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The First HardCORE CT Apple Challenge

The First HardCORE CT Apple Challenge with Put Local On Your Tray!

hardcore apple challengeOctober is special for a few reasons. Everyone is getting back in the swing of things at school, the foliage outstanding, and the many varieties of delicious crisp apples are ripening atop trees in orchards across the state. The combination makes a perfect time of year to celebrate National Farm to School Month, CT Grown for CT Kids Week, and a new campaign known as the HardCORE CT Apple Challenge  coordinated by Put Local On Your Tray to celebrate CT grown products, and continuously encourage the importance and connectivity of food education. Put Local on Your Tray is a collaborative Farm to School project that assists interested Connecticut school districts to serve, educate, and celebrate regionally grown produce.

The campaign coordinated by Put Local On Your Tray was made public to anyone who wanted to participate and utilize the resources. All schools and school districts in Connecticut were encouraged to participate by sourcing local apples during the month of October, and placing signage so students and staff know where they came from. For students to take the challenge, there were three ways to participate. First, you could eat a CT Grown apple all the way down to it’s core. Second, you could try two different types of CT Grown apples and compare tastes. Third, you could take a trip to a local apple orchard to see how they really grow. Or even better, all three!

On the ground, with reports from our partners at FoodCorps Connecticut, there were so many different ways CT kids celebrated the HardCORE CT Apple Challenge. There was New Britain’s Gaffney Elementary Garden Club students challenging each other to see who could eat a local apple from Belltown Orchards in South Glastonbury totally down to the core, after learning all about the importance of seeds. At Meriden public schools, students enjoyed a special afternoon comparing the tastes of Fuji and Paula Red apples and voted at lunch what they liked best, realizing that not all apples are exactly the same. There was a field trip taken to Auerfarm in Bloomfield with Breakthrough Magnet School in Hartford, where students had the opportunity to pick and taste some of the apples grown right there on the farm, solidifying their understanding of how exactly apples come to be. Overall, there is a newfound appreciation going around in our schools for an idyllic CT crop – the apple.

There was lots of support from many partner organizations including the Connecticut Farm to School Collaborative, who helped create the concept of the campaign. The Collaborative consists of a group of nonprofit and state-agency representatives working to advance farm to school at the state level through policy, communications, and programming. The CT Apple Marketing Board, the USDA, and FoodCorps Connecticut all promoted the HardCORE Apple Campaign, with the promotion excitingly gaining national recognition in the USDA online newsletter, The Dirt, as something to look check out for the month of October.

Mike Koch, Food Service Director for New Britain Public Schools, is pleased to have the materials provided by the Local Tray Program. “We appreciate the efforts of the various groups that assist us with marketing and promotions of our locally sourced products. UConn Extension and FoodCorps have been integral partners to promote activities such as taste tests and local produce celebrations. We have been able to get students to try and appreciate new and different foods, and to step outside of their comfort zone. When we did an applesauce taste test using apples grown from Belltown Orchards in Glastonbury, the students began to realize this is food grown close to their neighborhood. When they make this connection, everyone wins; the student, the food service department, the school district, and the farm.”

Mike is just one of the Food Service Directors who has signed up to take the local pledge for his district this year. There are currently 30 districts that signed up so far to participate in the Put Local on Your Tray Program for the 2017-18 school year all over the state. The program is open to any interested school district, charter school, or private school. Go online to sign up to take the pledge to have at least one local Tray day this year. Sign up today if your school hasn’t already! We are gaining momentum and have many developments in store for this year, including two new poster designs to be released online soon! For more information after this date, please contact molly.putlocalonyourtray@gmail.com.

To stay informed with what is happening with the Tray project yourself, you can sign up for our monthly newsletter. You can also Like us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram @putlocalonyourtray. 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).

Keep on crunching, Connecticut!

Nutrition Education in Windham County

By Dianisi Torres

dried apple

Photo: National Center for Home Food Preservation

This has been an exceptionally busy year for Nutrition Education. In addition to the EFNEP (Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program) being held at public schools and libraries including Windham, Moosup, Putnam, North Grosvenor Dale, and Killingly, the SNAP Ed program offers nutrition assistance to millions of low income families in need. The EFNEP educator works in collaboration with non-profit organizations as Cooking Matters offering nutrition and cooking workshops for adults which is taught in Spanish and English. Another non-profit program is CLiCK, Inc. located in Willimantic. EFNEP collaborates every year with CLiCK offering summer programs for children, youth and adult cooking classes using fresh vegetables from the CLiCK community garden that the Willimantic students have grown. We hope to offer even more programs in the coming year. For more information, contact Dianisi Torres at: dianisi.torres@uconn.edu

Windham Master Gardener Program

By John Lorusso

FANs gardenWe have had a great year educating our new crop of Master Gardeners in Brooklyn this year. The group began classes in the dead of winter in January and have been diligently working on their plant identification and diagnostic abilities all summer. In addition to those actions, they have been very busy fulfilling the outreach requirements at incredibly worthwhile, important, and noteworthy projects in the community.

