Author: UConn Extension

Angie Tovar: 4-H Alumni Spotlight

Angie Tovar of Danbury was a teen mentor in our CT FANs IM 4-H program. She is entering her junior year of college at Western Connecticut State University where she majors in Elementary Education. Angie currently works as a translator for St. Peter Church in Danbury and Student Worker for Pre-Collegiate and Access Programs in Danbury. We caught up with her to learn more about how her experience with the 4-H FANs program impacted her life.

4-H taught me to….. not be afraid to put myself out there. At first, a lot of the activities we conducted made me nervous, but I learned to push myself and try new things.

4-H taught me to stop…. Doubting myself. It really helped me believe that I can do anything if I really set my mind to it. It sounds a little cliché, but it’s the truth. The staff and the way this program is set up makes everyone truly believe that.

Because of 4-H….. I decided to become a teacher. I loved the experience of being in front of children and getting to pass on my knowledge of a subject onto them. I realized that teaching is what I truly love to do.

If I hadn’t been in 4-H…. I would have probably been in college, pursuing another career, and pretty miserable because it is not what I truly wanted to do.

 

How do you keep the 4-H motto – “To Make the Best Better” – now?  I always keep this in mind, reminding me that there is always room for improvement. Angie and other teen mentors at a programAfter every day of the program, we would reflect on what we did and how we could improve for next time. I still do this a lot after I finish anything. I truly believe that no matter how good something I did was, there is always a way for me to do better.

How did 4-H contribute to your leadership skills?  4-H helped me to be a better public speaker and think about what you want the outcome of a lesson to be. Since I want to become an Elementary School teacher I have to be comfortable speaking in front of others. 4-H provided me with the opportunity to practice this. The staff helped coach me and give me constructive criticism to better my public speaking. Also, it made me realize that when planning for activities, you have to think about others and what you want them to get out of this. It is the most important thing when prepping for lessons.

What do you wish people knew about 4-H?  There are so many programs with 4-H! I feel that in our area very few people know about 4-H and all the wonderful things they do to better the lives of young people. I wish people knew that 4-H has just about everything.

Why should young people join 4-H?  These programs provide youth with so many skills that they will continue to use for the rest of their lives. Each program works on bettering a child’s life in different ways. Also, each program makes families feel part of a community. They bring parents together and make them realize that they are not alone.

Hartford County Extension Center Moving

Exchange Building in Farmington is new home of Hartford County Extension Center

Our Hartford County Extension Center is moving. As of Friday, August 3rd, please use the following address and new phone numbers:
Exchange Building – Suite 262
270 Farmington Ave
Farmington, CT, 06032
(860) 409-9050
Fax (860) 409-9080
hartford@uconn.edu
Please be patient with our faculty and staff over the next week as it may take a bit longer than usual to respond to any requests. All educators phone numbers have been updated at extension.uconn.edu.

Granby 4-Hers Experiments Flew into Space on a NASA Rocket

Granby 4-H members in front of rocket launch
Granby 4-H members in front of rocket launch

Eight youth from Granby 4-H along with one leader, Rachael Manzer successfully launched three experiments into space on a NASA rocket. The three experiments included “Bees in Space” where honeycombs were launched, “Rubber Bands in Space”, and “Gallium in Space”, all of which were proposed by the 4-Hers themselves. Cubes in SpaceTM, a global competition designed to help students ages 11-18 launch experiments into space on a NASA rocket at no cost made this opportunity possible.

It took the 4-Hers approximately four months to write their experimental proposals based on their interest, long hours of research, and thinking. These proposals were then submitted electronically to Cubes in SpaceTMwhere experts reviewed all applications. After making it through the first round, 4-Hers answered questions, revised their proposals, and resubmitted them for a second review. After months of waiting, final decisions were made. All three Granby 4-H proposals were selected as part of the 80 experiments selected out of the 450 total proposals submitted.

The “Bees in Space” experiment studied if honeycomb changes shape during flight. Club members took pieces of honeycomb from the club bee hive to design the experiment. The “Rubber Bands in Space” group evaluated how rubber bands are affected by a microgravity environment by creating a rubber band ball. By placing a solid piece of Gallium in the cube with padding the “Gallium in Space” group studied if Gallium changes into a liquid state during space flight.

