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Posts Tagged ‘UConn Extension’

Become a Master Composter

compostingBecome a UConn Master Composter! The purpose of the Master Composter Program is to provide local compost enthusiasts with the tools and information necessary to educate and teach interested community members about composting and reducing the amount of solid waste sent to the state’s incinerators and landfills. Participants would attend classroom sessions at the Fairfield County Extension Center in Bethel, CT. Two Saturday field trips will also be scheduled, with one being mandatory Classes begin Thursday, October 6th and will run for 4 consecutive Thursdays, plus on Worm Day which is Saturday October 21st .

A Master Composter Certificate is awarded to those who have attended all program sessions, demonstrated a solid understanding of composting principles and practices, and engaged in a minimum of two outreach activities. Program fee is $100 payable to University of Connecticut. Enrollment will be limited to 24 participants.  Visitwww.ladybug.uconn.edu for more information or call (860) 486-4274.

Food Safety for Artisan Cheesemakers

cheese productionDr. Dennis D’Amico has been working with North Carolina State University to convert his cheese food safety workshop into an online program. They recently launched the online course: Food Safety for Artisan Cheesemakers. The course will be offered at no cost until the end of the year by using the code INTRO-FREE.   To enroll : https://foodsafety.ncsu.edu/food-safety-basics-artisan-cheesemakers/.


The course was designed to assist Artisan and Farmstead Cheese-makers to develop/refine their food safety programs to protect consumers and comply with food safety regulations. It is intended to equip cheese-makers with knowledge of basic food safety concepts and introduce a number of best practices/preventive controls.  The class was developed at North Carolina State University in a collaborative effort of food safety and cheese experts from the University of Connecticut, the Center For Dairy Research, Cornell University, the Innovation Center for US Dairy, and includes extensive input from Artisan Cheesemakers.  The course begins with a welcome letter and orientation to online learning and then has five interactive learning modules with professional voiceover, video, and an accompanying quiz:
 
Lesson 1: Importance of Food Safety
Lesson 2: Regulations and Standards
Lesson 3: Food Safety Hazards
Lesson 4: Good Manufacturing Practices and Process Controls
Lesson 5: Environmental Pathogen Monitoring and Testing

Lifelong Learning in September

CLIR group

CLIR, a lifelong learning program offered in collaboration with UConn Extension, will hold the following classes in September, most in Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot Campus:

Memoir Club                                                  Thursdays from Sept 7        10:15 – 11:45

An Introduction to the Socio-Cultural Roots of Climate Change  Sept 11, 18, 25, 7:00 – 8:30, at CLiCK in Willimantic, 41 Club Road

History of Immigration to Connecticut        Wednesday, Sept 13     1:15-2:45

Knot Theory and Its Application in Performing Arts          Wednesday, Sept 20     1:15-2:45

A Two-Part Course on Universal Basic Income:    From the Viewpoint of an Economist             Tuesday, Sept 26     1:15-2:45

From the Viewpoint of a Computer Scientist    Thursday, Sept 28     1:15-2:45

Benchmarking and Risk Management

Video picture

Farmers: Learn more about benchmarking and risk management http://s.uconn.edu/3th with Extension educators and Farm Credit East.

 

So, You Want to Preserve Your Famous Salsa…

By Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH, RD

Extension Educator/Food Safety

canning tomatoesEvery year, about this time, I am spending time on the phone, talking people out of canning. Well, not exactly. I strongly encourage canning as a way to preserve summer tomatoes, peaches, apples and cucumbers (often as pickles). But, invariably I will answer the phone and on the other end of the line is someone who wants to can their FAMOUS salsa recipe (or pickles, or pesto, or peppers in oil). While I could write volumes on “What Not to Can”, salsa is the subject of this article.

The word “salsa” is the Spanish word for sauce. The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink reports that the first mention of the term “salsa” appeared in print in the U.S. in 1962. As of 1991, they said, sales of salsa surpassed ketchup.