A partial listing of some of those community outreach projects: the Palmer Arboretum in Wood­ stock, People’s Harvest  Sustainable Community Farm in Pomfret, Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, Goodwin State Forest & Conservation Center in Hampton, Camp Quinebaug Rainbow Garden in Danielson, CT Children’s Hospital in Hartford, Dennison Pequot-Sepos Nature Center in Mystic, Camp Harkness in Waterford, the Belding Butterfly Garden in Tolland, the Emerald Ash Borer Surveillance Program of the CT. Ag Experiment Station, and Natchaug Hospital courtyard gardens. Over 2200 hours have been logged by our Master Gardeners and interns at these crucial programs in the community.

We have exhibited and engaged the public this year at The Woodstock Fair, Willimantic’s third Thursday street festivals, The Killingly Great Tomato Festival, Children’s programming at the Sterling Library, and Celebrating Agriculture.

Upcoming events this fall and winter to include Garden Master Classes on growing giant pumpkins, evergreen identification and wreath making, and beginning floral design and miniature boxwood tree holiday arrangement. We also hope to organize a few movie nights in partnership with the Connecticut Master Gardener Association. We are tentatively scheduled for late Octobe1 to show Hometown Habitat, Stories of Bringing Nature Home, a 90-minute environmental, education documentary focused on showing how and why native plants are critical to the survival and vitality of local ecosystems.

Next year’s Master Gardener class will be held in Tolland county, with the class returning to Brooklyn in 2019.

If you or someone you know is interested in taking the class, or any of the other opportunities listed in this article, please feel free to contact John Lorusso at john.lorusso@uconn.edu.

Windham County 4-H Providing New Opportunities for Young People

By Marc Cournoyer

eating strawberry

Photo: Amy Walker

Though traditional 4-H interest areas continue to thrive, additional audiences have been reached with the introduction of imaginative new programs.

The last year has seen continued expansion in the areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education with the success of the Saturday Science Club, a home school based STEM club in the Chaplin area, along with several afterschool and short-term special interest programs and events. 4-H continues to work with various com­munity partners such as home school families, EASTCONN, the Thompson Recreation Department, Killingly Public Library, and Griswold Youth & Family Services to name just a few. This year also saw a partnership between 4-H and the Windham Middle School.

4-H members are being challenged to think critically and innovatively in a host of areas. They learn concrete skills such as engineering, technology and math along with skills that help them navigate any area of life such as working in collaboration with others and creative problem solving. The three mission mandates of 4-H -Healthy Living, STEM Education and Citizenship/Leadership development – continue to serve as the foundation of everything 4-H does. Teaching tools such as LEGOs and iPads are being used in Windham County to enhance learning.

There is an entire population of young people in Windham County who are not looking for a traditional agricultural based 4-H experience but are still very hungry for a program that teaches them practical skills they can use in their everyday lives.

These new programs are helping to reach that audience with meaningful programming that is helping to equip them with skills to actively address the issues that face our world in the coming years.

4-H also continues to be an important outreach for those youth interested in more traditional program models. Here we have also seen a growth and expansion of our programs and club participation.

Together, these programs are reaching several hundred youth throughout Windham County.

For more information about 4-H in Windham County, contact 4-H Program Coordinator, Marc Cournoyer at: marc.cournoyer@uconn.edu

Biosecurity Workshop Provides Healthy Discussion

By Joyce Meader

dairy barn

Mary Margaret Cole at the Kellogg Dairy Barn on Jan. 16, 2014. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

How would a dairy or livestock business survive if a Foreign Animal Disease arrived in the United States? Using Foot and Mouth Disease as an example, participants of this week’s Biosecurity Work­ shop heard from Dr. Richard Horowitz about the New England Secure Milk Supply’s steps to maintain a permit to ship milk when the disease has not reached your farm. These included: secure the perimeter, clean and disinfect sources of the virus, and daily monitor for the disease.

