University of Connecticut University of UC Title Fallback Connecticut

Posts Tagged ‘farming’

Advancing the Business of Farming in Connecticut

farmers market

Urban agriculture students at the Danbury Farmers Market.

UConn Extension and 8 statewide agricultural partners have received a grant from USDA-NIFA for their project, “Advancing the Business of Farming in Connecticut in Partnership with Agriculture Learning Centers.” The nearly $600,000 grant integrates the expertise and current training programs of UConn Extension with the Agricultural Learning Centers that provide targeted training, mentoring, and one-on-one technical assistance customized to meet the needs of beginning farmers in Connecticut.

The project is developed by and for beginning farmers across the state, and will strengthen beginning farmer training and foster a self-sustaining community of practice among beginning farmer training program leaders. Instead of duplicating the efforts of great organizations that are already building beginner farmer training programs, this project enriches and aligns beginning farmer training programs via consistent strategies and common metrics.

The Agricultural Learning Centers partnering on the grant are: Common Ground High School in New Haven, the Community Farm of Simsbury, the Green Village Initiative in Bridgeport, Killingly Agriculture Education Program, KNOX in Hartford, WRCC-GROW Windham, and UConn Extension’s Listo Para Inciar urban agriculture program in Danbury and Stamford. Other key partners in the project are the New CT Farmer Alliance (NCTFA) and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of CT.

NCTFA is a statewide network of over 200 beginning farmers and growers. “With this investment supported through the USDA, the alliance will further increase accessibility between agricultural support services, and Connecticut’s budding community of agricultural entrepreneurs,” said Betsy Robson, NCTFA Coordinator.

UConn Extension has a long tradition bringing research-based guidance and training to producers. Dr. German Cutz of the Fairfield County Extension Center leads the Listo Para Inciar (or Ready-to-Start) training program, which delivers a hands-on, cohort based model of beginner farming training for Hispanics.

“It is very exciting to be part of the Advancing the Business of Farming grant because it will ensure that urban residents get an opportunity to learn and practice urban agriculture,” German says. “The Ready to Start Program will train urban adult residents in urban agriculture. The Ready to Start program is a collaborative effort involving UConn Extension, local farmers, and community-based agencies and organizations, and will counter food insecurity and food desert areas in urban cities in Connecticut. Low-income families, especially, will have access to locally produced food while at the same time newly trained urban farmers will engage in food production.”

Core trainings for beginning farmers will emphasize: business planning, financial management and record keeping; farmland access; overcoming marketing uncertainties; and small scale production of vegetables and fruit. Programs will be offered in person, with online tutorials developed for many of the modules, including farm business planning, soil health, safe and effective use of pesticides, and marketing for success.

The long term goal of the collaborative team is for every beginning farmer in Connecticut who wishes to produce food for income – regardless of scale, experience, or language barriers – to have access to fundamental training, know where to find service providers and their resources, and be able to start or continue farming profitably.

UConn Extension Educator Jiff Martin is serving as principal investigator and says,”I am thrilled to embark on this new chapter of work with Connecticut’s beginning farmers. Our newest and aspiring farmers deserve a robust and coordinated investment from all of us who work as agriculture educators. I look forward to working with our partners to meet the needs of a wide variety farmers with various background and experience in agriculture, with a shared focus on the future of agriculture in our cities, suburbs, and rural communities.”

 

Lend A Hand App

Lend a Hand

Lend A Hand App tells a story about farming shared interactively through a song
originally written by Willie Nelson and Marty Dread. It provides hope for
communities and a nation of hard working family farmers by building an awareness
for children that supporting local farms can be healthy and fun. If you’d like
to learn more about Lend A Hand, please visit our site: http://lendahandapp.com

Growing Sustainable Food Systems in Connecticut

Join Windham County Extension Council for an evening of food and friends as they discuss Growing Sustainable Food Systems in Connecticut with UConn Extension Educator Jiff Martin and others.

You will learn how UConn Extension helps improve school food, assists beginning farmers and promotes community food safety. For more information please see check in with Windham County Extension Center.

kids with greens

Sustainable Food Systems

UConn Extension has been adding new programs in Sustainable Food Systems over the past couple of years. Extension Educator Jiff Martin is helping to coordinate a team of talented individuals as they build these programs.  “I am more of a generalist than a specialist, so for me teamwork is pretty essential to getting things done,” Jiff says.  She points out that food issues can bring a variety of people together naturally – much like cooking together and eating together.  She also notes, “There are enormous challenges ahead if we really want to see a sustainable food system that meets our needs for fresh, healthy, affordable food today without jeopardizing the ability of future generations from doing the same.  That’s why I believe most of the work around sustainable food systems nationally tends to depend on regional collaborations and coalitions.”

