48 hours after leaving the farm. Food service directors, students, administrators, and parents should feel good about the fact that schools are supporting our hard working New England dairy farmers and providing nutritious meals for our kids”.

“Milk is the number one food source of nine essential nutrients in the diets of American’s children—including calcium, vitamin D, and potassium—that are required for proper bone growth,” says Amanda Aldred, Program Manager for New England Dairy & Food Council for School Nutrition in Connecticut. “The benefits go beyond building stronger bones. For instance, low-fat and fat-free dairy foods improve overall diet quality and help reduce the risk of various chronic diseases like heart disease.”

There are over 35 districts that participate in the Put Local on Your Tray program (you can see a map on the website here). The program is open to any interested school district, charter school, or private school.

This month, more than 15 districts are planning to host a Local Tray Day featuring dairy. Events include: Celebrating National School Breakfast week with a parent breakfast and smoothie sampling in Meriden; Taste-testing green spinach smoothies for St. Patrick’s day in Windham and Waterbury; Making mozzarella cheese in Groton; Hosting a dairy farmer visit in Wethersfield; Local yogurt parfait tastings in New Haven, and more! All districts organizing dairy events are eligible to win a dairy farm field trip organized by NEDFC for up to 25 students.

UConn Extension’s Put Local on Your Tray program has posters, stickers, newsletters, and recipes to support school districts connect students to dairy during the month of March and other local foods throughout the year. Contact your school administrator or food service director to encourage participation in the program. For more information please visit http://putlocalonyourtray.uconn.edu or call 860-870-6932. Put Local On Your Tray is a project of UConn Extension, in partnership with the CT State Department of Education, FoodCorps Connecticut, and New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC).

 

About New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC)

New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC) is a non-profit nutrition education organization staffed by registered dietitians. NEDFC is a state and regional affiliate of the National Dairy Council® (NDC). Our goal is to ensure that health professionals, scientists, media and educators have a credible body of nutrition information upon which to base health recommendations.

Will Food Label Confusion Go Away?

By Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH

Senior Extension Educator/Food Safety

 

use by label

Photo: USDA

When teaching consumers and those who prepare food for day care centers, food pantries, shelters, and senior lunch programs, I always spend a bit of time talking about food labels. Not the nutrition labels, which can also be confusing to the average consumer, but the “safety and quality” labels.

At this time, there are several phrases used by food manufacturers and retailers to help consumers and food preparers to know about the food they are about to purchase or prepare. These phrases include:

  • Sell by
  • Use by
  • Expires
  • Best if used by
  • Best before

These are all examples of open dating, a calendar date that the manufacturer or retailer applies to a food product. The calendar date provides consumers with information on the estimated period of time for which the product will be of best quality and/or to help the store determine how long to display the product for sale. Some manufactures also use a closed dating code that is usually for the purposes of record keeping or tracking products in case of a recall. Often these dates or codes are a series of numbers and letters that the consumer may or may not be able to decipher.

When these dates are used on perishable foods, such as dairy products, eggs or meat, fish or poultry, consumers might think that once the date is reached, it is time to toss to food in the garbage. But that is not the case.

Safety vs Quality

First of all, keep in mind that none of these dates are required by Federal law. The one exception is for infant formula. Because formula is basically the sole source of nutrition for infants up to a certain age, and the essential nutrients (vitamins, especially) can break down, so that the formula is no longer providing what the baby needs for healthy growth and development. Some states do require such labels. Connecticut requires that dairy products including milk, cheese and raw milk, have a “sell by” or “last date of sale” label.

The purpose of these dates is to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality—not necessarily safety.

Perishable foods, obviously, do not last forever. However, they are generally (if handled properly prior to eating), perfectly safe well past the sell by date on the container. Again, if safely handled (refrigerated properly during storage and transportation), eggs are safe as many as 4-6 weeks after the sell by date; dairy products 3-7 days after the sell by date, ground meat or fresh fish (1-2 days), deli cold cuts, 3-5 days and steaks, chops or roasts, 3-5 days. Again, these time ranges are guidelines. If there are signs of spoilage—odor, color change, sliminess—then toss the food, no matter the date! Unfortunately, the bugs that cause illness will not tell you they are there—they don’t make food smell bad or taste funny. Personally, I would throw out any foods beyond the time limits in this paragraph, if the sell by date is past or once I have opened them.

In addition, if you freeze any of these foods, you can extend the shelf life. While quality can suffer in the freezer (dehydration or freezer burn, rancidity in high fat foods), it is unlikely that the food will become dangerous to eat if frozen too long. Use by and sell by dates become meaningless if freezer storage is involved. But, consider the same time frames for using up these foods once defrosted: use ground meat in 1-2 days, fish in 1-2 days, cold cuts in 3-5 days and dairy products within 3-7 dates after defrosting.

Other foods present little or no food safety issues, no matter how long they are kept. Quality is the problem here. Chips, crackers, cereals and snack foods, especially if made from whole grains, can go stale and/or rancid over time. The exact length of time will depend on storage conditions. If it is warm or humid or if the food is exposed to sunlight where you store these foods, they are likely to suffer quality losses faster. But it will not hurt you to taste these foods yourself to see if they are still edible. While bread is similar, its moisture content may make it more prone to mold growth. If you see any mold growth, the bread should go. Mold can develop toxins that may cause illness or may be cancer causing. Don’t eat food that isn’t supposed to have mold on it.