Dr. Cantor, New England Emergency Coordinator for USDA APHIS, related the threat that other countries have experienced and how a two-week delay in notification increased the severity of the control measures drastically. It is not, IF, but WHEN the disease is transported into our country again. The last occurrence was in 1929 in San Francisco, but world travel by farm visitors and importation of animals is so much more common now.

Dr. Andrew, UConn Dairy Specialist, presented the map of the UConn dairy and livestock barns, and the many visitors and vehicles travel between barns and from the community. The group provided their recommendations for the Line of Separation to establish the safe zone on the farm, and the outside to keep out sources of infection.

And finally, Dr. Lis, CT Department of Agriculture, requested that all dairy farms submit a self-assessment to her of their farm readiness to remain disease free in the case of an outbreak. Knowing the commitment of each farm to disease prevention will help in the decision to allow milk pick up during the outbreak. The farmers and staff from the University, State Departments of Agriculture, and USDA APHIS left the workshop ready to continue this discussion at local farm meetings, more aware of the challenges that will be faced by our important food producers and government decision makers when a foreign animal disease arrived uninvited.

For more information, contact Joyce.Meader@uconn.edu.

Are You Storm Ready?

By Karen Filchak

Jonathan looking at leafBeing storm-ready means advance planning and preparation in the event of power outages, evacuations or property damage. Many in Connecticut have assembled a “Go Pack”, “Bug-Out Bag” or some other type of emergency grab and go bag that can be easily accessed in the event of a power out­ age or the need to evacuate your residence. These are important resources to have at the ready should you need them in an emergency. In addition to the items that will help sustain you in the short term, such as food, water, clothing, flashlights, etc., financial and household information and legal documents can be essential following a natural disaster.

Knowing your bank account numbers, having insurance policies and contact information, and having property records is just some of the important information that you should have with you should your home or other property be damaged or you be displaced for a period of time.

The University of Connecticut & University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension received a two-year National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grant to work to prepare communities and their residents for the impacts of hurricanes and flooding.  There are six members* on the University of Connecticut team which is working with four Coastal towns.  The towns are East Lyme, Old Lyme, Stonington and military families with the Navy base in Groton.

Among the goals of the project are to: Compile resources for individuals, families, businesses and-­ communities so they can design personalized emergency plans and be prepared for major storm events such as   hurricanes and nor’easters, as well as information on adaptation strategies to reduce their risk or exposure in the future; develop an inclusive preparedness plan template for  issues such as personal safety, health and community evacuation, finances and important papers, food and medicine, preparing and securing your house­ hold interior and exterior, and barn structure/pet/ livestock/crop safety resources; market resource information; and support the agricultural community through review of existing and planned dairy and livestock barns for storm preparedness.

In addition to the grant, UConn Extension has a website, the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) which is part of the larger national EDEN effort. To learn more about how to prepare, visit http://www.eden.uconn.edu

*M. Welch, J. Barrette, K. Filchak, F. Griffiths­ Smith, D. Hirsch, J. Meader, R. Ricard.

Deadline Extended for Master Gardener Program Applications

working in garden

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

Do you love gardening? Are you interested in expanding your knowledge and sharing that knowledge with others? Applications for the 2018 Master Gardener Program through UConn Extension are now due by Friday, November 17. Master Gardener interns receive horticultural training from UConn, and then share knowledge with the public through community volunteering and educational outreach efforts.

The 2018 class will introduce a hybrid course format. There will be 3-4 hours of online work before each of the weekly classes, and then a half-day course from 9 AM to 1 PM that runs for 16 weeks.

“Gardening and the study of it is something we can do our whole lives,” says Karen Linder, a 2015 graduate of the UConn Extension Master Gardener Program at the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford. “There is always something new to learn – we can get deeper into a subject. Our instructors truly brought subjects to life that I thought could not be made exciting. Who knew soil had so much going on? It has truly changed the way I think and observe the world around me. That is pretty amazing!”

The program is broad-based, intensive, and consists of 16 class sessions (online course work and a half-day class each week) beginning the week of January 8, 2018. The Master Gardener program includes over 100 hours of training and 60 hours of volunteer service. Individuals successfully completing the program will receive UConn Extension Master Gardener certification. The program fee is $425.00, and includes all needed course materials. Partial scholarships may be available, based on demonstrated financial need.

“I would recommend the UConn Master Gardener program to anyone with a serious desire to learn more about horticulture,” says Holly Maynard, who is graduating with the 2017 class in Hartford County. “There are some spectacularly engaging guest lecturers; this is not some amateur gardening club.”

