Author: UConn Extension

Bug Out with UConn Extension

insect imageUConn Extension’s Bug Week is buzzing from July 21 to July 31 with programs for the entire family.

All ages are welcome to attend and explore the activities and events dedicated to insects and their relatives. Bug Week programs include the following:

  • Join UConn Extension faculty,  Spring Valley Student Farm staff and students for an interactive ‘”Insect Wonders at the Farm” event on Wednesday, July 31 from 10 a.m. until noon at 1327 Stafford Rd., Mansfield, CT.  Learn about our amazing and important insect friends by collecting and observing them. Activities for the whole family will include insect collecting, insect-inspired crafts, Bug-Bingo and a scavenger hunt.
  • Be our guest on Thursday, July 25 from noon until 4 p.m. at the UConn Biology/Physics building and the EEB greenhouses on the Storrs campus to tour the Biodiversity Research Collections and greenhouses.  Learn how to identify insects, view a short film, visit the Army Ant Guest exhibit and the live ant colony.  This event has something for everyone with fun giveaways and very special Dairy Bar ice cream.
  • Learn about insects and where to look for them by participating in Bug Walks at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon on Saturday, July 27 from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.  The program will three bug hunts in the butterfly/pollinator garden and the vegetable garden as well as live insect displays and part of the insect collection from the UConn Natural History Museum.
  • The Connecticut Science Center will be buzzing with programs to celebrate Bug Week from Monday, July 22 through Saturday, July 27.  Spend time in the tropical Butterfly Encounter, participate in bug-themed Live Science programming, hear a bug themed story during Story Time, and be sure to explore what is flying around the Rooftop Garden.

UConn Extension offices are located across the state and offer an array of services dedicated to educating and informing the public on innovative technology and scientific improvements. Bug Week is one example of UConn Extension’s mission in tying research to real life, by addressing insects and some of their relatives.

For more information on Bug Week, please visit our website at www.bugs.uconn.edu, email bugweek@uconn.edu or call 860-486-9228.

CEDAS Launches “Best Practices” Accreditation

CONNECTICUT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION WELCOMES CONNECTICUT MUNICIPALITIES TO SHOWCASE ‘BEST PRACTICES’ – LAUNCHES ‘BEST PRACTICES IN LAND USE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT’ ACCREDITATION

city street in Connecticut
Photo: CEDAS

The Connecticut Economic Development Association (CEDAS) is announcing the launch of the ‘Best Practices in Land Use and Economic Development’ certification to recognize Connecticut municipalities for outstanding land use practices.

In creating this program, CEDAS partnered with sponsors Eversource, UI, CNG, SCG, Pullman & Comley, and STV/DPM to present this accreditation as a strategy for sharing information on planning policies and as a catalyst for economic development in Connecticut. Collaborating partners include the Connecticut Economic Development Association, Connecticut Economic Resource Center, the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association, and UConn Extension.

The Best Practices program provides a tool for planners, economic developers, and community leaders to review their existing strategies for economic development and drives them to pursue creative, community specific practices for encouraging investment and smart planning. “This is a great opportunity for staff, commissioners, and elected officials in every community to improve their effectiveness in economic development by reviewing their existing strategies and understanding what they could improve.” said Garrett Sheehan, President of CEDAS. “We’re interested in giving communities ideas and tools for making improvements that work best for them.”

The program was designed over the past two years with significant input from economic development professionals and planners. According to Kelly Buck, CEDAS Board Member and Co-Chair of the Best Practices Committee “This program is the result of a unique collaboration including a diverse range of partners. We’ve reached out to share the idea with groups like the Connecticut Developers Forum, the Homebuilders and Remodelers Association of Connecticut, and the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association and were very interested in learning from communities presently leading the way.”

Communities who document use of established best practices will be recognized and will receive an award at the CEDAS annual meeting in October, 2019. Applications will be evaluated by a committee of each of CEDAS’ collaborating partners. To demonstrate continuous improvement, applicants may re-submit for recertification every three years and share their successful strategies as models of ‘Best Practices’ for other Connecticut communities. The program will be revised each year to reflect input from communities.

