Author: UConn Extension

My 4-H Story: Hailey Osika


Seven years ago, a friend of mine suggested that I join her 4-H group.  Eventually, I was convinced and decided I would try joining the group and “test the waters” so to speak, in order to decide if I wanted to be a part of it permanently.  To be honest, I didn’t go in knowing much about it or having very high expectations. I didn’t know if I would want to officially join, if I would event like the people in it, and I definitely didn’t know it would change my life.

I never would have imagined what an impact this program would have on me.  I grew up afraid of my own shadow and I don’t think I said a word at the first meeting I went to.  My silence didn’t last long. Since I’ve been in 4-H I have done things I never would have and come further than I could have ever imagined.  It might sound cliche, but I don’t think I would be where I am today without my club. My group is nothing short of extraordinary. Small but mighty I believe is the expression.  We might not be big but I have never seen any club as united and driven as ours. I have worked my way to being confident in myself to the point of leading our group as President for the second time.  I have also been secretary, treasurer, and have extended my reach to Fairfield County 4-H Teen Fair Board as the member and then chair of the Workshops Committee. There isn’t a person in the program that I don’t absolutely adore.

The setting that 4-H provides is unparalleled.  I have learned how to set goals and work towards achieving them each day.  4-H has taught me not only to be a good friend, role model, and citizen, but also to speak up for myself and not give up on anything.  It seems like once I got the confidence to speak up through 4-H the floodgates opened. Today, in addition to 4-H, I am a part of my school’s Writing Center as a tutor, Art Club, Debate Club, Key Club, Big Brother/Big Sister, Spanish Honor Society, and National Honor Society.  I have become not only proud of my accomplishments but proud of who I have become. Not only do I excel academically but I tutor and help others do the same. 4-H has made me more motivated, conscientious, driven and generally confident in myself. I tell others all the time that without this organization, I would still be sitting in the back of a classroom trying not to be seen.

These leadership experiences that I have acquired through 4-H have made it more likely for me to have a greater purpose in the future.  I no longer picture my future as being one in which I will work under someone else’s thumb. BY leading a committee on the Fair Board and even heading my entire club, I have become a new person.  I know how to organize projects, speak up and represent myself and others well, as well as speak tactfully while still communicating a message. I have even transferred the leadership skills. I have learned from 4-H to other areas of my life.  I lead discussion in class, represent a side in debates, and have event become a tutor in my school’s Writing Center, helping kids who are often older than me with their assignments. I have been an editor for a school newspaper and yearbook, and participate in clubs where I contribute heavily to committees and discussion.  Without 4-H I don’t think I would know how to be an effective leader and example for others.

Public Speaking was horrifying to me.  I couldn’t even fathom how I would possibly be able to stand up in front of twenty people and speak.  I was sure that I couldn’t do it. Even in classes at school when my grade was on the line I panicked if I had to speak.  Today, I can proudly say that I have been in the public speaking honor group four times. Not only is this a huge honor that proved to others I was capable, but it proved to me that I could do anything I set my mind to.  My latest speech was about introverted confidence and how you really don’t need to be loud and forceful to be thought of as confident. I have been invited to present this speech to another 4-H group because it might help others to believe in themselves just a little bit more.  I have never been more proud of a presentation that that one. I was thrilled to be able to advocate for the club that I believe gave me a voice.

I always knew that community service was important.  I genuinely care about others and my parents constantly told me how important it was to care about something bigger than myself.  The problem was, I was scared to even go help out at events by myself. Then, 4-H came along and made me go with my club and help someone else.  We did the Rake N’Bake and cleaned up leaves in the yard of an elderly person and I will never forget the smile that we got from the recipient of this small act of kindness.  Later we handmade dog bandanas to sell and raise money for a local animal shelter. I remember thinking that all I wanted to do was keep helping and finding new causes to support.  Before I knew it, I was taking on leadership roles within community service even without my club. I became a counselor for the Brookfield Vacation Bible School and had thirteen kindergarten kids to take care of and be responsible for.  I cannot explain the feeling of seeing the smiles on their faces when I danced with them or let them throw water balloons at me. I would have given anything to see those smiles, even if it meant a thousand piggy back rides. Since 4-H game me some courage I began to talk more in class and participate, which got me recruited for the Writing Center.  I began to tutor and at times had five students waiting in line for help on essays. The feeling is inexplicable when you know that you are helping someone achieve their own goals. Community service is what I love to do because I can be proud of the difference I make.