The origins of these sauces may be Aztec, when the traditional ingredients included tomatoes and chili peppers. But the creative cook can easily find recipes using a variety of ingredients such as beans, mangos, pineapple, grilled corn, avocado, or peaches. Historically, “salsa” was considered an uncooked sauce (salsa fresco or salsa cruda). But, in the interest of convenience, salsa is now most often processed in glass jars and found on the supermarket shelf next to taco shells, tortillas and refried beans (or in plastic tubs in the produce section).

Making and canning salsa in a commercial processing operation is one thing. Doing it at home is another.

Most salsa recipes are a mixture of low-acid foods (such as onions and peppers), with more acid foods (such as tomatoes). Often, there are additional acid ingredients that may include vinegar and citrus juices such as lemon, lime, or orange.

The types and amounts of ingredients used in salsa, as well as the preparation method, are important considerations in how a salsa is canned. Generally, acid foods (tomatoes, fruits) are safely canned in a boiling water bath canner. So folks may think that a tomato or fruit based salsa would also be safely canned in a water bath canner. However, once you add low-acid ingredients such as onions, peppers, black beans, corn, cilantro or avocado, the pH (measure of acidity) balance may be tipped to the low-acid side. At this point, the pH is likely at 4.6 or higher and the only safe way to can the product is in a pressure canner (to safely can in a water bath canner the product pH must be below 4.6).

If a salsa has enough low acid ingredients to render the final product, “low acid” by definition, then you run the risk of having a salsa that will support the production of deadly toxin by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Improperly canned salsas or other tomato-pepper combinations have been implicated in more than one outbreak of botulism poisoning. Follow these considerations for safe salsa:

Choose and use safe ingredients

The acid ingredients help preserve canned salsas and make them safe for water bath canning. Most often bottled vinegar or bottled lemon juice is used. Use only commercial and bottled products. An equal amount of bottled lemon juice may be substituted for vinegar in recipes, but do not substitute vinegar for lemon juice. This substitution will result in a less acid and potentially unsafe canned salsa. If the product is to “acidic” or tart for your taste, add a bit of sugar to offset. Do NOT cut down on the acid!

Tomatoes and/or fruit ingredients should be just ripe, free of cuts, rot, or mold. Do not reduce the quantity in the recipe. Overripe tomatoes may be too low in acid for safety. If green mangoes are called for in the recipe, do not use ripe mangos as they also may be too low in acid for safety.

Peppers, onions, and other low acid ingredients must also be added in amounts given in the recipe. An extra pepper might just throw you into the low acid realm…measure and count carefully.

Spices such as cumin, dried oregano, salt and pepper can be adjusted to taste. However, fresh herbs such as cilantro (a low acid ingredient) should be added according to the recipe. You can always add the fresh herbs just before serving for the freshest flavor.

Choose and use a safe recipe

The USDA/Extension mantra has always been, “Only use tested, science-based home-canning recipes from reliable sources like the National Center for Home Food Preservation and some equipment or home preserving ingredient manufacturers.” This is especially true for any acidified food like salsa or pickles. Then, follow the directions, ingredient list, and amounts listed in the recipe. Never add flour, cornstarch or other thickeners—this will have an effect on the processing time needed to heat the interior product to a safe temperature. Store opened salsa in the refrigerator once opened.

If you want to stick with a personal favorite recipe, there are two things you can do. Can a basic salsa and add additional ingredients (beans, corn, avocado) just before serving. Or, make your FAMOUS salsa and store it in the refrigerator for up to one week or freeze it for up to one year. Freezing will certainly affect the texture of your fresh salsa, so test out a small portion first to see if you like it.

For more information about making and preserving salsa, go to www.uga.edu/nchfp (National Center for Home Food Preservation). On that site you will find the fact sheet (some of the information in this article was from this fact sheet), Canning Your Own Salsa Recipe. Or contact the Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 1-877-486-6271.

Keeping Farm Fresh Veggies and Fruits Fresh

Keeping those farm fresh veggies and fruits fresh

By Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH

Senior Extension Educator/Food Safety

 

Recently I had a call from a mom asking if she should wash her berries before storing in the fridge. Her 30-something daughter, who, of course, knows everything, insisted that she should wash first. The mom wasn’t so sure. In this case, mom knew best.