Granby 4-H presentation on experiment at launch
Granby 4-H presentation on experiment at launch

All participants of the 80 selected experiments were invited for the launch at NASA Wallops Center where they presented their experiments to an audience of 300 people.

Members gained valuable experiences through participating in the Cubes in SpaceTMproject. 4-Hers learned the importance of working together, how 4-H and STEM fit together, and learned the process of doing research. Members note that the experience provided them with the opportunity to practice problem solving skills, answer their own questions, embrace their curiosity, and have experience in the world of STEM.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn Extension in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including citizenship and healthy living. To find a 4-H club near you visit 4h.uconn.edu or call 860-486-4127.

Article by Jen Cushman and Yutin Zhao (‘20)

Strengthening Connecticut Farms

Yoko Takemura and Alex Cooper from Assawaga farm enjoy showing off the fruits of their
labor. (Photos courtesy of Assawaga farm).

Over recent years a new cohort of farmers has cropped up in our small state. “New”, “Beginning”, “First-generation”, “Early stage”— these growers have been met by a growing number of training programs to help them get started, improve their production skills, and enhance the viability of their businesses. This is a group of avid learners who are always on the lookout for training opportunities, both online, and in a hands-on classroom setting. Most demonstrate a strong interest in sustainable production of specialty crops to sell directly to consumers through Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), farmers’ markets, and farm stands.

In response to the training needs of new farmers, UConn Extension launched the Solid Ground Farmer Training Program, featuring classroom trainings, online tutorials, and state-wide events targeting growers who range in experience from 0 – 10 years of farming. Since 2012, UConn Extension has received over $1.1 million through USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grant Program to develop new farmer trainings and resources.

The UConn Extension team hires and schedules trainers, advertises the program, provides in-person staff support at each training, and steers collaboration with the New CT Farmer Alliance and CT NOFA. Partners set training priorities, help recruit participants, and ensure that trainings are happening across the state so that growers can access this learning opportunity in small group settings. These partners include: Grow Windham, Killingly Agricultural Education Program, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Community Farm of Simsbury, Common Ground (New Haven), Green Village Initiative (Bridgeport), Knox (Hartford), and Listo Para Inciar-Urban Agriculture Program, a sister project led by German Cutz, Associate Extension Educator in Fairfield County.

Current and aspiring farmers are welcome to attend as many trainings as they like. Yoko Takemura and Alex Carpenter from Assawaga Farm (Nipmuck for ‘in between’) in Putnam typify clients in the program. Summer 2018 will be their first year of production. Their farm will feature certified organic Japanese vegetables to be sold in Boston area. After attending six Solid Ground trainings, Yoko explains: “As a new farmer, there are many things you don’t know that you don’t know. So, these programs encourage you to ask new questions you hadn’t previously thought of before and therefore to be better prepared for the season. Since many of the trainers are local, the content of the trainings is more relevant (versus online content) and it’s great that you can follow up with them after the training!”

In its first year (winter 2016-17), the Solid Ground Training Program delivered 28 trainings and events with a cumulative attendance of more than 500 participants. Over 30 trainings are currently scheduled for 2018. All trainings are free and open to growers of all backgrounds. UConn Extension provides translation services for Spanish-speaking attendees. Experienced farmers lead training classes such as Season Extension, Eco-Focused Farming, Post-Harvest Handling, Finding Your Market, and Irrigation for Small Farms. Extension educators and professional consultants deliver trainings on Farm Financial Recordkeeping, Soil Health, Cover Crops, Tractor Safety and Maintenance, Fruit Production, and Pesticide Safety.

“The 4-hour intensive Planting and Growing Cover Crop training with Eero Ruuttila was really great because even though his examples were on large scale farms, there were so many ideas that could be translated into my small-scale farm. I thought 4 hours was long, but I definitely wanted it to be longer,” says Yoko. The Solid Ground Program also provides one-on-one consultations with specialists in the areas of farm finance, soil health, and vegetable production. These consultations are intended to build on the knowledge and skills acquired through trainings in the classroom.

