Author: UConn Extension

Put Local On Your Tray (Or Plate) In April

Put Local on Your Tray is a farm-to-school program helping Connecticut schools serve and celebrate regionally grown food. Even if you’re not a school, they have some advice for getting local onto your plate this season.

spinach and greens being grown in greenhouse
Photo: Molly Deegan

Days are getting slightly warmer and longer, the breeze is sharp, and the land is both awakened and nourished by fresh spring rain. Farmers are in a busy period of transition, from indoor planning and preparing for the height of summer – to the beginning stages of planting outdoors – making sure everything is ready to go. While there may not be an abundance of produce to choose from this month, there still are some special products to take advantage of for their especially sweet and distinct flavors of spring that they offer. For instance, mixed greens!

Spinach is our suggested local item to look out for – according to our Tray team Farmer Liaison, Shannon. After a long winter, the sugars stored in it’s leaves give it flavor hard to find any other time of year. Seen below, are rows of sweet greens growing at Massaro Community Farm in Woodbridge.

New Rules for Corralling Runoff Require Local Actions

By JUDY BENSON

Haddam – As the state gets wetter, Connecticut cities and towns have little choice but to take better control of the water that flows over streets, parking lots and fields from rainfall and snowmelt.

“There are two drivers related to stormwater,” said David Dickson, faculty member of the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR). “One is climate change. New England is seeing more rain and more intense rainfall events. The other is the MS4 general permit, which became effective in 2017.”

Dickson, speaking at a March 22 symposium sponsored by the UConn Climate Adaptation Academy, explained that MS4 — the shorthand term for the new state regulation for how municipal stormwater is managed — now requires cities and towns to reduce nonporous pavement on streets, sidewalks and parking lots. It also requires they establish “low impact development” practices as the standard for new construction. The state regulation is the result of a federal mandate under provisions of the Clean Water Act requiring gradually stricter rules to curb pollution.

“Towns have to enter into a retrofit program to reduce impervious surface areas by two percent by 2022,” Dickson said. “LID now has to be the standard for development. You can’t just say it’s too costly. This is going to change how we think about site development in this state.”

The third workshop in a series on the impacts of changing weather patterns on local land-use practices, the symposium drew about 50 municipal officials from around the state. It was presented at the Middlesex County Extension Center by the Climate Adaptation Academy, a partnership of CT Sea Grant, CLEAR and the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. The Rockfall Foundation co-sponsored the event.

Overall, the purpose of the session was to educate local officials about “what works and what to watch out for to ensure success” when it comes to implementing low impact development, said Tony Marino, executive director of the Rockfall Foundation.

Dickson, the first of the four presenters, explained that with increasing amounts and intensity of precipitation, the impacts of unmanaged stormwater carrying road and agricultural pollutants into the environment are increasing.

“Stormwater is the top source of water pollution into Long Island Sound,” he said.

An illustration of a bioswale is shown during one of the presentations.
An illustration of a bioswale is shown during one of the presentations.

In the 1990s, low-impact development techniques emerged including “green roofs” covered with planted beds to absorb rainfall, grass swales to replace curbs and gutters, rain gardens and bio-retention areas with trees and shrubs situated to absorb runoff, and permeable pavement that allows water to infiltrate into the soil. That allows the soil to capture pollutants and groundwater to be recharged.

Since then, LID designs have been used at several sites on UConn’s main campus and in the Jordan Cove housing development in Waterford, among other locations around the state. While at least one-third of towns in Connecticut have adopted LID techniques at various levels, Dickson said, the new regulation means all towns will have to commit to making them the standard practice because it’s an economical and effective way to comply with the requirement to curtail stormwater runoff.

“Towns will have to start thinking about where impervious cover drains directly into their stormwater system, and enter into retrofit programs to reduce impervious areas,” he said.

Michael Dietz, water resources educator with CLEAR, said that more than 20 years after they were built, the LID features in the Jordan Cove development are still working. Research shows significantly less runoff coming from the portion of the development with LID compared to the control section built with traditional design features, he said. The LID structures continued to function even when the homeowners failed to maintain the areas correctly, he noted.

“The take-home message is that LID mostly still works, in spite of what people do,” he said.

At the main UConn campus, Dietz said, LID has “become part of the fabric of the design” for all new construction since it was first used in the early 2000s. But over those years, there have been mistakes and lessons learned, he added. In one case, curbs were installed where they weren’t supposed to be so runoff ended up being directed away from a bio-retention area. In another case, the bio-retention area was poorly located on the way students took to a dining hall, creating a compacted path that reduced its effectiveness.

“We failed to factor in people,” Dietz said.

The area, he said, was redesigned with a footpath through the middle that still allowed for runoff capture.