I too, after a weekend visit to the farm market, am faced with the task of preparing the produce for storage, some of which carry vestiges of field dirt, or may be wet from a recent wash in the packinghouse. I don’t want them to spoil before I can eat them all. And, most of all, I do not want to waste what is edible.

So what is the best way to treat your veggies and fruits and ensure that they will be in the best condition when you go to use them? Well, it depends. Fresh fruits and vegetables require different storage methods and can be stored for various lengths of time.

Best at room temperature—until cut

First, know that some fruits and vegetables keep their quality better if NOT stored in the refrigerator. These include fresh tomatoes, potatoes, onions (except for spring onions and scallions, which must be refrigerated), winter squash, pumpkin and melons, until ripe, then refrigerate. However, once any of these are cut open, they should be refrigerated. Fruits and vegetables stored at room temperature should be in a cool, dry, pest-free, well-ventilated area separate from household chemicals.

Best in the refrigerator

To wash or not to wash? Even the experts disagree when giving advice on washing garden produce. Some tell you not to wash before storage and some will tell you to wash off any garden dirt before even bringing produce into the home. At issue is this: if you bring in garden dirt on your fresh produce, you may be introducing pathogenic microorganisms into your kitchen—while, if you wash your produce before storage, you run the risk of increasing the likelihood that your fresh produce will mold and rot more quickly.

If you choose to wash produce before storage, be sure to thoroughly dry fruits and vegetables with a clean paper towel. If you choose to store without washing, take care to shake, rub or brush off any garden dirt with a paper towel or soft brush while still outside. Never wash berries until you are ready to eat them (Mom was right). Storing fresh produce in plastic bags or containers will minimize the chance that you might contaminate other foods in the refrigerator. Keep your refrigerator fruit and vegetable bin clean. Keep your refrigerator at 40° F or less. If your refrigerator has a fruit and vegetable bin, use that, but be sure to store fresh produce away from (above) raw meats, poultry or fish.

All stored produce should be checked regularly for signs of spoilage such as mold and slime. If spoiled, toss it out. All cut, peeled or cooked vegetables or fruits should be stored in clean, covered containers in the refrigerator at 40° F or less.

Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Storage Chart

Fruit/Vegetable Storage method/time Tips
Beans, green or yellow Refrigerator crisper: up to 3 days Store in plastic bags. Do not wash before storing. Wet beans will develop black spots and decay quickly. Wash before preparation.
Broccoli Refrigerator crisper: 3 to 5 days Store in loose, perforated plastic bags.  Wash before using.
Beets, Carrots, Parsnips, Radish, Turnips Refrigerator crisper: 1 to 2 weeks Remove green tops and store vegetables in plastic bags. Trim the taproots from radishes before storing.  Wash before using.
Berries Refrigerator crisper: 2-3 days Before storing berries, remove any spoiled or crushed fruits. Store unwashed in plastic bags or containers.  Do not remove green tops from strawberries before storing.  Wash gently under cool running water before using.
Chard Refrigerator crisper: 2-3 days. Store leaves in plastic bags. The stalks can be stored longer if separated from the leaves.  Wash before using.
Corn Refrigerator crisper: 1 to 2 days For best flavor, use corn immediately.  Corn in husks can be stored in plastic bags for 1 to 2 days.
Cucumbers Refrigerator crisper: up to 1 week Wipe clean and store in plastic bags.  Do not store with apples or tomatoes.  Wash before using.
Herbs Refrigerator crisper: 2 to 3 days Herbs may be stored in plastic bags or place upright in a glass of water (stems down). Cover loosely with plastic bag.
Lettuce, spinach and other greens Refrigerator crisper: 5 to 7 days for lettuce; 1 to 2 days for greens Discard outer or wilted leaves. Store in plastic bags in the refrigerator crisper. Wash before using.
Melons At room temperature until ripe