     This project is sponsored by the USDA-NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program Award #2016-70017-25416

Article by Jiff Martin

Erin Morrell: 4-H Alumni

Erin MorrellHometown: New Haven, CT

Involvement: New London County 4-H Alumni

Education: Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Connecticut and a Master’s Degree from Fairfield University

Current Employment: Associate Dean at Albertus Magnus College

 

What did 4-H teach you?

Listen to others and be a better presenter and public speaker, as that is something I use regularly in my professional job every day. There is always something to be done or someone you can help, so there shouldn’t be time for you to complain about things or people. Just learn to be a team player! I’ve gained leadership skills that I’ve used beyond high school, into college, and in my professional life.

How do you keep the 4-H motto—“To Make the Best Better”—now?

I’m always striving to be the best person and professional that I can be for myself and my students. I try to make sure their voices are heard and encourage them to put

Erin Morrell as a 4-H member showing her dairy project.
Erin Morrell as a 4-H member showing her dairy project.

their best foot forward and create programs and events that are better than the previous ones. This allows them to grow and make the best better.

How did 4-H contribute to your leadership skills?

Being involved with 4-H was the first time that I had held leadership positions, first in my local club, and later on in the New London County Fair Association. It taught me how to work with others on projects, delegate, and achieve a goal. It also helped me understand some budgeting and historical record keeping skills.

Why should young people join 4-H?

It is a great way to get involved in the community and give back. 4-H also teaches you many life skills that can carry over into your personal life and professional life down the line. I still keep in touch with many people that I met through 4-H.

Chris Collins: Making a Difference

By Cathleen Love

Chris Collins presenting the UPSTANDER awards at the Meriden PEP graduation in June
Chris Collins speaks at the Meriden PEP graduation in June.

Chris Collins moved to Meriden, Connecticut four years ago with his girlfriend and her two children. In his professional capacity he serves as a substance abuse counselor at Rushford at Meriden, an organization that offers a variety of outpatient programs and services, including counseling young adults about substance use disorders. A longtime friend of Chris’ invited him to participate in the University of Connecticut People Empowering People (UConn PEP) program. Because Chris wanted to learn ways to engage with the Meriden community, understand the school system, and make a positive difference, he agreed to attend.

The UConn PEP program in Meriden was funded through the Nellie Mae Foundation. Other UConn PEP communities apply for funding through the Connecticut Parent Trust Fund or local resources like the Liberty Bank Foundation. UConn Extensionprovides training and support for community agencies, school districts, hospitals, family resource centers, and correctional institutions across the state offering the UConn PEP curriculum and course.

Participants such as Chris come together for two hours a week for ten weeks to discuss topics including communication, problem-solving, values, parenting and other life skills that enhance parent leadership skills and community engagement.

For Chris, the content and format of UConn PEP fit his lifestyle and addressed his interests. Because dinner and day care were provided, participation did not require additional juggling of work and family time. Chris was seeking an opportunity to be more involved with his family, the schools, and the community. UConn PEP was a vehicle to make that happen.

In discussing the impact of the UConn PEP program on him personally, Chris recalled when his facilitator mentioned that the loudest voice is heard on most issues, he realized that unless he spoke up about his concerns than no one would know what they are. He said the resources and networking that are part of the 10-week program gave him perspective on power, and empowered him to become more involved. Learning about active listening also impacted Chris in that he realizes that listening first allows him to reflect on the issues before considering solutions.

Parent leadership skills are central to the UConn PEP curriculum. Before participating in the program, Chris thought using the “hammer,” or authoritative style, to discipline children was the only approach. UConn PEP classes discussed other tools for caring about his children while still providing a safe home with healthy boundaries and using alternative disciplinary techniques. Chris said having more “tools” for parenting is helpful in working with his children. These tools also impacted how Chris became more involved in the schools. Resources and networks in the UConn PEP program gave Chris ideas of techniques to use in working with teachers and parents in schools.