Some of the 50 municipal officials who attended the UConn Climate Adaptation Academy about low impact development listen during one of the presentations.
Some of the 50 municipal officials who attended the UConn Climate Adaptation Academy about low impact development listen during one of the presentations.

In another example, a parking lot next to the field house covered with permeable concrete “totally failed” last year and was allowing for “zero infiltration.” The concrete was not mixed and handled properly, he said, and curing time was insufficient, among other problems. It has been replaced with pre-cast pervious concrete blocks. Other challenges include the need for regular cleaning of pervious pavement to unclog porous spaces.

“You neglect it, it costs you down the road,” Dietz said.

Giovanni Zinn, city engineer for New Haven, said the dozens of bio-retention areas, rain gardens, swales and pervious pavement areas installed around the city do require more planning and attention.

“But if you simplify your designs, the construction will be less costly and they’ll be easier to maintain,” he said. Overall, he added, maintenance costs are less costly than for traditional infrastructure.

He advised choosing low-maintenance plantings and involving local residents and community groups in the projects. Looking ahead, New Haven is planning to build 200 more planted swales to capture runoff in the downtown area and another 75 in other parts of town.

“The bio-swales are the first step in dealing with our flash flooding issues in the downtown,” he said.

David Sousa, the final speaker, is a senior planner and landscape architect with CDM Smith, which has its headquarters in Boston and an office in East Hartford. Instead of talking about development practices to minimize runoff, Sousa focused on “how to avoid it altogether.”

He advocated for compact urban redevelopment over “big box” stores with large parking lots. Not only does this give residents stores and restaurants they can get to on foot, by bicycle or mass transportation, “it also saves acres of green fields.”

“It’s being done in our communities,” he said, citing examples in Mansfield, Stamford and Middletown. “But it’s not being done enough.”

Redevelopment of urban areas, he said, creates communities that use fewer resources, which in turn is better for the environment.

“The carbon footprint of people in cities is so much less than those with suburban lifestyles,” he said. “With less vehicle miles traveled, there is less need for impervious parking surfaces, less stormwater flooding and less emissions. We need to think about ways to avoid using LID in the first place.”

Judy Benson is the communications coordinator at Connecticut Sea Grant. She can be reached at:judy.benson@uconn.edu

Poop In The Garden

By: Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH

Extension Educator/Food Safety

 

insect on tomato in garden
Photo: Wes Kline, Rutgers University

Over the weekend, before the most recent snow, I looked out my kitchen window to see my dog squatting over the chive patch in our vegetable garden. It was too late to stop him.

I spend a lot of time with Connecticut farmers, talking about producing safe fruits and vegetables. We always talk about how animal feces can affect food safety. Animals and birds are often the source human pathogens or microorganisms that can make us sick. Some examples of those pathogens include E. coli O157:H7 (associated with many outbreaks tied to meat, poultry and fresh produce, most recently lettuce); Salmonella (eggs, poultry, pork, sprouts, cucumbers and cantaloupe); and Listeria monocytogenes (all types of foods, including processed meats, cheese, cantaloupe, apples, and frozen vegetables).

Wildlife can spread human pathogens by depositing feces in fields or water sources and spreading fecal contamination as they move. This is very difficult to control. Complete exclusion may not be possible, depending on the species of wildlife. It can be a tough job for farmers to exert any kind of control over geese, other birds, deer, or rodents.

Generally speaking, a home garden is a more manageable space. There are things you can do to discourage the presence of wildlife, though nothing is fail-proof. The first thing you may have to do is to identify the pest. Once you know which animal is eating the lettuce or leaving droppings around, knowledge of their habits and food needs can help you choose the best method to deter them. The University of Connecticut www.ladybug.uconn.edu site has fact sheets that give advice regarding control of wildlife in your yard. In addition, take a look at http://npic.orst.edu/pest/wildyard.html for additional suggestions on specific species.

Here are some suggestions that may help:

  • Fence your garden. Fences can make for good neighbors, they say, and this is certainly true of fences that keep animals away from your tomatoes. The fence can be as simple as a strong wire mesh. You may have to bury the fence several inches into the ground to prevent creatures from burrowing under the fence. Some animals are perfectly capable of climbing the fence to get to the other side (did someone say, “squirrel”?). A metal shield at the top of the fence might be useful.
  • Be careful where you hang your bird feeders/houses/bird baths. If birds are feeding or nesting at the bird feeders or houses you have purposely added to your yard, they will be more than happy to poop on your plants as they fly back and forth. This is a lesson easily learned as our birdhouse attracts lots of birds and their droppings on our patio furniture and patio tomatoes alike.

In addition, do not let garden trash build up—dropped fruit and pulled weeds can feed and shelter small animals. Cover trashcans, compost bins and other potential sources of food.  Remove pet food or birdseed from the yard.

  • Use decoys or other deterrents. While these can be effective on a variety of wildlife, it is important to move the decoys every few days. Deer, birds and rodents may be smarter than the average bear: they can figure out when a fake coyote is fake.