Refrigerator: 3 to 4 days for cut melon

For best flavor, store melons at room temperature until ripe. Store ripe, cut melon covered in the refrigerator.  Wash rind before cutting.
Nectarines, Peaches, Pears Refrigerator crisper: 5 days Ripen the fruit at room temperature, and then
refrigerate it in plastic bags. Wash before eating.
Peppers Refrigerator crisper: up to 2 weeks Wipe clean and store in plastic bags.  Wash before using.
Summer squash, patty pan Refrigerator: 2-3 days Wipe clean and store in plastic bags.  Wash before eating.
Tomatoes Room temperature; once cut, refrigerator crisper: 2 to 3 days Fresh ripe tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator.  Refrigeration makes them tasteless and mealy. Wipe clean and store tomatoes at room temperature away from sunlight.  Wash before eating. (Refrigerate only extra-ripe tomatoes you want to keep from ripening any further.) Store cut tomatoes in the refrigerator.

For a more inclusive list of produce likely to be purchased from your local farm market, go to www.foodsafety.uconn.edu and go to Storing Fresh Garden Produce.

Fresh produce can be a source of the microorganisms that cause foodborne illness. The consumer shares responsibility for the safety of the produce they eat. Store safely in a clean refrigerator or storage area; when it is time to prepare your fruits and vegetables for eating, be sure to wash well: do not soak produce in water, but rinse well or dunk and swish in water just to cover, using fingers or scrub brush as appropriate. There is no need use special veggie washes or bleach in the wash water.

For more information on washing and storing fresh fruits and vegetables, contact the Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 1-877-486-6271.

Elsie Woolam Named 2017 National 4-H Hall of Fame Inductee

By Nancy Wilhelm

Elsie Woolam

Elsie Woolam. Photo: Nancy Wilhelm

Congratulations to Elsie Woolam for her selection as a member of the 2017 National 4-H Hall of Fame. The National 4-H Hall of Fame honors 4-H volunteers, extension professionals and staff employees, donors and others who have made a significant impact on the 4-H program and /or 4-H members through the contribution of time, energy, and financial resources. The Class of 2017 consists of 16 laureates from around the country. The induction ceremony will take place on October 6, 2017 at the National 4-H Center in Chevy, Chase, Maryland.

Elsie’s dedication to the Connecticut 4-H program began 65 years ago as a 4-H member in Hartford County. She participated in a variety of animal projects along with clothing and dress revue and has fond memories of showing the Grand Champion steer at the Hartford County 4-H Fair as well as showing two steers at the Eastern States Exposition.

She began volunteering for 4-H in 1955 where she was active on many Hartford County committees planning Favorite Foods shows, Clothing Revues, awards programs and interstate exchanges as well as many statewide activities. She was also the leader of five separate 4-H clubs teaching life skills to hundreds of local youth in the areas of horse, livestock, home arts and leadership. She has been active with the Hartford County 4-H Fair for over 30 years, serving as advisor and assisting with countless “behind the scenes” activities such as putting the premium book together and helping with fair banquets and ad campaigns. Elsie has received the Connecticut 4-H Alumni Award and the Connecticut 4-H Leadership Award. In 1970 her family which includes her husband, Dick (now deceased) and four children received the Hartford County Honor 4-H Family Award illustrating the entire family’s dedication to 4-H.

Elsie is most well known for her work with the Hartford County 4-H Camp in Marlborough, CT. She and her husband, Dick, were part of a group of dedicated volunteers who spearheaded the purchase of land in Marlborough, CT for a 4-H camp, raising $175,000 to build it. She and Dick played a key role in the camp construction at the 75-acre site. The camp opened in 1966 and it is here that Elsie has dedicated her time and energy to providing memorable overnight camping experiences to thousands of children both at home and abroad. Elsie has easily impacted the lives of over 55,000 youth and counselors through the Hartford County 4-H Camp. When the camp opened she began as a volunteer staff member and then moved into the role of Camp Director, a role she served in until 1994. Elsie continues to be involved in all aspects of the camp’s operation and mentors the staff and directors providing them with guidance and confidence.

