Month: January 2014

Dr. Carl Salsedo on the Search for Sustainability

Salsedo copyEver smell a tomato plant? Dr. Carl Salsedo did, and it changed his life. He was three at the time, visiting a greenhouse in Thomaston with his father. One whiff of that singular scent launched a lifetime love affair with plants, gardening, and the interwoven mysteries of the natural world. At six, Salsedo had his own garden. By age 12, he was working at Bristol Nurseries, the world’s epicenter for modern mums. It’s been onward and upward since then.

 

Not so long after he moved to his hilltop home in Burlington in 1977, he was gardening sustainably before it was even a recognized concept, exploring the warp and weft of nature’s networks. That meant, in the most simple terms, using mostly native plants while at the same time minimizing maintenance and inputs such as fertilizer, water, etc. One of the key elements was selecting plants adapted to his site and its varied microclimates. “The plants are all boilerplate,” he says. “Low maintenance, conifers, perennials and broadleaf stuff you can’t miss with. Easy.”

 

But just because it’s sustainable doesn’t mean it’s ugly. Salsedo’s garden has been open to visitors as part of the national Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program for nearly a decade.

 

Sustainability means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but Salsedo boiled the concept down to its essence by identifying what he believes are five basic tenets: development of a sustainable lawn (one that doesn’t rely on chemicals and nutritional additives and in which weeds are okay); use of native plants, not exclusively, but primarily; fostering a healthy environment; creating a biodiverse landscape, and practicing good ecology. “If you do one thing, recycle your leaves and your grass clippings,” he says. As much as 100 yards of fallen leaves are used as winter compost in Salsedo’s gardens.

 

It’s all about gardening with nature, which also happens to be the name of a CPTV series Salsedo hosted about a decade ago.

 

“What I advocate is stuff everybody can do,” he says. “It’s the democratization of the landscape.”

 

And Salsedo can do lots of advocating in his position as Extension Educator-Sustainable and Environmental Horticulture with UConn Extension. He is based in the Hartford County office and his responsibilities include developing sustainable landscaping programs and publications, and teaching the Fundamentals of Horticulture course at the West Hartford campus.

 

In addition, Salsedo completed a series for Connecticut Public Television entitled “Gardening with Nature,” that promoted sustainable practices within the suburban landscape. These vignettes are still broadcast throughout the year and the series has found a new home on the web and has been greatly expanded by Salsedo and Connecticut Public Television (available at www.cptv.org – keyword gardening).

 

Another of Salsedo’s most enduring research interests is exploring how people connect to nature through gardening and what makes us garden in the first place. He shared his findings in a book entitled “Gardening: Cultivating an Enduring Relationship with Nature” published in 2010.

 

Perhaps the seed of that interest was planted back when Salsedo was installing a swimming pool at his Burlington home. He hired a guy with an earth-moving excavator who, Salsedo says, happened to be a genius. Months later, Salsedo’s sloping hillside yard had been transformed into a staircase of terraced beds. The new topography just seemed to Salsedo a natural thing to do. He never wondered why. At least not until he visited his grandfather’s home on a tiny volcanic island not far from Sicily. There, all the land was terraced, the whole island. “So why did I terrace my hillsides?” he asks. Maybe it’s genetic.

 

And so too, there may be a genetic component to Salsedo’s desire to work in harmony with nature. If that’s the case, that desire may lie latent in all our genes, waiting to be rediscovered.

 

Originally published in the October 2013 issue of the Connecticut Horticultural Society newsletter.

New Greenhouse Pest Guide Web App

Pest app

 

http://tiny.cc/greenhousepestguide

 

Try our new mobile optimized website app for commercial growers that contains options for biological control and pesticides for management of insect and mite pests common in commercial greenhouse production.  This app can be used on your computer, smart phone or other electronic device.

 

This was a cooperative project between Leanne Pundt of UConn’s IPM program and Tina Smith, Project Leader, Extension Floriculture Specialist for the University of Massachusetts Greenhouse Crops and Floriculture Program.