As a result of my leadership experiences I have run into some problems.  While I have learned to stand up for myself and have a bigger voice, this comes at a price.  The more we involve ourselves the more we interact with others in good and bad ways. I have had to fight for leadership positions against friends and sometimes have felt the burden of knowing that I deprived someone else of something they really wanted.  I have also unfortunately run into more competition with these friends. When everyone wants to be heard and feel important in a club or class, it is truly a hard task for me to separate feelings and my own desires. Sometimes I feel the need to back down to avoid crossing a friend.  However, 4-H has also taught me that I deserve to achieve anything I have earned just as much as anyone else. Real friends won’t risk the relationship for a title. During community service, I have run into problems with emotions I feel when I hear of other’s intentions during an activity.  I have listened to others speak of how they need community service hours and don’t actually want to be doing the task at hand. This truly makes me sad and is a big problem for me. I feel like I don’t want to be working side by side with people who have no desire to be helping someone else. Nevertheless, my outlook on this situation is simply to show these people the joys of citizenship and change their perspective on lending a helping hand.  Regardless of the problems I have faced due to my leadership and citizenship experiences, I have learned to focus on myself and if I am doing what I believe and know is the right thing to do.

There are many things that I can still learn to improve my leadership abilities and myself in general.  I think the biggest thing for me to remember is to always be learning and bettering myself. The 4-H slogan is “learn by doing” and I definitely live by it.  Even in my classes, there is always something more to learn and strive to understand. 4-H has taught me that I should always try to be the best I can be and do what is right for me.  I can still be a better speaker and work on this important skill. I can also work on becoming even more confident. Although 4-H has made my confidence sky rocket from where it once was, I think I still have timid tendencies that could be reduced to make me an even stronger leader.  Regardless of the lessons I still have to learn, the value of learning and developing is an extremely important life lesson that I might not have learned had I not joined my club.

In the future I have big dreams for myself.  I want to go to a good college and hopefully have a career in the science or math field.  The skills I have learned in 4-H will be invaluable when I move on to the next phase of my life.  Since having leadership roles in my club and fair board, I am not afraid to speak up and manage a group.  I know how to hear everyone’s ideas and be open to those that are different than mine. I have also been taught how to make a schedule and stick to it, as well as run a proper meeting and an organized event.  These skills will help me get into a good college, get a good job, and get promotions in the future. I am so excited for everything that I can now strive for, and I have to thank 4-H for giving me the courage I desperately needed.  Also, in the future I want to focus on always looking to better someone else’s life. I never want community service to be less of a priority and I want my future kids to have these same values. Citizenship will never cease to be important to me.  The experiences I have had in 4-H and the opportunities my club pushed me to take have shaped the person I am today and will continue to shape my future.

When I joined 4-H seven years ago I learned that it is a “global network of youth organizations” looking to help kids reach their potential.  This is not what it is to me. 4-H has become a second family for me, a motivator, a brighter future, and a more amazing experience than I could have even imagined.  I have truly “learned by doing” and I now know how to be myself, to lead, to be a role model, and to dream big because now I know nothing is out of reach. I believe in 4-H and everything it stands for and I am so appreciative of the opportunities it creates for myself and so many others.  I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this program is nothing short of life-changing.

By Hailey Osika

Solid Ground Farmer Trainings in January

The following Solid Ground Farmer Trainings are scheduled for January.

BF 106: Vegetable Production for Small Scale Farming – January 5th

BF 240: Pesticide Safety for Conventional & Organic Producers – January 9th

BF 270: Welding Basics for Agriculture – January 12th – FULL

BF 110: Growing Crops in Low, High and Movable Tunnels – January 26th

All classes are free, but registration is requested. Email for more information.

Stormwater Corps: Looking for Green Stormwater Opportunities

stormwater corps collage
If you were out and about in the towns of North Haven, Milford, Hamden, West Haven or Cheshire this summer, you may have seen a team of four young adults writing on clipboards, snapping pictures of parking lots, laying their phones down on the sidewalk, and peering down into storm drains. These four intrepid UConn undergrads, nicknamed the Stormwater Corps, were evaluating opportunities for “disconnecting” stormwater through the use of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) practices such as rain gardens, bioswales, and pervious pavements. Such practices help to infiltrate stormwater runoff into the ground, reducing flooding and water pollution. The students, trained by CLEAR’s water (NEMO) team, were tasked with using a combination of online mapping technology and good old-fashioned field work to look for “low-hanging fruit”­­-sites in each town where green stormwater practices were likely to be most feasible, have the greatest impact, and be cost-effective. Their findings were compiled into town reports complete with aerial photos and stormwater reduction estimates, and presented by the team to key municipal staff in each town with an emphasis on the “top five” potential sites. The Stormwater Corps project, supported by a grant from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund of theNational Fish and Wildlife Foundation, includes funds for each of the five towns to put toward construction of their top priority GSI practice. CLEAR’s long-range goal is to combine a semester-long stormwater/GSI class with the work with the towns, forming a fully realized third “Corps” program to add to the Climate Corps and Brownfields Corps.
Questions should be directed to:
Michael Dietz
NEMO Program Co-Director  or (860) 345-5225