Kip presentingThe Scaling Up Program for Beginning Farmers, funded by USDA, is a three-year outreach and training program for new and beginner farmers in Connecticut.  “In the whole farm planning activity of this program, an extension educator team will work intensively with at least 10 beginning farmers over three years, helping them navigate multiple challenges as they scale up their farm enterprises into full-time viable and growing operations,” Jiff begins.  Areas of education for the whole farm planning participants include:  business management, IPM, crop planning, labor management, equipment use, conservation, land access and tenure.    “We will also develop a set of new training tools and curriculum to help beginner farmers acquire Farm Management skills in the core areas of production planning, infrastructure decisions, and non-production management.  Extension educators in the Scaling Up Program include: Jude Boucher, Leanne Pundt, Joe Bonelli and Mary Concklin.  The team also hired Eero Ruuttila to serve as the Sustainable Agriculture specialist and Kip Kolesinskas as the Land Conservation specialist.  An advisory team of farmers and agricultural professionals are also working with the team, as well as partner organizations:  CT NOFA, New CTFarmers Alliance, CAES and Land for Good.

 

FoodCorps CT is a service program for college graduates focused on improving school food environments via school gardens, nutrition education, andFoodCorps service members farm to school.  Five FoodCorps service members are working in the following school districts:  Bridgeport, New Haven, Windham, New Britain and Norwich.  The FoodCorps fellow, Dana Stevens is based out of the Tolland County Extension Center.  “FoodCorps service members are incredibly motivated and effective, and it’s inspiring to see what this ‘boots on the ground’ program can do to excite children about healthy, fresh food,” Jiff says.  “The service members, partner organizations and advisory team are another group of experienced and talented people who together are making FoodCorps CT into a model program. “   Extension and UConn team members include:  Maryann Fusco-Rollins, Erica Benvenuti, Heather Pease, Heather Peracchio, Tina Dugdale and Linda Drake.

 

The BuyCTGrown project is building the #1 online hub for our community of consumers who are ready to discover and experience local Connecticut agriculture.  UConn Extension is partnering with CitySeed, a non-profit in New Haven, as we plan to redesign the website, www.BuyCTGrown.com and launch the 10% campaign in 2013.  “The 10% Campaign is a great concept modeled on a project from North Carolina.  It engages consumers and others that are already excited about local agriculture and tracks the economic impact that occurs when consumers, chefs, food service directors and produce buyers make a commitment to buying 10% local.”  My vision is that other extension educators will want to join the 10% Campaign as local campaign coordinators, in the same manner that North Carolina Extension has mobilized over 100 coordinators.  UConn Extension team members Ben Campbell and Nancy Barrett have been working with Jiff, as well as CT Dept. of Agriculture, CT Farm Bureau, and CT NOFA on laying the groundwork for the 10% Campaign.

Tapping into the local food movement and a growing interest in ‘collective impact’ strategies, on December 4th, over 80 individuals gathered at the Middlesex County Extension Center to launch the Connecticut Food System Alliance.  Jiff and a planning team of 8 partner organizations worked over several months with a facilitator to lay the groundwork for this statewide network of food system leaders, practitioners, and stakeholders.   A new listserv was also launched in tandem: CT_Food_System_Leader-L.   “The timing is right for this sort of network and there is real pent-up opportunity for more collaboration, alignment, and joint action,” Jiff states.  Extension team members that have participated so far include Mike O’Neill, Bonnie Burr, Diane Hirsch, Joe Bonelli, and Linda Drake.

CSA School: By Farmers for Farmers

UConn’s Cooperative Extension System (Jiff Martin, Jude Boucher, Joe Bonelli and Mary Concklin), the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) and CT NOFA sponsored a CSA School on November 28th, at the Middlesex County Extension Office.  A total of 81 people attended the event and 49 (60%) filled out an evaluation form.  Eighty percent of the participants grew vegetable crops and many also grew flowers, small fruit and had greenhouses.  Eight growers, two Extension Educators and one “Typical Customer” made presentations about their CSAs’ at the workshop, while four more farmers led discussion groups on how to get started, get better and deal with regulations. Presentations included a ‘Typical CSA Vegetable Share’, ‘Multi-farmer CSA’, ‘Multi-season CSA’, ‘Partnering with Chefs’, ‘a Meat CSA’, ‘Tips & Tools for CSA Business Management’, ‘Insuring a CSA’, and a farmer panel of first-year CSA growers who shared what to do and not to do when getting started.

Seventy-nine percent of the folks who answered the evaluation rated the program as “excellent” while the rest rated it as “good”.  Participants all received a CSA_School_Booklet_112812 and all rated it either “Excellent” or “Good”.  The full booklet has been posted on the UConn RMA web site at www.ctfarmrisk.uconn.edu/.  Of the respondents, 86% said they learned something to change their marketing practices, while 80% said the program will improve their farm profitability.  Almost everyone raved about the locally-grown lunch from River Tavern and some said it was worth the price of admission all by itself.  Four respondents said they would start a CSA next summer while 10 claimed they would add a farm credit-style CSA option to their operation.  Others said they would start an entertaining CSA newsletter, begin office or church deliveries, increase their crop diversity, partner with restaurants, add items to shares, write up shareholder agreements, plan production to meet share requirements, start a swap box, change the amount in each share, and have more personal contact with shareholders.

ricksteve

Left:  Rick Hermonot, from Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm in Sterling, describes his “Meat CSA.”  Right: Steve Munno, from Massaro Community Farm in Woodbridge, leads a discussion on how to improve your CSA.