Recent PEP Graduates

UConn Extension’s People Empowering People (PEP) Program held a facilitator training led by Robin Drago in December.  Participants came from Hartford, Danbury, New Haven, Coventry, New London and Mansfield and will offer UConn PEP for parents in those communities.  UConn PEP is a personal and family development training with a strong community focus. Our most recent graduates will facilitate the  UConn PEP program and work with parents to build upon their individual life experiences and strengths to encourage growth in communication and problem solving skills, parent/family relationships and community involvement. Congratulations!

PEP 2013(2) PEP 2013

4-H FANs IM Success Stories

4-H FANs logoConnecticut Fitness and Nutrition Clubs In Motion (CT FANs IM), is a 4-H Afterschool program designed to reduce obesity rates in children ages 9 to 14, through sustainable interventions surrounding food and fitness. The program is a collaboration between the UConn Extension, and the Department of Kinesiology. CT FANs IM, was modeled after the original 4-H FANs Fitness and Nutrition Clubs, a USDA Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) Program. Here are some of their recent success stories.

 

Teen Mentor Gains Real World Experience

 

NajeiaNajeia served as a 4-H FANs teen mentor during the summer of 2010 and 2011. She is currently a senior at Tufts University, majoring in community health and American studies, with a minor in sociology.

 

“I really enjoyed working with the youth in the 4-H FANs program,” Najeia says. “I applied for the program through Youth@Work, and I was thankful to be matched with a health promotion program. It was helpful to me, as it provided a real world experience, and allowed me to take a leadership role while learning many new skills.”

 

Originally, Najeia was interested in becoming a physician, but through her studies, she has focused on public health. Upon graduation, she plans to work in the field for a few years before pursuing a Master’s degree in public health. She hopes to become a director in a community health organization, where she plans to focus on promoting health equity; in particular, breaking down social barriers that are targeted at marginalized communities.

 

“I’d like to work with kids in some capacity when I’m in the field,” Najeia says. “As a public health professional, I would like to initiate programs for youth and follow the 4-H FANs model, where youth disseminate health promotion information within the community.”

 

Najeia is quick to point out that while being a 4-H FANs teen mentor was a good experience, she also had a lot of fun. “I really enjoyed my time there. Particularly when we introduced dance to the kids as a way to exercise. They loved it. Especially the cha cha slide!”

 

4-H FANs IM Summer Garden

 

FANs gardenGrowing vegetables was a big hit with the students participating in the 4-H FANs IM Summer Program at Roger Sherman School. Amy Sandoval, UConn Extension Public Service Specialist notes, “Youth were so excited when they noticed veggies growing. They would say, ‘Oh, my babies, they are growing!'”

 

Teen Mentor Attends UConn

 

Fontaine joined the New Haven 4-H FANs program during the summer leading into her junior year of high school. She continued working as a teen facilitator throughout her junior and senior year.

 

“I love working with kids,” Fontaine says. “Our mission was to make students aware of what they were eating, and encourage them to get moving and become more physically fit. The program also made me more conscious of how I was eating. I felt that as a role model, I had to lead by example.”

 

“Just to hear a child say, ‘I ate an apple today or I played outside,’ made me realize that my job meant something. It gave me a sense of fulfillment that I was doing something to benefit someone else.”

 

Fontaine grew up in the New Haven area, and was surprised to discover that 4-H programs existed in urban areas. As a teen facilitator with the 4-H FANs program, Fontaine attended the 4-H conference in Washington, D.C., a trip that Fontaine says gave her an opportunity to travel from home, and experience a completely different environment.

 

Currently, Fontaine is a student at UConn majoring in political science. She hopes one day to become an attorney. “I know I have a long way to go, but in due time, I will get there.”

New York Produce Show

Thank you to Jim Prevor for inviting UConn College of Agriculture and Natural Resources faculty and students to the New York Produce Show and Conference. The Conference was sponsored by Produce Business and the Eastern Produce Council. UConn students attended the trade show, a career session, and toured Hunts Point Produce Market and urban agriculture in Brooklyn.

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Simple Tips for a Healthier New Year

By Brenda Anderson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

 

Try one or all of these easy tips in the coming year – every small change is a step in the right direction.