Interested communities can download the application and read more about the program at https://www.cedas.org/Resources/CT-Best-Practices-In-Land-Use-and-Economic-Development/. Applications are due on September 15, 2019. Information and questions about the program may be addressed to cedasprograms@gmail.com

The Connecticut Economic Development Association works closely with the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC) to foster economic growth in the state through its support of legislation, connect planners, policymakers, and community leaders with information on development practices and strategies, and to co-sponsor events to attract businesses and investment to Connecticut. Learn more about CEDAS at www.cedas.org.

Meet Indu Upadhyaya: Food Safety Specialist

This article was originally published on Naturally.UConn.edu

Indu
Photo: Kevin Noonan

Where did you get your degrees? I received a bachelor of veterinary science and animal husbandry (equivalent to DVM) and a master’s degree in veterinary biochemistry from Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Veterinary Education and Research in Pondicherry. I completed my PhD from UConn in animal science with a focus on food safety and microbiology. (Editor’s note: Her graduate student profile is on this blog.)

What did you do before you came to UConn? Before I joined UConn, I worked as an Assistant Professor in the School of Agriculture at Tennessee Tech University for one year. I was involved with developing a research program on poultry and fresh produce safety, including writing grants and collaborating with other faculty from various disciplines. I also taught two upper level undergraduate courses and worked on several food safety outreach and recruitment activities in Tennessee.

What will your work here at UConn focus on? I plan to work with Connecticut poultry processors and fresh produce growers to promote food safety through dissemination of relevant research findings and associated trainings. I have visited various extension offices in Connecticut and the UConn campuses to begin to learn about food safety education requirements in the state.

For the first six months, I will concentrate on training Connecticut’s growers and producers to comply with the new Produce Safety Rule (PSR), which is part of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

I will conduct other trainings, such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) training for meat and poultry producers. Connecticut does most of its training sessions in early spring and late fall, but other New England states do their trainings at different times. This provides plenty of options for growers and producers who can attend training anywhere in the region.

In addition, I understand and appreciate that this is a New England effort, therefore, I will be meeting and working alongside extension educators in the region from other states to introduce myself.

Moreover, I enjoy writing grants and would focus on applying to agencies that promote food safety outreach. I believe this would add to a strong food safety research program here at UConn.

Name one aspect of your work that you really like. I love meeting new people, talking to them and making connections. I believe its important to learn about the challenges that poultry processors, fresh produce growers, stakeholders, farmers and workers face to comply with food safety regulations.  I want to know their concerns and help find solutions to their food safety issues. I think this aspect of my role blends well with my personality.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? I have a 2-year-old daughter, and I love spending time with her. Also, I am a die-hard tennis fan, and I am glad that Flushing Meadows, NY (venue for the US Open Grand Slam) is nearby.

Maddy Hatt: National 4-H Conference Experience

4-H members in Washington DC
Left to right: Jenn Rudtke, chaperone, Samantha Smith, Christina Ciampa, Maddy Hatt, Representative Hayes’ Aide, and Olivia Hall.

National 4-H Conference

April 6-11 I was fortunate enough to be selected as part of the Connecticut delegation sent to Washington D.C. for the 2019 National 4-H Conference. I was a part of the Entrepreneurship round table and we were tasked with answering a set of questions for the United States department of labor. The challenge question tasked to us was as follows, “It is estimated that fifty percent (50%) of the U.S. workforce will be freelance workers by 2027. What is the Gig economy and what are the characteristics that make it so alluring to youth? What are the kinds of skills entrepreneurs need to be successful and in what ways is entrepreneurial, skills training taught? How important could an innovation-based entrepreneurial economy be to a rural area?” These questions were tough to answer at first but with the help of my round table, which consisted of 15 4-Hers, 14 from the United States and one boy from Saskatchewan Canada, we were able to begin answering the questions quickly and efficiently. We prepared a 30 minute presentation for select members of the United States department of labor and the presentation went very well. Many of these members have been receiving the presentations done by 4-Hers for many years now and as a group the members said our presentation was among the best they’ve ever seen. I learned a lot at this conference about leadership and it tested my public speaking skills as I met other 4-Hers from around the country and as I talked with high ranking officials., Leadership skills came into play in the planning stages of the round table discussions as we needed to put together a very large, multi-parted presentation with people we had never met before. I learned a lot from this conference as well about the industry that I want to go into.
I want to be an entrepreneur and own my own horseback riding facility when I’m older so through the topic of entrepreneurship at conference I learned a lot about what I will need to do in order to be successful in my field.