My 4-H Story: Elizabeth Hall

To some people my 4-H story might seem dull, but to me it has been an exciting adventure!  4-H has taught me responsibility and how my actions can positively affect my community. I have also learned leadership and citizenship skills that I have been able to incorporate into activities outside of 4-H.

Setting goals in my project area has encouraged me to always strive to make the best better.  I have also come to realize that setting the goal is what is important, not necessarily the attainment.  I have found that it is important to rise to the challenge of pursuing my goals whether I attain them or not.  For example, I set a goal last year to earn my CGC (Canine Good Citizen) Title with my dog, participate in local 4-H dog shows, and show my dog at the Big E.  I accomplished earning my CGC title with my dog and showing in local 4-H dog shows. I decided not to show my dog at the Big E because I knew she wasn’t ready.  Not attaining that part of my goal has taught me to be proud of my accomplishments and learn from my mistakes.

By participating in my community I have been able to share my enthusiasm for 4-H with many youth.  I was invited to visit an afterschool 4-H Explorer club and talk to the members about my 4-H dog project.  At the afterschool 4-H Explorer club I brought my dog and did a few demonstrations of what I do in 4-H. I found it rewarding to see how much the kids enjoyed asking questions about 4-H and playing with my dog.  I am glad that I can share my passion for dogs and 4-H with the public.

4-H has given me the ability to become a leader and problem-solver.  These are skills that will benefit me my entire life. I want to give back to 4-H by empowering other youth.  I want to share with them the strengths and opportunities that I have been fortunate enough to gain through 4-H.  I look forward to future years in 4-H in which I can perfect my citizenship and leadership skills to benefit my club, my community, my country and my world.

By Elizabeth Hall

Chicken Questions?

Do you own chickens? Our poultry care video series with retired Extension Educator Dr. Mike Darre can answer your questions. There are 10 videos, topic include: how to hold your birds, how to inspect your birds, determining if your chicken is a good layer, watering systems, nest boxes, feeding, housing and heating, bird litter, housing, and the egg cleaning and quality check. You can watch the entire series on our YouTube channel.


My 4-H Story: Chloe Smith

I Found Myself at 4-H Camp

Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Chloe Smith

It’s not very often that someone reflects on defining moments in their life but when I take a moment to reflect on my life so far, the biggest influence that comes to mind is the eight years I’ve spent in the 4-H program and how the 4-H program has shaped who I am, and also helped me understand who I want to be.

I started going to 4-H camp when I was 8 years old.  When most people think of 4-H camp, they immediately think of farming but our camp is the only 4-H camp in the area that is not agriculturally based, it is centered around leadership.  When I was a younger camper, I did not necessarily understand what being a leadership camp meant but I knew I respected and looked up to the teens in our camp and hoped to someday become one of them and achieve that same respect and level of impact.

In the summer before 9th grade, I became part of the Teen Leader program, which was mainly focused on leadership.  We did a lot of team building within the program and I started to take on a lot more responsibility with younger campers.  The following year I got promoted to a junior staff, which is another leadership-based program.

In the fall of my freshman year of high school, I became a member of the Connecticut 4-H Teen Ambassador Program.  This program consists of teens from all over Connecticut and even a few out of state. Within the Connecticut Teen Ambassador Program, we meet once or twice a month to do community service projects, discuss important current issues and figure out new ways to help around our community and within our 4-H programs.

During this time, I was also learning to engage a group or speak to a crowd.  Sitting in a group of 50 or so teens we would pass around a microphone and share something, literally anything about ourselves.  One person would say they got their driver’s license or aced a test and the next person would say that their socks didn’t match. I didn’t realize it at the time but this was a leadership exercise focused on confidence and the ability to speak to a crowd, to reach an audience.  This confidence was something that helped me realize I want to work with children and help them develop their natural abilities.

I have helped plan a teen leader weekend conference with other teens from around New England.  I’ve developed my public speaking skills by giving presentations about the New London County 4-H Camp and Teen Ambassador program at the Big E.  I’ve gotten to experience once in a lifetime experiences.