When the 4-H camp’s 5,000 square foot dining hall/activity center collapsed in February, 2011, Elsie was involved in every aspect of the Baldwin Hall rebuild project offering historical, logistical and practical insight. This was critical to the effort to have the building up and operational in time for the 2011 camping season in June. Elsie has been instrumental in growing the camp’s endowment as well as expanding the camp property from 75 to 100 acres. She is dedicated to providing financial assistance to youth who cannot afford to attend 4-H camp and in bringing inner-city youth to the camp as well. If these underserved youth do not have a ride to camp, Elsie goes into the city to get them. The Hartford County 4-H Camp has close to a 100 percent fill rate every summer with a wait list for many of the weekly sessions.

At the age of 80, Elsie shows no signs of slowing down. She continues to serve the South Windsor community where she has lived most of her life, and has received awards for her service.   Of her 4-H experience she states, “My relationship with 4-H began as a young teen. Little did I know that over my lifetime local, state and national 4-H events would help create lasting friendships with generations of families that included staff from at least a dozen foreign countries. Teaching, demonstrating, solving problems, and chaperoning were a huge part of working with all 4-Hers.”

2017 UConn PEP Graduates

Enfield graduates

Photo: Cathleen Love

The University of Connecticut People Empowering People program (UConn PEP) is a personal, family and leadership development program that began in 1996, and is through the Extension program in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Empowerment is a way that individuals and social groups express their needs, present their concerns, and devise strategies for involvement in decision-making. UConn PEP helps participants to understand empowerment as a social process that can help them gain control over their own lives. The focus is on empowerment as a process that fosters power (i.e., capacity to implement) in people for use in their own lives, in their communities, and in their society, acting on issues that they define as important. The outgrowth of these experiences is the development of self-confidence and self-esteem, as well as more tangible results such as building skills in problem solving and decision-making, developing relationships, and a broadened experience. Participants in UConn PEP begin to see themselves as powerful rather than powerless. UConn PEP opens to participants the recognition of their own values and beliefs and encouragement to express their own issues as they define them. The focus is on the connection between individual action and community action, encouraging individual change through training sessions and discussions, and supporting community action through participants’ efforts to change their community for the better. While we cannot give people power and we cannot make them empowered, we can provide the opportunities, resources, and support that they need to empower themselves.

In 2016, UConn PEP celebrated 20 years of offering the program in partnership with communities throughout Connecticut. The program is also being offered in Miami, Florida and other states such as Vermont and New Hampshire have sent professionals to be trained to deliver the program in their states. In the 2016-2017 academic year, twenty-two cycles of UConn PEP were offered through the following community agencies:

Middletown Schools

New London Youth Services

United Way and Plymouth Family Resource Center

East Hartford Public Schools – 2 cycles

Family Life Education in Hartford – 2 cycles

The Bridge Family Center

CREC – 2 cycles

Families Network of Western CT

Northeast Early Childhood Council

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Hartford – 2 cycles

Stamford Public Education Foundation – 2 cyles

AFCAMP

Manchester Public Schools

Human Services Council of Enfield – 4 cycles

Meriden School District – 2 cycles

Wethersfield Early Childhood Collaborative

Funding for these programs came from the Parent Trust Fund, the Graustein Memorial Fund, the Liberty Bank Foundation, and the Nellie Mae Foundation. The programs were offered in English, Spanish and Arabic.

The contributions made by these UConn PEP programs to their communities are based on the interests of the participants. In Wethersfield for example, participants who immigrated to the U.S. from Bosnia realized that there were many families in the community from Bosnia and started a group called Bosnian Moms of Wethersfield. Enfield brought together families from different cultures and shared cultural games with each other’s children. One participant translated the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) driver’s manual into Japanese for her community. Several programs collected donations for homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, and for our veterans and military serving overseas. Two UConn PEP participants worked on a manual to assist families with special needs to understand and complete the forms needed for the public schools because they realized how difficult it was for them to learn the processes for their children.

When asked how UConn PEP has helped them, participants shared comments such as:

  • I am feeling self-confident and feeling more a part of my community.
  • Treat others as you want to be treated.
  • Be mindful.
  • I want to continue to learn and serve the community.
  • Our facilitators allowed us to be who we are. We didn’t have to pretend.
  • I feel empowered to improve myself as a single mother and how to be a positive team leader in my community.
  • The program has been a godsend for me. It allowed me to pause and do something positive for myself and for my community. It gently took me out of my comfort zone and gave me the confidence to push myself to do something I have wanted to do in my life.
  • I was finally able to find gateways and connections in the community to be able to be more helpful in the community.