Classes will be held in Torrington, Vernon, New Haven, New London, and Stamford. The postmark deadline for applications has been extended to Friday, November 17, 2017.

For more information or an application, call UConn Extension at 860-570-9023 or visit the UConn Extension Master Gardener website at: www.mastergardener.uconn.edu.

Building Communities: Brass City Harvest

UConn Extension empowers communities by building a network of awareness and knowledge. One example of this is Brass City Harvest, Inc. in Waterbury. Extension educators in our greenhouse and Master Gardener programs worked with Susan Pronovost to build the capacity of 501(c)3 organization. Susan shared her organization’s work with us

Brass City Harvest, Inc. is also supported by the City of Waterbury, the Waterbury Development Corporation, Waterbury Health Department, and various foundations and cultural groups. For more information visit: https://www.brasscityharvestwtby.org and http://extension.uconn.edu.

Issue:

Brass City Greenhouse

Brass City Greenhouse. Photo: Leslie Alexander

Brass City Harvest in Waterbury develops a local and regional food system that increases access to fresh food, creates urban farmland, speaks to the nutritional and dietary needs of the community, and provides new sales channels for farmers to sell their products.

Chronic disease and obesity rates continue to spiral upwards in Waterbury because there are so many food desert neighborhoods. Waterbury also has a very substantial amount of brownfield or at least lightly contaminated land that stand as testament to our once-proud industrial past. Repurposing this land for agricultural use is critical for public health, fresh food access, and to promoting green space in urban neighborhoods that lack it.

Connecticut’s farmers face many economic challenges; increasing sales channels through robust farmers’ market networks, wholesale opportunities, and other economic development projects that utilize agriculture as an industry and a career path are key components to addressing long term sustainability issues in the farming community and inner city communities such as Waterbury.

What has been done:

The UConn Extension Master Gardener Program gave me the skills to conduct efficient and reliable urban farming in a manner that brings great impact to the community and is reasonable in terms of business model implications. In addition to various urban agriculture programs, this organization regularly conducts trainings (seed starting and container gardening). Brass City Harvest provides consultation for new gardeners, has conducted workshops on greening the municipality and addressing food security, and regularly speaks to leadership groups from various foundations and civic organizations.

Outcomes:

The greatest outcome for Brass City Harvest and the City of Waterbury is that prior to our existence, there was never talk about green space, urban farmland, or sustainable means to address food security. In less than ten years we have developed core programs to address food security by growing and harvesting more than 12,000 lbs. of fresh food, hydroponic crops, and fresh fish that is entirely donated to emergency food providers and senior centers in Waterbury. We have engaged more than 500 individuals and households in our healthy cooking and nutrition classes. We have increased sales of fresh farm food through the utilization of public entitlements by 500%.

Impacts:

The broader social, economic civic and environmental benefits of our program to the community speak to addressing food and environmental justice issues. Much of our population lacks the economic mobility to either become more self-reliant or to leave their current housing – which is often cheaper in poorer neighborhoods – for better living conditions in more middle class neighborhoods that typically provide more services such as access to supermarkets, and also have fewer environmental issues.

As an example, one of our programs teaches emancipated minors in the school system who are either pregnant or who already have children, how to recognize and cook fresh food. Inner city youth who are on their own have no role models. There is no one to teach them the difference between an apple and a beet – they both look red. Brass City Harvest does what it can to assist young parents in making wiser nutritional decisions for themselves and their children and we show them how easy it is to have a small kitchen garden by a window or on a small patio. Understanding the audience is critical to such basic, grassroots outreach.

Intermediate and long term effects will largely be dependent upon the continued expansion of Brass City Harvest’s infrastructure and role within the community that will address some of the needs of the state’s farmers, provide fresh food in some strategic corner stores, expand urban farmland to reclaim and repurpose even more contaminated and blighted land, and establish a true food and nutrition center that combines the concepts of farm-to-table into one package that can be tailored to each specific audience.

November Lifelong Learning Classes

CLIR group

CLIR, a lifelong learning program offered in collaboration with UConn Extension, will hold the following classes in November, all in Vernon Cottage on UConn’s Depot Campus, from 1:15 to 2:45 unless otherwise noted.

Memoir Club                                                  Thursdays     10:15 – 11:45

Wed  Nov 1  The Origins of Christian Fundamentalism

Tues Nov 7  Programming Love

Wed  Nov 8 Music of the Early Baroque

Tues  Nov 14  Who Is the Buddha?  What Did He Teach?