In 2017, I was selected as one of the forty-three delegates to represent Connecticut at the annual Washington Focus trip in D.C.  On this trip I was able to meet so many different people from across the United States while developing my communication, leadership and citizenship skills.  I’ve learned so many skills and learned what I love to do, and I love working with people, especially kids.

Through all my work with the 4-H program I have gained more of a leadership role, it has made me realize I want to pursue a career in education of young children.  I strive to be someone that kids can look up to.

As I end my 4-H story, I reflect on how grateful I am that I became part of the 4-H Program and now have the privilege to be in a leadership role to give back to children as they start their own 4-H story.  

By Chloe Smith

In pilaf, salmon, manicotti, kelp’s versatility impresses chefs

a chef tastes kelp
Juliet Wong, convention services manager at the Sheraton, samples one of the kelp dishes.

Story and photos by Judy Benson

After tasting rice pilaf with carrots, peppers and kelp, grilled shrimp wrapped in kelp leaves, baked salmon topped with leeks and kelp and manicotti stuffed with mushrooms and kelp, restaurant owner Chris Szewczyk is eager to incorporate the Connecticut-grown seaweed into his menu.

“It’s an exciting product,” said Szewczyk, owner of Taino Smokehouse in Middletown.

Standing nearby in the kitchen of the Sheraton Hartford South in Rocky Hill was Lydell Carter, sous-chef at the hotel restaurant. Between forkfuls of the various dishes, Carter said he, too, is a convert to the possibilities of cooking with kelp.

“I definitely see it’s very versatile,” he said. “I really liked it with the shrimp.  I like the flavor profile and the texture.”

Read more…

Originally posted on the Connecticut Sea Grant website.

Pre-Register for Vegetable and Small Fruit Growers’ Conference

vegetable conference banner photo

SOUTH WINDSOR, CT – UConn Extension’s 2019 Vegetable & Small Fruit Growers’ Conference will be taking place on Monday, January 7th, 2019. The conference will be held at Maneeley’s Conference Center on 65 Rye Street in South Windsor.

The day will include 9 educational sessions, an extensive trade show with over 30 exhibitors, and plenty of time for networking. Session topics range from Farm Labor to High Tunnel Production including Growing Brambles, Growing Strawberries and Tomato Nutrient Management. Other highlights include a Cut Flower Production session that will give us a taste of the following full day workshop on January 8thin East Windsor. A farmer panel that will discuss Marketing, specifically POS (point of sale) Systems will round out the event. Three pesticide re-certification credits will be available for licensed applicators.

This event is organized by UConn Extension, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and the Connecticut Vegetable & Berry Growers’ Alliance. The steering committee uses evaluations from previous years to produce a fruitful program, gathering the best speakers from within our region and across the country to fulfill the requests and meet the needs of Connecticut growers.

This day will not only be great for learning, but also for networking with other growers, Extension educators and industry representatives. We hope you take the time to gather plenty of ideas and knowledge to take home with you to practice on your own farms and improve your farm businesses.

Pre-registration to attend the conference is $40. The pre-registration includes the trade show, continental breakfast, coffee, and lunch. The pre-registration fee for students (high school or college) is $18 (must show valid ID). Pre-registration must be received by January 2nd, 2019). After the deadline and at the door is $60 per person. The registration form, additional information and other upcoming events can be found at events.

This institution is an affirmative action/ equal employment opportunity employer and program provider. Contact us 3 weeks in advance for special accommodations.

Poinsettias: From Production to Decoration

poinsettia plant in greenhouse
E. eremicus. Photo: Leanne Pundt

Wholesale growers across Connecticut started shipping poinsettias in mid-November. Poinsettia are a long-term crop, started from rooted cuttings in early to mid-July.    Plants are pinched to promote branching and growers measure the height of the plants on a weekly basis, and enter data into a computer program, to make sure the plants will be at the desired height for their customers. These particular poinsettias were grown using biological controls. Whiteflies can be a troublesome pest for poinsettias, because homeowners can object to even one whitefly on a plant. Using biological controls, growers regularly release a small mini-wasp, Eretmocerus eremicus that parasitizes the whitefly nymphs. In the photo at left, you can see pupae glued to paper cards. Growers also release a predatory mite, Amblyseius swirskii that feeds upon whitefly eggs and nymphs. Biological fungicides are also used to prevent root rot diseases.

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are originally from Mexico. In the 20th century, the Ecke family of California was

poinsettias in a Connecticut greenhouse
Photo: Leanne Pundt

instrumental in the development of the poinsettia as a potted holiday plant. Today, there are hundreds of compact, long lasting cultivars. Red continues to be the most popular color, however, white, pink, and specked or marbled varieties also sold.  The flowers of the poinsettia are the small, cup-like structures at the center of the showy “bracts” which are modified leaves.