Tackling Turfgrass

Article by Stacey Stearns

Steve turf talk

Photo: UConn CAHNR

Turfgrass is often overlooked by residents – but is one of the most abundant crops in the state, and an important part of Connecticut’s economic engine. Direct sales from the turfgrass industry are around $2.5 billion, with a total economic impact of $2.9 billion. Lawn care services are the largest turfgrass sector in the state, followed by golf courses, and lawn care retailing[1].

UConn’s turfgrass team includes Vickie Wallace from the Department of Extension and Karl Guillard, Jason Henderson, John Inguagiato, Ana Legrand, Tom Morris, and Steve Rackliffe from the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. A multi-faceted approach to current turfgrass issues is part of their overall goal of improving sustainability, reducing inputs, and addressing restrictions.

There is no one size fits all model for turfgrass management. The unique challenges associated with managing athletic fields are very different than managing golf courses or lawns at private homes. Various uses, along with the intense wear turfgrass receives dictate best management practices. Further complicating the situation is the variety of information regarding pesticide-free and/or organic management available to turf managers, much of it anecdotal, and not science-based.

In 2010, the state banned all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered lawn care pesticides on athletic fields at public and private schools with pre-kindergarten through 8th grade students. Connecticut and New York are the only states in the country with the pesticide ban. Research and outreach education done by UConn’s team is critically important, and on a national stage.

“The concern regarding this restrictive legislation goes well beyond aesthetics and can negatively impact playing surface safety,” Associate Professor Jason Henderson mentions. “We need to keep fields safe for use – and to reach that goal, controlling insects and weeds is important. Misinformation also increases risks of nitrogen and phosphorus overuse becoming an environmental issue.”

Educational programming designed by Extension faculty is multifaceted, utilizing research and demonstration to address misinformation, and providing turfgrass managers with science-based solutions and best management practices. The EPA and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection are funding field research evaluating several different management regimes over time.

The eight management strategies being tested include organic low, organic high, pesticide-free low, pesticide-free high, integrated pest management (IPM), integrated systems management (ISM), calendar-based, and a mow-only control. These management regimes are being evaluated on a plot area managed as a home lawn as well as an area managed as an athletic field.

“These research plots will help identify strengths and weaknesses for each of the management regimes as well as provide a demonstration area for education, and to correct misinformation turf managers receive,” Jason says. “These results will help improve our current recommendations to keep fields as safe as possible for the end user when managed without the use of pesticides.”

“Looking at management strategies over time will show us differences, and allow a potential cost analysis to be prepared for each management strategy,” says Associate Extension Educator Vickie Wallace. “Heading into the fourth year of the trials, you can see differences in how the plots are managed, and it can translate to landscapes and athletic fields.” A full report will be published after research concludes in April 2018.

A complicating factor to pesticide-free management is the fact that many of the athletic fields that fall under the pesticide ban do not have irrigation. Another project is currently underway to improve overseeding recommendations for non-irrigated sports fields. A new multi-state overseeding project evaluating three species, two cultivars, and multiple overseeding rates began in 2016. The New England Regional Turfgrass Foundation and the New England Sports Turf Managers Association sponsor the project.

Research on these plots is unique in that it’s occurring on actual fields in use and not at a research facility. Three fields were selected at three separate locations based on the high intensity of traffic they receive. Treatments were initiated in September 2016 and overseeding will be repeated in the spring and fall of 2017.

“While certainly different from athletic fields, backyards are also subject to wear and tear, and there may be parallels with care recommendations,” Vickie says.

Another complementary research study led by Henderson and Assistant Professor John Inguagiato is quantifying the amount of dislodgeable foliar pesticide residue remaining following a pesticide application. The study is evaluating four different commonly used active ingredients for weed control on sports fields. The results of this research can help improve recommendations for minimizing potential exposure risks, and help lawmakers make science-based decisions concerning future legislation.