Wed Nov 15  What Happened to Utopian Literature?

Tues  Nov 16  Statelessness and Contemporary Enslavement

Tues Nov 28  Can Voting Ever Be Fair in a Democracy?

For more information visit http://clir.uconn.edu.

Extension Educator Chet Arnold Honored

Washington, DC — Cooperative Extension (Extension), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today announced winners of their 2017 Excellence in Extension and National Excellence in Diversity Awards. NIFA and Extension have sponsored the Excellence in Extension and National Diversity awards since 1991, which will be presented at the APLU Annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on November 12, 2017.

“NIFA is proud to support the national network of Extension experts and educators through our land-grant institution partnership, said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “This collaboration brings science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers, and community members to help them grow their businesses, raise healthy families, and support their communities.”

“Citizens in the counties, parishes, boroughs, and municipalities served by Cooperative Extension professionals in every state, in the five U.S. territories, and in the District of Columbia can be proud, as I am, of those receiving these awards. These awards represent the finest examples of the many positive impacts of Cooperative Extension work in the United States,” said Fred Schlutt, Vice Provost, Extension & Outreach and Director Cooperative Extension Service, University of Alaska and Chair, Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP). ECOP is the representative leadership and governing body of Extension nationwide.

Kentucky State University’s Louie Rivers, Jr. will receive the 2017 Excellence in Extension Award – a prestigious national recognition for visionary leadership, excellence in programming, and positive impact on their community. Rivers has helped secure and manage more than $12 million in extramural funding to enhance Kentucky State University’s work with the small, limited-resource, minority, veteran and women farmers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. On average, participants of the Small Farmers Program have shown an annual increase of $5,000 in income from their farms. His leadership has impacted more than 20,000 individuals at Kentucky State University’s monthly workshop for small farmers and those new to farming.

The National Extension Diversity Award – an esteemed recognition of an Extension program or an educator for achieving and sustaining diversity and pluralism – will go to the 4-H Youth Development Educators at Oregon State University Extension Service for its “Attitudes for Success Youth Leadership Program.” Since inception in 1989, more than 9,000 Hispanic and Native American youth have participated in the “Attitudes for Success” program. Over 950 students have served as youth council officers and 270 professionals, including university and college representatives from institutions located in the northwest, have volunteered as presenters, many for multiple years. Local mentors assist the youth in leadership engagement such as running for student body officer positions or planning community events. As a result of the impact, longevity, and the availability of curriculum and evaluation tools, the program is being replicated to other states. Patricia Dawson, 4-H Youth Development Professor, will accept the award in Washington.

In addition to the national recognition, one educator from each of the five Extension regions (northeast, north central, south, west, and 1890 universities), will be recognized for excellence at the APLU Annual Meeting.

The 2017 regional Excellence in Extension awardees are:

  • 1890s Region: Misty Blue-Terry, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
  • North Central Region: Kevin Erb, Director, University of Wisconsin-Extension
  • Northeast Region: Chet Arnold, University of Connecticut

    Chet Arnold

    Photo: Hartford Courant

  • Southern Region: Damona Doye, Oklahoma State University
  • Western Region: Marsha A. Goetting, Montana State University

About Cooperative Extension

Cooperative Extension (Extension) translates science for practical applications; engages with the public by providing reliable information leading to positive action; and transforms individuals, families, communities and businesses in rural and urban areas. Extension operates through the nationwide land-grant university system and is a partnership among the federal government (through USDA-NIFA) and state and local governments. At the national level, Extension is coordinated by the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP), which is the representative leadership and governing body of Extension nationwide and works in partnership with the APLU Commission on Food, Environment and Natural Resources. See www.landgrantimpacts.org/extension and www.extension.org/ecop for more information or follow us on Twitter @Ext100Years.

About the National Institute of Food and Agriculture

NIFA’s mission is to invest in and advance agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges. NIFA’s investments in transformative science directly support the long-term prosperity and global preeminence of U.S. agriculture. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural sciences, visit www.nifa.usda.gov/Impacts, sign up for email updates, or follow us on Twitter @USDA_NIFA, #NIFAImpacts.

USDA is an equal opportunity lender, provider, and employer

About the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. With a membership of 237 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU’s agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement. Annually, member campuses enroll 4.9 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.2 million degrees, employ 1.2 million faculty and staff, and conduct $43.9 billion in university-based research.