Retail Care Tips

Place plants in a sleeve to protect them from temperatures below 50° F when bringing your plant home. Be careful not to overwater your plants, they are very susceptible to root rots. Place poinsettias in a bright, sunny location away from hot or cold drafts.  Poinsettias are not poisonous, but their milky sap can irritate the skin. December gardening tips are available from the UConn Home and Garden Center.

By: Leanne Pundt

Preventing Early Childhood Obesity

UConn Allied Health Sciences community outreach program
Lindsey Fenn working with a group of children and their parents.

Preventing obesity in early childhood is a critical issue being addressed by a multi-disciplinary team from UConn. It’s one of three complementary projects led by faculty in Allied Health Sciences, and is funded by a grant from the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut. The project focuses on preventing obesity in early childhood by offering parents of economic disadvantage simple and feasible feeding practices to develop healthier food preferences for their children. Valerie Duffy, PhD, RD, and Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA from Allied Health Sciences and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity are the co-PIs.

Lindsay Fenn, RD, is a masters’ student in Health Promotion Sciences in Allied Health Sciences, and has conducted nutrition outreach education with family resources centers in East Hartford. Fenn conducts outreach education for three different schools, although the majority of her time is spent with Early Childhood Learning Center at Hockanum School. There are multiple partners in East Hartford that the team works with to reach audiences and broaden their impact. These include the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) centers, the Hunger Action Team, and Foodshare mobile sites.

“I ran workshops for parents on picky eating and eating healthy in general, mainly with preschool ages,” says Fenn. Each workshop is approximately one hour. She begins by working with the parents, while the children have supervised play time. Next, there is a workshop for the kids, and parents are encouraged to be involved in this segment, cooking with their kids.

UConn student Lindsey Fenn works in the community for her internship with the UConn Allied Health Sciences program.
Lindsey Fenn (far right) with a mother and child at a community outreach program.

“Programs for kids are interactive, for example, we had them make banana snowmen with pretzels for the arms and carrots for the nose. We get the kids involved so they will eat healthy foods and try new things,” Fenn adds.

Part of the project at Hockanum included a Farm to School program where they built a garden, and took the classrooms outside, planted seeds, and then volunteers weeded the gardens over the summer. Lindsay attends the community dinners at a local church, and covered nutrition topics with the participants at the dinner. She is currently working with the Mayberry Elementary School and focusing on healthy eating around the holidays.

The grant through the Child Health and Development Institute began last year, and is building off of the relationships Fenn and the Allied Health Sciences team have built in East Hartford. “Our research question is to determine if parents are following the guidelines for feeding children ages 12-36 months,” Fenn says. “We also want to determine what the knowledge gaps are for these parents.”

The team at Allied Health Sciences are using a survey and other research to fill the knowledge gaps for parents of young children. The survey was created with input from multiple stakeholders. Staff at the family resource centers were involved in developing the survey to make sure it was a good fit for the populations served. For example, the survey was administered online with pictures to reinforce concepts. Fenn conducted the survey at the East Hartford WIC program, a daycare center, and the library, and had 134 parents participate.

“Our goal is to communicate consistently with parents in East Hartford,” Harris states. “We want to help them identify one or two behaviors that could be addressed with better communication, and that they are willing to change. These may be reducing sugary drinks, replacing snacks with healthier ones, practicing responsive eating, or adding variety to fruits and vegetables.”

The team focuses on two or three changes that a parent can make in their child’s nutrition. Follow up emails with participants build off of the previous work of the messaging campaign. Dr. Molly Waring is another Allied Health team member with expertise in social media as a communication tool. Social media platforms can be used for peer support after the initial communication from the Allied Health Sciences team members.

Initial analysis shows the results are supported by previous research. There is a lack of vegetable diversity and variety in children’s diets. Numerous parents cited that they are serving their children sugar sweetened beverages.

The next phase of the team’s research is convening focus groups at WIC and Hockanum in January and February that will talk about the main areas and gaps in knowledge that the research identified. Results are being shared with stakeholders so that they can also tailor their nutrition education messages to help parents decrease sugar-sweetened beverages and increase vegetable variety.

“I’ve gotten to know the different families, and received positive feedback about the workshops,” Fenn concludes. “It’s rewarding to interact with people, and see parents again after you’ve worked with them. They appreciate our work and say that we’ve helped them make positive changes.”

The grant is only for the project in East Hartford, however Duffy and Harris are developing a proof of concept through this project so that East Hartford can be a pilot for other communities to use communication in preventing early childhood obesity.

By Stacey Stearns