In addition to the field research and demonstrations, a smart phone app is being released later this year for Apple and Android that will help turf managers and homeowners select the correct fertilizer, and purchase the proper amount. Videos in the app demonstrate fertilizer spreader calibration and application techniques.

Extension outreach is an important component of research at a land-grant institution. The biannual Turf Field Day is held in even years at the Research Farm, and draws a crowd of over 300, including 40 commercial exhibitors from all over New England.

In March 2017 the team hosted a sports turf workshop at UConn. Future workshops are being developed as research continues and needs of turfgrass managers evolve. One thing is certain; the UConn Extension team will continue to meet the demands and challenges of the diverse industry.

[1] UConn Extension. Economic Impact of the Turf Industry in Connecticut. (2015). Retrieved January 17, 2017 at http://extension.uconn.edu

Tools for Healthy Living Receives National 4-H Award

student in garden

A youth member at Auerfarm.

The purpose of the Excellence in Urban 4-H Programming Award is to recognize outstanding efforts by members in urban programming and to strengthen the commitment to urban programming curriculum. The National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Member Recognition Committee selected the Tools for Healthy Living program as the national award winner for the competition. This afterschool program, a group effort by Extension Educators Jennifer Cushman, Mary Margaret Gaudio, Sharon Gray and Miriah Kelly, teaches fourth to sixth grade youth in Hartford and New Britain about healthy homes. The recognition ceremony is on November 16, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Since 2012, this curriculum has been taught at sixteen 4-H afterschool programs in Hartford and New Britain reaching approximately 430 urban youth. Over a two-year period, an additional 171 urban youth have also been funded through this program at the Auerfarm summer programs. This project is interdisciplinary, involving 4-H, nutrition, and technology specialists to achieve project goals. In addition, collaborations with afterschool project sites provided strong partnerships to deliver the program to youth and build an urban 4-H presence in these communities.

Through this program, youths in grades 4-6 learn the principles of a healthy home: it is clean, dry, safe, free of pests and dangerous chemicals, in good repair, and with fresh air. A series of 11 weekly lessons helps them to understand the effects of problems such as lead poisoning, asthma, mold and moisture, pests, environmental tobacco smoke, and clutter, as well as to develop strategies they and their families can use to reduce or eliminate these problems. Youths also explore the four key rules of food safety: clean, separate, cook, and chill. A final component of the curriculum is a lesson on self-advocacy skills, helping youths to become agents for positive change in their homes, schools, and larger communities. A long-term project to be completed by youths further encourages them to share what they have learned.

Each lesson focuses on simple strategies youth can do to reduce their environmental risks, improve their health, and build upon previous lesson. Pre/post evaluations, and observations are conducted to measure gains in youth awareness and gauge impact. Pre/post evaluations are conducted in two modules: lessons 1-5 and lessons 6-11. The 4-H Common Measures in Technology are also assessed pre/post. Evaluation results show increased awareness of environmental risks such as mold, asthma, smoking, lead and food safety. Youth are able to demonstrate simple strategies to minimize these risks, such as proper hand washing, using food thermometers to cook meat to the correct temperature and avoiding asthma triggers. The impact of this is for youth to gain awareness of environmental risks and to utilize simple strategies to minimize risks in their home environment. Sharing this information with their families and the wider community helps the urban community as a whole. Newsletters on each topic covered are sent home weekly to share with their families or caregivers. The significance of this project is to develop educational material and delivery models to reach urban youth in this subject area that can be replicated in other urban communities. This program is part of an effort to bring 4-H to urban youth and communities as part of the existing Hartford County 4-H Programming.

This material is based upon the work of CYRFAR SCP Tools for Healthy Living, a project supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, United States (U.S.) Department of Agriculture, through a cooperative agreement with University of Connecticut under award number CONS-2012-00633.

Tools for Healthy Living is now a national 4-H curriculum, and a Healthy Homes Investigation Game was developed as an App. To purchase the curriculum go to http://bit.ly/2txWYWx. For more information on healthy homes for children and adults visit http://www.hec.uconn.edu.