Why donors should fund these trips?

My experiences in 4-H surpass anything else I’ve done in high school or my other clubs because of the important life skills I’ve gained from these 4-H trips. I have been a part of various different clubs and sports throughout my youth, but the only thing I truly stuck with was 4-H because even at a young age I understood that in 4-H I was being taught important life skills that I would gain no where else. 4-H has taught me a lot about the importance of public speaking and being able to communicate effectively with others. From my first public speaking competition in 2015 where I was barely able to finish my presentation to placing 5th at the Eastern National 4-H Horse Contests in the Individual Presentation contest at the end of 2016, I have shown immense amounts of growth in being able to speak well. From there as I continued to work on my speaking skills I’ve made it to the Connecticut state public speaking finals four times.

Once my public speaking skills were improved through 4-H, I turned my focus to becoming a better leader which 4-H teaches so well. I worked my way up the ranks of my club to become club president for three years. From there I felt I had improved my leadership skills enough to become a superintendent of the Horse Exposition at my local 4-H fair, which is a fair entirely run by 4-Hers. I was able to implement an entirely new event at this fair from my skills learned about leading a group from my local 4-H club. I am now a ranking officer at my fair.

4-H is also a great place for kids to learn interpersonal skills and how to make friends. When you first join 4-H or go on your first national trip, it is likely you will know no one. This encourages kids to make new friends and connections and step outside of their comfort zone, possibly even for the first time. My experiences in 4-H are matched my nothing, and I truly thank the wonderful leaders and extension agents I’ve come to know for that.

Article by Maddy Hatt, UConn 4-H member

Tips from the National Institute on Aging

Tips From the National Institute on Aging

faucet with running water
Photo: Kara Bonsack

The bladder can change with age. Follow these 13 tips from the National Institute on Aging to keep your bladder healthy.

  1. Drink enough fluids, especially water. Most healthy people should try to drink six to eight, 8-ounce glasses of fluid each day. Water is the best fluid for bladder health. Ask your healthcare provider how much fluid is healthy for you.
  2. Limit alcohol and caffeine. Cutting down on alcohol and caffeinated foods and drinks—such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and most sodas—may help.
  3. Quit smoking. If you smoke, take steps to quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
  4. Avoid constipation. Eating plenty of high-fiber foods (like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits), drinking enough water, and being physically active can help prevent constipation.
  5. Keep a healthy weight. Making healthy food choices and being physically active can help you keep a healthy weight.
  6. Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help prevent bladder problems, as well as constipation. It can also help you keep a healthy weight.
  7. Do pelvic floor muscle exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, to help hold urine in the bladder. Daily exercises can strengthen these muscles, which can help keep urine from leaking when you sneeze, cough, lift, laugh, or have a sudden urge to urinate.
  8. Use the bathroom often and when needed. Try to urinate at least every 3 to 4 hours. Holding urine in your bladder for too long can weaken your bladder muscles and make a bladder infection more likely.
  9. Take enough time to fully empty the bladder when urinating. Rushing when you urinate may not allow you to fully empty the bladder. If urine stays in the bladder too long, it can make a bladder infection more likely.
  10. Be in a relaxed position while urinating to make it easier to empty the bladder.
  11. Wipe from front to back after using the toilet. Women should wipe from front to back to keep bacteria from getting into the urethra. This step is most important after a bowel movement.
  12. Urinate after sex. Both women and men should urinate shortly after sex to flush away bacteria that may have entered the urethra during sex.
  13. Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes. Wearing loose, cotton clothing will allow air to keep the area around the urethra dry. Tight-fitting jeans and nylon underwear can trap moisture and help bacteria grow.