New guidelines

In order to further reduce the wasting of perfectly good, but “out dated” food, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) are advising their members to rethink their safety and quality labels. They are proposing that only two labels be used. “Best if Used By” would be on most foods—indicating a loss of quality over time. But, for those that potentially pose a food safety risk, becoming less safe over time, the “Use By” label would be more appropriate.

People have been clamoring for simplification of these labels for a very long time. But concerns about food waste – whether for environmental, economic, or other reasons—have driven this most recent attempt to make quality and safety labels easier to understand.

For more information on food labels and food storage, go to foodsafety.uconn.edu or contact the Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 1-877-486-6271.

Adding Programs to Conservation Academy

UConn’s Natural Resources Conservation Academy Adds Two New Education Programs in 2017

nrca students in waterFounded in 2011, the Natural Resources Conservation Academy (NRCA) is designed to provide high school students with a structured informal learning experience focused on the environment, natural resources and geospatial technologies. In case you haven’t heard about it yet, let me get you caught up. The NRCA is all about making connections. Connecting young adults to the environment around them, to professionals in the field of natural resource science, to their communities and local conservation programs, to the University and a potential career in a STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) discipline, and of course, to each other. These connections begin to form for students as they are immersed in a week-long field experience on the UConn campus, and continue to develop as students go on to complete conservation projects in their communities. The success of the NRCA can be measured by the smiling faces of the students (over 100 of them so far!) who return to campus each spring to present the results of their ten-month, conservation based service learning project to scientists and professionals at the Connecticut Conference on Natural Resources. It can also be measured by the dedication of a small group of faculty members within the College’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) and Department of Extension who come back each year to participate as educators and mentors in the program. These folks have worked tirelessly to grow the program from a big idea into a big success. That includes several of us here at CLEAR.

The success of the NRCA can now also be measured in dollars. As in, over $3 million of them
– grant dollars awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for two new research projects that will extend the reach of the NRCA’s conservation science and technology programs into even more schools and communities across Connecticut. The NRCA “Education Triad” as it is affectionately called in the hallways at CLEAR, consists of three programs: The Conservation Ambassador Program (CAP) – the original NRCA – for teens; the Conservation Training Partnerships (CTP) for teens and adult learners; and Teacher Professional Learning (TPL) for middle and high school teachers. The two new projects, the CTP and TPL, are interdisciplinary partnerships across the university and in addition to original NRCA collaborations, now include faculty from Neag School of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction (EDCI) and the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering (CESE).

Read more….

Produce Safety Training

Bruce speaking

Photo: Diane Wright Hirsch

Bruce Gresczyk, Jr., a Connecticut farmer and Produce Safety Alliance trainer teaches CT produce farmers about ag water and food safety at an Extension sponsored Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training yesterday.

CLEAR, 20 Years Online

By Kara Bonsack

Websites have come a long way since the inception of the Internet. While the Internet can be traced back to the 1960s, 1991 is considered the year the World Wide Web went live. In 1995 the last usage restrictions were lifted, clearing the path for the internet to become what we now know it to be today. (history of the internet)

This year marks 15 years CLEAR has been in existence, it became an official UConn center in 2002. However, there are a few programs within CLEAR that predate it, most notably the CT NEMO Program. CT NEMO has been a part of UConn Extension since 1991. And for much of that time, CLEAR and its related programs have been using the power of the internet to help engage and educate its target audience, Connecticut citizens, its towns, municipalities and community leaders.

Chet Arnold, CT NEMO and CLEAR founder and director, likes to point out, NEMO had a website before our University had a website. I’ve done some research into this, and as far as I can tell, he may be right. Using the Way Back Machine, an online archiving website, the first time it created a screen capture of the NEMO website (see image below, left) was in 2000. However, that screen capture shows a text line on the web page noting the site had been visited 20,770 times since July 18, 1997, AND a screen capture a year later adds to this line, “September 02, 1996 if viewing from the older address”. The first screen capture for the University I found (also below, center) was from December of 1996. Either way, an impressive feat, considering I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what the world wide web was in 1996. CLEAR had its own website soon after its official debut in 2002 (first CLEAR homepage shown below, right).

first CLEAR sites

Read more….

Connecticut Dairy Seminar

dairy seminarRegister Today for the March 13th
New England Dairy Conference

Maximize your milk yield returns by understanding the role of fatty acids in dairy cattle nutrition.  Maximize profits from your forages.  Two timely topics; three excellent speakers!
Based on research conducted over the past two years, conference speakers will tell you what you should do – nutrition and management – to boost de novo fatty acids and herd profit.  You can learn the tools to put these new milk metrics to work.
Here’s the details:
   

Connecticut Dairy Seminar
9:00 am – 3:15 pm
Monday, March 13, 2017
Holiday Inn Springfield South
1 Bright Meadow Blvd
Enfield, CT 06082

Topics and Speakers:
New Milk Analysis Technologies to Improve
Dairy Cattle Performance
 – Dr. David Barbano

Harvest for Profit – Tom Kilcer

Use of Milk Fatty Acid Metrics to Make
Nutrition and Management
Decisions
 
– Dr. Heather Dann

Click Here for Full Agenda

 

Click Here for Printable Registration Brochure

 

Click Here for Online Registration
 
Walkins will be welcomed!