Participants in every UConn PEP program commit to finding and carrying out a community project. Chris shared that the impact of helping others makes you feel better than he could have imagined. His group collected books for children and they far exceeded the number of books they had put in their stated goal. When he assisted with the distribution of the books he said the smiles and joy he felt from the kids matched the smiles and joy of those giving them out.

Chris is currently serving on a Local Advisory Committee and he uses skills learned in UConn PEP to engage members of his community. According to Chris, the community seeks him out when they have questions or concerns. The community knows he will listen and that he cares about their issues. With parent leadership and community engagement Chris believes the UConn PEP program impacted how he makes a difference in his family, in the schools, and in the community.

Chris Collins along with Meriden Children First (MCF) Local Advisory Committee Members (LAC), with the support of Meriden Children First and the Meriden Public Schools, developed and implemented the UPSTANDER Awards. They established guidelines for nominating middle and high school students who through their actions have made a difference in the community. Chris along with the other LAC members worked on this project after one of the LAC members shared a story of her son being repeatedly bullied on his way home from school and another teenager deciding to walk him home every day. This intervention stopped the bullying. Chris and the other LAC members passionately turned a community story into action, by recognizing student UPSTANDER‘s who are doing the right thing without any expectation of recognition. Winners were chosen by the LAC after nominations and meeting rigorous guidelines. These award winners have stood out among their peers, going above and beyond with their actions. Thestudents received their awards in school and were recognized at the UConn PEP graduation on June 26, 2018.

During the graduation Chris spoke about the character of each award winner and the meaning of the UPSTANDER award. He also shared how important it has been to him to have the chance to participate in the UConn PEP program to continue to give back to the Meriden community while collaborating with other dedicated parent leaders. Chris and the other MCF UConn PEP graduates have gone above and beyond continuing their leadership journey in the Meriden school system and community. In addition to graduating from UConn PEP, Chris is a member of Meriden Children First Local Advisory Committee. He and the other LAD members have continued their leadership training by attending a public speaking workshop with Paul Vivian, 12 hours of Race and Equity training through National Conference for Community Justice (NCCJ) and attending a Nellie Mae conference.

UConn PEP is an example of how a research grant can turn into over twenty years of service to the state. UConn Extension received a USDA State Strengthening grant in 1996 to create, deliver, and evaluate a parent leadership program in Connecticut. Since receiving that grant over 3,000 state residents have participated in UConn PEP, the parent leadership program created by the grant. Over 25 community agencies, school districts, family resource centers, and faith-based communities across the state have partnered with the Extension to offer the program. The research on the program suggests that the UConn PEP program was effective in influencing positive changes in participants’ life skills, personal relationships, and community engagement among an ethnically diverse sample.

For more information on the UConn PEP program visit pep.extension.uconn.eduor email Cathleen.Love@uconn.edu.

No Place Like Home: Black Bears are Back

Tracy Rittenhouse and Mike Evans
Tracy Rittenhouse, assistant professor of natural resources and the environment, and Michael Evans, a Ph. D. student of natural resources at a barbed wire pen created to collect hair from bears on Sept. 18, 2013. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Connecticut is bear country. It may sound strange, but western Connecticut is home to a growing population of American black bears. While bears may at times look out of place in the fourth most densely populated state, black bears living around humans is becoming more and more common not only in Connecticut, but across North America. This new reality has instigated new research to understand how bears respond to development, and may require a shift in human perspective to coexist with bears.

Tracy Rittenhouse, assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, focuses her research on how wildlife responds when habitat conditions change. Rittenhouse is interested in key questions about how wildlife interacts in their habitat and what happens as Connecticut becomes a more exurban landscape, defined as the area beyond urban and suburban development, but not rural.

Rittenhouse wants to see from a management perspective what species are overabundant and what are in decline in exurban landscapes. She is interested in looking at the elements of what is called “home” from the perspective of a given species.

In Connecticut, 70 percent of the forests are 60 to 100 years old. The wildlife species that live here are changing as the forest ages. Rittenhouse notes that mature forest is a perfect habitat for bears and other medium-sized mammals as well as small amphibians.