4-H Alums Shine as UConn Students

Hannah Kalichman and Lauren Marshall
Hannah (left) and Lauren (right) at UConn during the spring 2019 semester. Photo: Kevin Noonan

Lauren Marshall (’18 ENGR, ’19 ENGR MS) and Hannah Kalichman (’15 CLAS and ’20 LAW) are poised to graduate from UConn and have an impact on our community when they enter the workforce in their respective fields. Both are alumni of the UConn 4-H program, and we recently sat down with them to learn how 4-H shaped who they are today.

Lauren joined the Cock-A-Doodle-Moo 4-H Club in Tolland County at age seven. Over the years of her involvement, she showed goats, sheep, horses, and rabbits before joining the Hebron 4-H Horse club to focus on her equine project.

Hannah moved to Connecticut with her family the summer before fourth grade, and soon found herself as a member of the Cock-A-Doodle-Moo 4-H Club, where she met Lauren, and they became close friends. Hannah started with a miniature horse, progressed to goats, and also showed dairy cattle for several years. “I got involved with each species,” Hannah says, “and then met more people and my involvement grew. I couldn’t have done it without the 4-H club.”

Both participated in 4-H Horse Camp, competed in public speaking, and in the horse judging, hippology, and horse bowl academic contests. “All of the learning it took to be an involved 4-H member was challenging,” Lauren says. “It was learning how to study and overcoming a fear of public speaking at 8 or 9 years old.” Both note that there are lifelong rewards for overcoming challenges and facing fears.

“Taking the time to learn about horse health care, diseases, symptoms, and training was important,” Lauren says. “I rescued a Haflinger mare, and bring- ing her back to health and ride-ability needed to be a slow process. When she was healthy again, and had a new lease on life, I finally got to ride her, and that was really rewarding.

“The record keeping was the hardest challenge for me,” Hannah says. “It taught me not to procrastinate, and now I never put anything off. Collectively, all of the behind the scenes efforts at the 4-H fairs and horse shows is one of my favorite memories. A lot of time, hard work, and effort goes into getting an animal into the show ring, and I always loved that part of 4-H.”

The experiences in 4-H have helped shape the successful UConn careers of both Lauren and Hannah. Hannah graduates from the UConn Law School in 2020, and wants to clerk for a judge before focusing on one area of the law. She enjoys litigation and being in court, so may pursue that path.

Lauren graduates with her masters in May 2019, and will return to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, Rhode Island where she interned in the summer of 2018, to begin her full-time position. Lauren also begins her PhD program in mechanical engineering on a part-time basis in the fall of 2019.

“All of my 4-H experiences impacted my course work at UConn,” Lauren says. “Public speaking, studying, working
in groups – all of these are required in
college, and I learned them in 4-H. I was a teaching assistant and member of the Engineering Ambassadors club, and public speaking was essential for both, it was a natural progression for me from public speaking in 4-H to public speaking in my roles at UConn.”

“100% of my work ethic is from 4-H, it totally translates into what we’re doing now,” Hannah says. “My January 2019 argument in the Appellate Court in Hartford felt just like giving a set of oral reasons in a judging contest. We competed in 4-H public speaking for so long, and got very comfortable with it.”

Article by Stacey Stearns

Conservation Planning

aerial view of Connecticut River and agricultural fieldsExcess fertilizer use and inefficient nutrient management strategies often are causes of water quality impairment in the United States. When excess nitrogen enters large water bodies it enhances algae growth and when that algae decomposes, hypoxic conditions—often called a “dead zone” occur.

Nutrients carried to the Long Island Sound have been linked to the seasonal hypoxic conditions in the Sound. There are many different sources of nutrients within the Long Island Sound Watershed, an area encompassing parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. These sources include municipalities, industry, agriculture, forests, residential lawns and septic systems.