Register online.

Tick Testing

ticks

Photo: CVMDL

Warmer weather months in Connecticut are the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. There are beautiful trails to hike, parks to visit with your children or dogs, and there is the simple joy of lying in the lush, green grass. Of course, with the warm weather also comes with the New England outdoor enthusiast’s nemesis – the tick. These disease-carrying arachnids enjoy moist areas with long grass and will latch onto humans and animals alike. Although there are many different species of tick, people generally think of one tick species in particular when worrying about illness: the deer tick. While the deer tick is predominantly known for transmitting Lyme disease (caused by the spirochetal bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi) it can also carry other disease causing agents such as Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia microti and Borrelia miyamotoi. These are the causative agents of Granulocytic Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis and Borrelia miyamotoi disease respectively. A single tick has the potential to transmit one, two, or even all four of these illnesses simultaneously! Other species of ticks, such as the dog tick (Dermacentor variablis) and Lonestar tick (Amblyomma americanum) can also be tested for different pathogens known to cause illness in humans and/or animals.

If you find a tick on yourself, your child, or your pet, remove it immediately! The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) at UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources can test the tick for pathogens. Ticks received at the CVMDL are first examined by trained technicians using a microscope. This identification process determines the species of tick, life stage, and degree of blood engorgement, all of which are factors that may impact transmission of pathogens to the person or animal (the host). Ticks may then be tested for the DNA of pathogens that are known to be transmitted by that tick species. Results are reported within 3-5 business days of receiving the sample, and next business day “rush” testing is available for an additional fee.

How to send in ticks: Please send ticks in sealed zip lock bags accompanied by a small square of moist paper towel. The submission form and the “Do’s and Don’ts of tick testing” can be found on our website at http://s.uconn.edu/tickform

Sunrise, Sunset and the Equation of Time

By Juliana Barrett

Originally posted on http://blog.clear.uconn.edu

sunrise

Sunrise over Horsebarn Hill in Storrs. Photo: Kevin Noonan

The days are finally getting longer. It is always a slow, subtle and most welcome change from the days of leaving for work in the dark and arriving home again in the dark.sunset-sun-abendstimmung-setting-sun-122443

Since the winter solstice on December 21, 2016 when the North Pole is tilted furthest from the sun the amount of daylight we receive has been increasing each day. The December solstice is the shortest day of the year (in terms of daylight) for us in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest for those in the Southern Hemisphere. Interestingly, this does not mean that the sun sets the earliest on the solstice. The earliest sunset was back on Dec 8, 2016 at 4:20 pm. On the December solstice though, the day length is shortest with only 9 hours, 8 minutes and 30 seconds of daylight – even though sunset was at 4:23 pm.

The earliest sunset actually occurs a few days before the solstice and the latest sunrise is a few days after due to two factors: The Equation of Time and the latitude of a particular location. The Equation of Time is the difference between the Apparent (or True) Solar Time minus the Mean Solar Time.

Apparent solar time is measured by direct observation of the sun (as with a sun dial). Mean solar time is measured with a clock and assumes a day is exactly 24 hours in length. A “true day” goes from solar noon (when the sun is at its highest point in the sky) to the next solar noon and this number varies slightly due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis and to the elliptical shape of its orbit around the sun.

As explained on the website, TimeandDate.com:

On most days, solar noon does not occur at the same time as noon on your watch. Around the solstices, solar noon occurs a few minutes later than the previous day. For example, on December 21, 2016, the day of the Northern Hemisphere winter solstice, solar noon in New York will be at 11:54 AM EST. On January 3, the day of the latest sunrise, solar noon will take place 7 minutes later at 12:01 PM EST.

As solar noons increasingly occur later, sunrises and sunsets also steadily occur later each day after the winter solstice. This is why, a location’s earliest sunset occurs before, and its latest sunrise occurs after, the winter solstice.

I must admit that before researching this topic, I had never heard of the “Equation of Time.” The TimeandDate website offers much more detailed explanations on the topic as well as sunrise and sunset times around the world.

And just when I’ve come to understand the Equation of Time, Massachusetts is considering using daylight savings time year round. Connecticut has even proposed legislation for the 2017 session to this effect. This would mean that we would not “fall back” or “spring forward.” While we would gain more daylight in the latter part of the day, mornings would be dark. Such a proposal only makes sense if the entire New England region were to collectively do so. Such bills and proposals have come up in the past and will continue to be discussed.

For now, we’ve crossed the hump and the days are getting noticeably longer. While I do appreciate all that winter nights have to offer: walks with the dog by moonlight, crisp, cold air, beautiful skies filled with stars and planets (particularly Venus), I’ll be happy to leave the flashlight and reflectors at home…. And there still are not enough hours in a day!