Switch to fat-free or low-fat dairy foods. They have the same essential nutrients as whole milk with less fat and calories. Drink a cup of low-fat milk with meals and be aware that cream cheese and butter are not part of the dairy food group.

Enjoy your food but eat less. Use 9-inch diameter plates at home to control portion sizes or share an entree when dining out. Take your time at meals, paying attention to textures, flavors and your feelings of fullness.

Idaho food pic
Photo: Idaho Extension

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. They are low in fat and calories and full of healthy vitamins, minerals and fiber. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season for best quality or keep dried, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables on hand so that you always have plenty no matter the season. Have fruit for dessert and raw vegetables for snacks.

Cut back on foods high in solid fats and added sugars, like cake, cookies, ice cream and candy. These foods should be occasional treats savored in smaller portion sizes.

Take in more whole grains. As part of a healthy diet, whole grains can help reduce the risk of some chronic diseases. Exchange refined grain products for whole grain products like brown rice or whole grain pasta. When baking, substitute whole grain flour for up to half of the flour called for in your recipes. Check ingredient lists for the words “whole” or “whole grain” before the grain ingredient name.

Select lower sodium foods. Sodium raises blood pressure and 75 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed foods (canned, packaged, frozen foods, etc.). Compare nutrition facts labels and choose products that are lower in sodium or cook fresh foods at home and opt for a no-salt seasoning mix for more flavor.

Swap your soda for a healthier beverage. Soda and other sweet drinks contain a lot of sugar that add to calorie intake. Drink water or low-fat milk instead or cut down by selecting smaller cans or cup sizes rather than super-sized options.

When it comes to protein foods, purchase leaner cuts of meat, remove skin from poultry, adjust to smaller portions and remember that beans, peas, nuts and seeds are also protein foods. Eat seafood in place of meat or poultry twice a week and grill or bake meats for less fat.

Keep in mind that your children learn from you, so become a good role model. Set the example for your children by serving a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods every day. Encourage children to try new foods and to create fun snacks for the whole family. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, get physically active by joining in when your children are playing.

Source: 10 Tips Nutrition Education Series at ChooseMyPlate.gov

Horsin’ In Stride

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On December 7th the UConn Extension State 4-H Horse program hosted the Horsin’ In Stride workshop at the Storrs Campus for 4-H members and adults. This is the eighth year the event has taken place. Dr. Jenifer Nadeau and Emily McCabe Alger worked with the State 4-H Horse Advisory Committee to plan and implement the event.  Workshop teachers included undergraduate students from UConn’s Equine Science program, UConn’s Animal Science faculty, and 4-H staff.

 

Kristen Greenwood presented a workshop that keyed in on visual identification of horses through observation of colors and markings. Participants learned color and marking terminology as well as how to communicate visual identification to another person. Sarah Heitzman presented a critically valuable program teaching form-to-function evaluation when selecting an equine for purchase. She also reviewed important information and questions to ask as a prospective buyer.  Stephanie Watko presented a workout video designed to teach riders how to increase their balance and fitness level with a concentration on the core muscle groups. A disease workshop was presented by Jen Solter, and taught participants about the signs and symptoms of equine diseases and treatment. Breed Bingo was a fun, family friendly, and inventive workshop presented by Rachel Perkins. The game tested participants’ breed knowledge and taught them fun facts about various breeds of horses. Jessica Barry did a session on horse judging, covering what judges are looking for in the show pen. She also gave participants tips on how to better critically evaluate your own horse and rider performance. Emily and Dr. Nadeau orchestrated the holiday ornament session, where participants learned to engineer a horse ornament that will withstand the test of multiple holidays. Participants also interacted with Dr. Nadeau who happily answered many questions about the UConn Equine Science program.

 

Participants from New London, Tolland, Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex and New Haven Counties attended Horsin’ In Stride, and workshops were given in four time slots.  Thanks to all of those who attended and we commend the great job done by the undergraduate presenters. Bravo.

 

 

 

Emily McCabe Alger

 

4-H Program Coordinator