The Long Island Sound Watershed Regional Conservation Partnership Program (LISW-RCPP) is a technical and financial assistance program that enables agricultural producers and forest landowners to install and maintain conservation practices. The goal of this program is to enhance natural resources and improve water quality. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the LISW-RCPP supports efforts that find common ground among agricultural producers and conservation organizations in working towards the sustainable use of soil, water, and other natural resources.

Conservation practices can achieve multiple positive environmental outcomes, including water quality improvement. A widemap imagery for conservation planning for farms variety of practices exist including in-field (cover crops, reduced tillage, diversified rotation and nutrient management), and edge-of-field strategies (grassed water ways, buffer strips, riparian area, bioreactors and wetlands). These changes, in turn improves nitrogen retention during vulnerable leaching periods in the spring and fall. Conservation strategies also function to safeguard other ecosystem roles, such as carbon sequestration, animal refuge habitat, fisheries and recreation.

Prioritizing areas for nutrient management strategies requires an understanding of the spatial relationships between land use and impaired surface waterbodies. Our project utilizes a geographic information systems (GIS) based approach to under- stand and act upon these important spatial relationships. In part, we are identifying contemporary and historical hotspots of agricultural land use by using satellite- derived land use land cover (LULC) classifications initially developed by
the University of Connecticut’s Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR). Spatial analyses depicting the proximity of agriculture to highly valued water resources (both surface and ground- water) serves as the foundational work that informs where efforts to protect and restore water quality will be most impactful to the greater Long Island Sound Watershed.

Our future work will pair spatial maps with modeled contemporary and historical nutrient loading patterns to expand regions of interest. Our goal is to provide education and tools that help farmers realize the benefits of sustainable agriculture with individual conservation plans tailored to their specific needs and objectives. Connecticut’s environment of diverse crops and farms offers unique opportunities and challenges. UConn Extension is offering soil tests and interpretations to assess each farm’s nutrient needs. We look forward to co-creating knowledge with farmers and developing soil health solutions for long-term production goals and resilient farms.

Article by Katherine Van Der Woude and Kevin Jackson

Say Cheese

cheese productionSmall-scale dairy operations in Connecticut and throughout the country offer cheese, ice cream, and other dairy products direct to consumers and through wholesale distribution. The popularity of local food has increased interest in these operations, and led to a greater need for food safety education and training.

Dennis D’Amico is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal Science who focuses on food technology, quality, and safety. His applied research is integrated with his Extension work. D’Amico works closely with the dairy industry to develop risk reduction interventions and technical outreach programs. When he first started at UConn he worked directly with several Connecticut producers, learn- ing the unique issues they face.

D’Amico takes small-scale producers’ challenges back to his laboratory to test and develop interventions to see if they will actually work. He defines an actionable intervention as something a producer can implement without significant expense. A team of undergraduate and graduate students work in his laboratory researching each aspect of a problem.

“My work with Extension is rewarding, there’s nothing better than hearing about a problem, and then making someone’s day by helping them solve their problem. Having that immediate impact is what makes me smile,” D’Amico says. “Extension provides diversity to my day, I meet with different people with various needs and it makes me think about dairy food science and safety from new angles.”

In-person trainings are limited to time and geography in some cases. D’Amico and his colleagues are using technology to address the limitations. An online food safety course for artisan chessemakers was created first, and launched in 2017. A website of resources was built to accompany the course in partnership with the American Cheese Society, and is available to anyone at www.safecheesemaking.org. Feedback for the course is positive, and has led to additional projects.

“We’re building a repertoire of dairy food safety resources,” D’Amico concludes. “Many of the next steps in my research and Extension program build off of previous work. Producers need solutions they can implement now, but there is a gap in education and interventions available, and that’s what we’re trying to fill. We don’t want producers operating blindly.”

D’Amico is currently working with another group of colleagues to build an online course for small- scale ice cream producers. “Recent foodborne illness outbreaks have shown that ice cream is not the safe haven some thought it was,” he says. “There are food safety issues specific to ice cream that need to be addressed.” An accompanying website is also under development for ice cream food safety resources.