Black bears like this mature forest because they eat the acorns that drop from old oak trees. Forests are also a preferred environment for humans. Exurban landscapes that are a mixture of forest and city are becoming the fastest-growing type of development across the country. The mixture of the city on one hand and the natural environment on the other is positive for humans, but it is not yet clear if wild animals benefit from this mixture.

Exurban landscapes are ideal places for species that are omnivores and species that are able to avoid people by becoming more active at night. Species that shift their behavior to fit in with variations in their environment survive well in exurban locations.

Rittenhouse collaborates with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) Wildlife Division on real life wildlife issues. “Working with DEEP is my way of making sure I am asking research questions that are applicable to real world situations,” she said. “I often try to identify actions that wildlife management professionals or urban planners can take that will allow a species to live in an area. The action is often simple, often a slight change, but we hope that a small change may keep a species from declining or becoming overabundant.”

“We studied black bears by collecting hair samples. Collecting black bear hair is not as difficult as it sounds, as bears will use their nose to find a new scent even if they need to cross a strand of barbed wire that snags a few hairs. The hair contains DNA and therefore the information that we used to identify individuals. For two summers we gathered information on which bear visited each of the hair corrals every week. In total we collected 935 black bear hair samples,” Tracy says.

As Connecticut residents revel in the open spaces of exurban lifestyles, Tracy Rittenhouse and her students keep watchful, caring eyes on the effects of human behavior on wild animals that have no voice. Home may be where the heart is or where one hangs one’s hat, but for the wild critters of Connecticut, home may be a precarious place as they adapt to change.

Article by Nancy Weiss and Tracy Rittenhouse

Tick Testing 101

tick testing at UConn
Photo: UConn Communications

If you find a tick on yourself, your child, or your pet, remove it immediately! The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) can test the tick for pathogens. Ticks received at the CVMDL are first examinedunder a microscope by trained technicians to determine the species of tick, life stage, and degree of blood engorgement, all of which are factors that may impact transmission of pathogens to the person or animal. Ticks may then be tested for the DNA of pathogens that are common to that tick species. Results are reported within 3-5 business days of receiving the sample, and next day testing is available for an additional fee.

How to send in ticks: Please send ticks in sealed zip lock bags accompanied by a small square of moist paper towel. The submission form, pricing and the “Do’s and Don’ts of tick testing” can be found on our website at http://s.uconn.edu/468.

For more information contact the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory at cvmdl.uconn.edu or 860-486-3738.

Safeguarding Health Through Diagnostics

Heidi and Scott Morey
Veterinarians Heidi Morey ’05 (CAHNR) and Scott Morey ’06 (CAHNR) with Jonathan XIV at Fenton River Veterinary Hospital in Tolland on June 21, 2017. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) at UConn safeguards animal and human health. Faculty and staff fulfill their mission through veterinary diagnostic laboratory services, professional expertise, and collaboration with state and federal agencies to detect and monitor diseases important to animal and human health, as well as detecting newly emerging diseases.

CVMDL is committed to providing current, timely, and personalized expert service to our client veterinarians, animal owners, producers, academic collaborators, and partner agencies. The laboratory is housed within the Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science, and develops new approaches to disease identification, investigation, and prevention while educating students, including veterinarians, seeking advanced training in disease related studies.

CVMDL incorporates the land grant university mission of service, teaching, and research in its daily practices, and is the only laboratory in New England accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians. Services offered include: histology, immunohistochemistry, mastitis, microbiology, molecular diagnostics, pathology, parasitology, serology, and virology.

“We send a lot of our clients to CVMDL for the necropsy service,” says Dr. Scott Morey ’06 (CAHNR) of Fenton River Veterinary Hospital in Tolland. “We want a necropsy done in the proper environment, where better diagnostic samples can be obtained and processed, as opposed to what we can collect in a field necropsy. Most of the time we’re mainly looking for infectious disease so we can change what happens for the other animals left on a farm.”

Necropsy services can also be used for small animals. Dr. Heidi Morey ’05 (CAHNR) handles the small animal end of the veterinary practice, while Scott primarily works with large animals. “We had one young dog die suddenly on a client, and CVMDL helped determine it was most likely a heart attack,” Heidi mentions.