One of the most difficult “pests” in the backyard vegetable garden can be Fido or Fluffy—resident dogs and cats. Fencing is most likely to help keep the dog away. Of course, you need to remember to close the gate. An open gate turned out to be how my dog got into the chive patch.

Cats love the soft soil of a garden and WILL use it as a litter box. Of course, the best course of action is not to let your cat out at all. There are too many ways they can get injured, sick, or worse whether you live in a city, suburb, or on acres of land.

If the dog gets through the gate or over the fence and poops on your edibles, there is little you can do. If it is early in the season and the plant has no edible parts, you can wait 120 days to harvest, treating the feces like raw manure—feces from another species. If harvestable or close to harvestable produce is affected, it is best to leave it on the plant. Do not harvest, do not eat; do not harvest, wash and eat. It is just too risky.

This would be true if you see signs that indicate the presence of other wildlife as well. Bird poop on the tomatoes or lettuce leaves; mouse droppings in the herb bed; or evidence that rabbits have been gnawing on the cucumbers. You really should not eat any fruits or vegetables that have been pooped upon. Washing is not necessarily going to totally eliminate any risk from human pathogens that might have been left behind. Do not toss affected produce in the compost bin either. Animal feces should never be added to compost that will be used on edible plants.

This advice is especially important if you have kids, seniors or others in your family who might have a compromised immune system. It is just not worth the risk.

For more information about food safety and controlling wildlife in your back yard, visit our website at www.foodsafety.uconn.edu, check out some of the links in the article, or contact the Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 1-877-486-6271.

Worker Protection Standards for Organic Farms

plant in hand and soilOrganic Farming is Affected by a New Law: The Worker Protection Standard (WPS)

The new law provides protections for agricultural workers, pesticide handlers, family members and volunteers. UConn Extension and CT NOFA are offering a workshop specifically designed for organic growers on May 3, 2018 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at 1796 Asylum Avenue in West Hartford. The workshop will provide the nuts and bolts of the law, and growers will learn about what should be done on their farm. Seating is limited. Call 860-570-9010 to register.

If you use a pesticide product registered by the EPA in the production of organic agricultural plants, AND ANYONE IS doing tasks directly related to the production of agricultural plants on an agricultural establishment such as harvesting, weeding, carrying nursery stock, repotting plants, pruning or watering, the WPS probably applies to you.

This workshop will introduce you to the WPS and what’s involved with providing information, protection and in the event necessary guidance on mitigation from exposure to pesticides, sanitizers and cleaners.

For more information about the WPS:  http://www.pesticideresources.org/wps/htc/index.html

Training Resources: http://pesticideresources.org/wps/inventory.html

Spring Compost Sales

compost facility

UPDATE: DATE & PAYMENT CHANGE: Calling all green thumbs. UConn CAHNR is happy to announce sales dates for the 2018 spring compost sale. We will be open on April 20, 21, 27 and 28th. Sales hours will be Fridays 1:00pm to 4:30pm and Saturdays 9:00am to 3:00pm. Sales are CHECK and CREDIT CARD only. NO CASH. Sales will be cancelled if it is raining. The cost will be $25.00 per yard and there will be no upper or lower limits to the amount you can buy. Please call 860-486-8567 for more information.

All Paws In Today!

UConn Gives graphic“The lessons and experiences I have gained from this trip will remain with me forever as the most exciting and rewarding opportunity 4-H has ever given me.” These are the words of a 4-H teen returning home from National 4-H Congress. The 4-H Centennial Fund makes it possible for teens to attend these amazing leadership opportunities. Please give to the 4-H Centennial Fund on UConn Giving Day.

All Paws In! Support 4-H on UConn’s Giving Day

UConn Gives All Paws In logo

4-H member at Vietnam Memorial in Washington DCWe’re excited to announce that UConn Gives, the University’s first ever Giving Day, is April 4-5, 2018. Please take this opportunity to support the 4-H Centennial Fund. Visit Extension’s Giving Day page to make your gift of any amount. For more information on UConn Gives, go to givingday.uconn.edu.

The 4-H Centennial Fund has been a tremendous asset in helping youth in Connecticut experience 4-H opportunities and enhance their leadership, citizenship, and STEM skills. Established in 2002 to celebrate the 100th birthday of the National 4-H Program, the 4-H Centennial Fund allows youth to participate in national 4-H trips and statewide events–and, most of all, have fun while learning and trying new things.

Whether your support to the 4-H Centennial Fund sends delegates to the National 4-H Conference, increases Expressive Arts Day participants, or helps volunteers attend a training, you can truly make a difference to the 4-H youth and volunteers of Connecticut. To learn more about 4-H please visit http://www.4-h.uconn.edu.