Team members know that training people to identify environmental pathogens in a dairy plant is best done in person. However, time and geography constraints still exist. D’Amico is collaborating with his colleagues at North Carolina State University on a virtual reality simulator that will provide this training. The simulation includes case studies to further enhance learning.

A Food Safety Plan Coaching Workshop for small-scale dairy producers helps producers comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The three- year project funded by USDA offers six workshops per year. “We’re focusing the workshop on underserved regions where there aren’t dairy foods specialists avail- able,” D’Amico says.

A core group of trainers, including D’Amico, serve as national coaches and travel to each region, collaborating with regional resources and connecting producers. There is one regional coach for each six participants. At the workshop, participants form groups based on their stage in the FSMA process, and leave the work- shop having made measurable progress on their written food safety plan.

Best Practices guides are another project undergoing a digital transformation. “We first published the Best Practices Guide for Cheesemakers in 2015, and it’s updated every two years,” D’Amico says. “However, the next version will be click- able and user friendly. Instead of a 300-page PDF, the user can click directly on the section they need. We are also developing a similar toolkit for retailers. This is another collaboration with the American Cheese Society.”

Consumer demand will continue to drive consumption of dairy products and local food. Even in best case scenarios, food safety issues will arise. Small-scale dairy producers and consumers can be confident that D’Amico and his team of students are searching for solutions and developing tools to share new actionable interventions.

Article by Stacey Stearns

Red, White & Blueberries

Celebrate our Nation’s Independence with Connecticut Grown Food

Connecticut grown strawberries, cheese, and blueberriesAs you celebrate our nation’s independence this Fourth of July, choose Connecticut Grown foods for your holiday gatherings. “Farmers are the backbone of our nation and we are fortunate to have a diverse array of agriculture in Connecticut,” said Bryan P. Hurlburt, Connecticut Department of Agriculture Commissioner. “Stop by your local farm store or farmers’ market as you prepare for the holiday weekend. Your purchase will support a local family business and nothing tastes as good as fresh, local, Connecticut Grown food on your picnic table.”

Berries are in full swing with blueberries and raspberries just starting and strawberries finishing up. Combine all three to create delicious desserts, salads and even breakfast casseroles. We’ve pulled together some of our favorite recipes from triple berry trifles to spinach berry salad on our Connecticut Grown Pinterest page with a “4th of July Treats” board featuring an array of red, white and blue dishes.

This holiday weekend also heralds the availability of sweet corn. While the early spring weather has put sweet corn a few days behind schedule, some farmers started picking this past weekend in anticipation of the upcoming holiday to stock farm stands. Others, like Dave Burnham of Burnham Farms in East Hartford, CT, will have it available this weekend. “Starting Saturday we will have sweet corn available,” he said. Stop by a farm stand or farmers’ market to pick up early butter and sugar sweet corn.

For the grill masters, Connecticut farmers offer a range of meats including chicken, lamb, and beef, as well as, bison and turkey. Whether you prefer wings, steak, burgers or sausage, rest assured there is something for everyone.

Use local honey or maple syrup to make your own marinade and toss together a salad using fresh Connecticut Grown greens as a healthy side. Find a meat, vegetable, honey and maple syrup producer near you at www.ctgrown.gov.

If a clambake is more your style, Connecticut’s coastline is home to an abundance of seafood, including oysters and clams. Shellfishing is an important component of Connecticut’s economy along with recreation and tourism industries. When selecting shellfish look for names such as Copps Island, Stella Mar, Mystics, and Ram Island or places including Fishers Island Sound, Noank, Norwalk and Thimble Islands.

Complete your appetizer trays with an award-winning Connecticut cheese and include ice cream, yogurt or milk from a Connecticut dairy farm family in your desserts.  Don’t forget to visit a Connecticut farm winery or brewery for your favorite adult beverage to enjoy responsibly with friends and family.

From all of us at the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, we wish you a happy and safe Fourth of July celebration.

Article and photo: Connecticut Department of Agriculture