“We do a surprising amount of chicken work,” Scott continues. “CVMDL completes efficient and timely necropsies on chickens. We also utilize them for rabies testing, and Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) test for small ruminants. Clients who own sheep and goats want their animals to be CAE negative, and need proof of that. We send the samples to CVMDL.”

Tick testing is part of the molecular diagnostics section. A single infected deer tick can transmit anywhere from one to four illnesses simultaneously. CVMDL is the only laboratory in the state that will test a deer tick off humans or animals. CVMDL also tests other common species of ticks. The lab tests deer ticks for Borrelia burgdorferi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia microti, and Borrelia miyamotoi. Dog ticks are tested for Francisella tularensis, Rickettsia rickettsia, Ehrlichiaspecies. Lonestar ticks are tested for Ehrlichiaspecies, Francisella tularensis, and Borrelia lonestari. Brown dog ticks are tested for Rickettsia rickettsiaand Ehrlichia species.

Residents, doctors, veterinarians, and public health officials utilize tick testing services to make proactive and informed decisions regarding human and animal health. In 2017, 397 ticks were tested.

Connecticut is home to a number of large dairy farms, and CVMDL provides mastitis testing and environmental pathogen testing, in addition to Brucellosis, Johnne’s, and other diseases. Rabies tests on animals that may have come in contact with a human are also sent to the Department of Public Health for confirmation testing. All other rabies testing in Connecticut is done at CVMDL.

The laboratory is on the frontlines of safeguarding animal and human health in Connecticut. Each case that arrives in Storrs is different, and provides the team at CVMDL with another opportunity to teach students and clients, develop new tests and procedures, and monitor disease and health issues.

Article by Stacey Stearns

Tuna Burger Recipe

tuna burger recipe
Photo: North Carolina Extension

TUNA BURGERS

Makes 6 servings

Serving size: 1 patty

 

Ingredients

  • 2 (4.5-ounce) cans low-sodium tuna
  • 1 cup bread crumbs, divided
  • 1 cup low-fat cheddar chese, shredded
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup non-fat ranch salad dressing
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • Non-stick cooking spray

Directions

  1. Drain tuna, separate into flakes using a fork
  2. In a medium bowl, combine tuna, ½ cup bread crumbs, cheese, egg, salads dressing, and onion.
  3. Form six patties; coat each side with remaining ½ cup bread crumbs.
  4. Spray non-stick skillet with cooking spray; heat to medium heat.
  5. Cook patties 3-5 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Nutrition Information Per Serving

230 Calories, Total Fat 8g, Saturated Fat 4g, Protein 17g, Total Carbohydrate 20g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Sodium 430mg. Good source of calcium and iron.

 

 

TORTITAS DE ATÚN

Rinde 6 raciones

Tamaño de la ración: 1 tortita

 

Ingredientes

  • 2 latas (4.5 onzas) de atún bajo en sodio
  • 1 taza de pan molido, dividido en dos porciones
  • 1 taza de queso tipo cheddar bajo en grasa, rallado
  • 1 huevo, ligeramente batido
  • ½ taza de aderezo para ensalada sin grasa tipo ranch
  • ¼ de taza de cebolla finamente picada
  • Aceite en aerosol antiadherente para cocinar

Instrucciones

  1. Escurra el atún y desmenuce con un tenedor.
  2. Combine en un tazón mediano el atún, la ½ taza de pan molido, el queso, el huevo, el aderezo y la cebolla.
  3. Forme seis tortitas y empanice cada lado con la ½ taza restante de pan molido.
  4. Rocíe el sartén con aceite en aerosol antiadherente para cocinar y deje que se caliente a fuego medio.
  5. Cocine las tortitas entre 3 y 5 minutos de cada lado o hasta que se doren.

Informaciόn nutricional por cada raciόn

230 calorías, Total de grasa 8g, Grasa saturada 4g, Proteína 17g, Total de carbohidratos 20g, Fibra dietética 3g, Sodio 430mg. Buena fuente de calcio y de hierro.

Recipe: North Carolina Extension