Worthley Recognized for Forestry Efforts

Extension educator Tom Worthley received the Ernest M. Gould Jr. Technology Transfer Award today from the New England Society of American Foresters in Nashua, New Hampshire. With Tom are members of the Department of Natural Resources & the Environment: Senior Nick Vertefeuille, Asst. Prof. Bob Fahey, Tom, and PhD candidates Nancy Marek and Danielle Kloster. In the back are Research Technician Amanda Bunce and MS candidate Julia Rogers.Tom Worthley with colleagues receiving award Tom Worthley award recognition

Extension educator Tom Worthley received the Ernest M. Gould Jr. Technology Transfer Award today from the New England Society of American Foresters in Nashua, New Hampshire. With Tom are members of the Department of Natural Resources & the Environment: Senior Nick Vertefeuille, Asst. Prof. Bob Fahey, Tom, and PhD candidates Nancy Marek and Danielle Kloster. In the back are Research Technician Amanda Bunce and MS candidate Julia Rogers.

Salmonella Awareness is Key to Good Health

CVMDL staff member Jennifer Sale works on equine serum samples for Lyme disease testing.
CVMDL staff member Jennifer Sale works in the lab. Photo: Naturally.UConn.edu

Salmonella are bacteria that can live in the intestinal tracts of animals. There are many different types of salmonellae, some are found solely in animals and others can cause disease in both animals and people. Salmonellosis in humans can occur if they consume foods contaminated with Salmonella or have contact with animals or their environment. Animals commonly found with salmonella include reptiles, amphibians, poultry, wild birds, rodents, pocket pets, farm animals, dogs, cats, and horses.

Animals may carry certain types of Salmonella bacteria without showing any clinical signs of disease. When the Salmonella type does present with clinical signs, septicemia or typhoid, and enteritis (diarrhea) are seen. In some cases, abortion, arthritis, respiratory disease, necrosis of extremities (gangrene), or meningitis may develop. In these severe clinical infections veterinary management of Salmonella infection in an animal or herd may include isolation of the sick animal to recover, and limit any spread within the herd, or to humans. The presence of Salmonella in animals (i.e. Salmonella pullorum-typhoid or Salmonella enteritidis), is reportable to the state veterinarian and actively monitored for through surveillance testing of poultry going to fairs and requiring imported poultry to come from disease-free breeder flocks.

Salmonella is a major public health concern. There are approximately 40,000 human cases of salmonellosis reported in the United States every year, however the number could be thirty or more times greater, as milder cases may not be diagnosed by physicians or reported by the public.

People can become infected with Salmonella by:

  • Eating foods contaminated with the bacteria, such as beef, poultry, unpasteurized milk, eggs, or vegetables that are not properly handled, prepared and cooked.
  • Food contaminated by an unsanitary food handler during preparation.
  • Direct contact with farm animals or pets (including reptiles, baby chicks, and ducklings), animal feces, or animal environments.
  • Touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching their mouth or putting a contaminated object into their mouth.
  • Not washing hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers or touching animals or their environments prior to eating or drinking.
  • Drinking unpasteurized milk or contaminated water.

The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) at UConn offers a number of diagnostic procedures and tests to assist veterinarians and animal owners in diagnosing Salmonellosis or other possible diseases. Services available are whole dead animal necropsy evaluations, sample culturing for pathogen identification and antimicrobial sensitivity testing, and screening blood samples for export movement or flock certification.

CVMDL is the only laboratory in New England accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians. The laboratory is located on the UConn-Storrs campus and provides diagnostic services, professional expertise, research, and detection of newly emerging diseases. CVMDL collaborates with federal, state, and local agencies to detect and monitor diseases important to animal and human health.

CVMDL is part of the Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science (PVS) in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) at UConn. For more information, visit cvmdl.uconn.edu or contact 860-486-3738 or CVMDL@uconn.edu. Dr. Mary Jane Lis, the State Veterinarian at the Connecticut Department of Agriculture may be contacted with regard to voluntary and mandated testing requirements at 860-713-2505.

Lifelong Learning Classes Offered in April

CLIR speaker

CLIR, a lifelong learning program offered in collaboration with UConn Extension, will hold the following classes in April, all in Vernon Cottage on UConn’s Depot Campus, from 1:15 to 2:45 except for the Memoir Club.

Memoir Club                 Thursdays, April 5 – 26     10:15 – 11:45

Great Decisions             Mondays, April 9 – 30

Apr 3 Slavery in Film
Apr 11 Biking for Veterans: a cross-country trip  
Apr 18 Mind Over Matter: imagination, male and female brains, and meditation  
Apr 19 Reflections on a Life of Crime, with Attorney Mark Hauslaib
Apr 24 Climate Change, Flooding and Mitigation in the Northeast  
Apr 25 The Conflict Between Nationalism and the Interconnected Global Community