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Garden Programs in Fairfield County

Originally published by Naturally@UConn on December 16, 2014

Written by: Kim Markesich

Fairfield County gardening programs teach nutrition, integrated pest management and life skills

The Fairfield County Extension Center Demonstration Garden

The Fairfield County Extension Center Demonstration Garden

The Fairfield County Extension Center hosts a variety of gardening programs, and the season just past was a successful and bountiful one.

With the support of a five-year grant from USDA/NIFA’s Children,  Family, and Youth at Risk Program (CYFAR), Edith Valiquette, 4-H youth development educator, coordinates an urban 4-H garden program for sixth through eighth grade students at Barnum Elementary School in Bridgeport. German Cutz, associate extension educator, serves as principal investigator for the grant.

Students attend the program four hours each week during the school year and eight hours a week during the summer. The curriculum focuses on gardening, workforce readiness and technology.

Students learn about nutrition, gardening and healthy meal preparation while working together as a group. They explore agriculture by visiting local farms and participate in community service projects. Students designed, filmed and edited videos to teach healthy eating and used these guides to mentor younger students. Students also participated in a Christmas program presented in nursing homes.

“The program allows kids to have fun while learning valuable skills such as leadership and life skills,” says Valiquette. “The program brings these 4-H opportunities to urban neighborhoods.”

 

The group produced 2,000 pounds of vegetables in 24 raised beds. Their carrots won Best of Show at the Fairfield County 4-H Fair. A portion of the harvested produce is used for cooking classes, while the remainder is sent home with students to supplement family meals.

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Master Gardener Volunteer Recognition

As part of the national celebration of the 100th anniversary of Cooperative Extension in 2014, the UConn Extension Master Gardener Program is honoring the substantial contributions of its Master Gardener volunteers. This marks the commencement of an ongoing recognition program for the sizable volunteer time that Master Gardener volunteers invest in their communities. This recognition applies to all active certified master gardeners, regardless of whether they pursue further education levels through Advanced Master Gardener training.

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Hartford County Master Gardener Coordinator Sarah Bailey and a Master Gardener volunteer work in Burgdorf. Photo: Chris Defrancesco.

MG hours

 

Active certified Master Gardener volunteers are currently being recognized for 100, 250, 500, 750, 1,000, 1,500 and 2000 cumulative hours of service. Starting with the 2014 year, volunteers will be recognized for their service, provided they maintain active certified status. To maintain active certified status, a UConn Extension Master Gardener volunteer must provide 20 hours of outreach each year, at least 10 of which must be in a Master Gardener office, attend one Hot Topics class, complete and submit the recertification form, recording their hours on the UConn Master Gardener website. Hours and active status will be tallied as of September 30 each year. UConn Extension Master Gardener alumni who are not currently on active status can contact their county coordinator to ask about attaining active certified status.

Gardening Questions?

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Have a question about your garden or landscape? Want to know which insect is chewing your shrubs, or what the spots on your tomatoes are? Interested in native plantings or attracting wildlife? Or do you want to start a garden, but don’t know where to start?

Your local UConn Extension Master Gardener volunteers are available to help.

UConn Extension Master Gardeners are committed gardeners who have received special horticultural training from Extension educators and specialists and provide free diagnostics and cultural information to home gardeners.  Throughout the growing season these volunteers hold office hours in the local UConn Extension offices and are often at area farmer’s markets and other public events.

Office hours vary by county. Check for your local office’s hours.

4-H Education Center at Auerfarm

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.

auer farm

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.