4-H Youth

Water Testing in Connecticut

water being put into test tubes with a dropper in a water test situation

Water is part of everything that we do. We are frequently asked about water testing, septic system maintenance, and fertilizing lawns. The Connecticut Institute of Water Resources, a project with Natural Resources & the Environment, has resources for homeowners: http://ctiwr.uconn.edu/residential/

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UConn Extension is Growing Food and Health with the Mashantucket Tribe

“The mission statement of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (MPTN) states they will ‘…establish a social, cultural and economic foundation that can never be undermined or destroyed…,’” says Tribal Councilor Daniel Menihan, Jr. MPTN was facing challenges growing their fruits and vegetables at a scale to meet the tribe’s needs on their land in Ledyard, and some members were struggling with diabetes.

UConn has enjoyed a long history of engagement with members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal community. Many members have graduated from UConn and served on the UConn Foundation Board, among others. Despite the fact that there is an Extension office only 10 miles from the reservation, MPTN has rarely participated in any educational outreach or training offered by UConn Extension.

UConn Extension received the four-year Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP) grant from USDA-NIFA with the goal of having the tribe share their ideas for growing food and health, and help them learn about the Extension resources that are available. As a result of the grant, the relationship between MPTN and UConn is strengthening, and there is growth in agricultural production, food security, and health for the tribal people.

heirloom tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes grown by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Photo: Noah Cudd

“MPTN is still learning, but they are now able to grow their own food, in what looks like a commercial setting,” states Shuresh Ghimire, PhD, Vegetable Crops Extension educator and principal investigator on the grant. “They have high tunnels, a rototiller, a plastic mulch layer, and cold storage, which are common tools for a commercial farm.”

Extension provides expertise through one-on-one consultation, and classroom and hands-on training on-site in a collaborative setting. Educational outreach addresses the following critical areas identified by the MPTN Council:

  1. Improve food security
  2. Improve economic viability
  3. Improve youth engagement and communications
  4. Improve nutrition and diabetes awareness through collaborative education

An Extension program involving several specialists in fruit and vegetable production, farm business management, marketing, 4-H youth development, health and nutrition, communications, evaluation and assessment is working with the MPTN on their goals. Tribal members are participating in other Extension programs, beyond the scope of the grant. A 4-H club is being established at MPTN to increase opportunities for youth.

“Once this grant came, we started working with UConn Extension Educators. There has been a substantial gain in the knowledge and skills regarding growing food, writing a business plan, nutrition, and health,” says Jeremy Whipple, a MPTN member.

Growing with MPTN

Extension provides education for MPTN in state-of-the-art sustainable vegetable and fruit production techniques, and through

people in the greenhouse at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation
UConn Extension educators work with members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in a high tunnel. Photo: Shuresh Ghimire

collaboration with MPTN, is melded with traditional and historical tribal farming methods. This provides MPTN with a means to continue the richness of their history while moving into modern sustainable farming economically.

Tribal youth are included in all aspects of the agricultural venture with the tribe’s expectation that several youth will develop major roles in the business venture. Two tribal youth are being paid by the grant to work in vegetable production at MPTN.

“Learning how to grow tomatoes, including pest management, is one of the many things I enjoy working with on this grant” Ernest Pompey, one of the tribal youths working on this grant says. “I am excited to share what I learned about growing and eating healthy food to other youth in my community.”

“The tribe also established a community garden where they bring other youth from the community to teach them about growing. The knowledge is expanding within their own community, and they are teaching each other now,” Shuresh says.

making the three sisters recipe with members of the Mashantucket tribe
Extension educators make the Three Sisters recipe with members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.

UConn Extension’s nutrition team is working with the tribal community health providers to deliver educational programming in healthy eating and diabetes prevention using classroom education, and hands-on learning in the selection and preparing of healthy food, and exercise through gardening. The goal is to reduce the risk and incidence of diabetes in the tribal community.

“The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) utilizes a hands-on approach to nutrition education, combining nutrition knowledge with enhancement of skills to apply this knowledge to prepare healthy foods that are convenient, affordable and culturally appropriate,” says Mike Puglisi PhD, RD, state EFNEP director. “Erica Benvenuti, New London County nutrition educator, taught children in the MPTN High 5 Program the importance of food safety and increasing vegetable intake, and enhanced learning through getting the children involved in preparation of a traditional recipe prepared by the MPTN, the Three Sisters Rice recipe.”

The grant is starting its third year, and another Extension educator is working with tribal youth and adults in developing a business plan for the agricultural venture to increase their success rate. Youth and adults are also learning about their agricultural history and how it can successfully be integrated into today’s modern sustainable agriculture by combining classes with in-field learning experience.

“Ultimately, after the grant ends, MPTN’s farm will operate as a commercial vegetable farm would in terms of production and reaching out to Extension when they do need help. They will be independent, and continue growing their operation to support the goals of the tribal nation,” Shuresh states.

Article by Stacey Stearns and Shuresh Ghimire

Washing Raw Poultry: Food Safety Choices

washing hands in the kitchenA study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that individuals are putting themselves at risk of illness when they wash or rinse raw poultry.
“Cooking and mealtime is a special occasion for all of us as we come together with our families and friends,” said Dr. Mindy Brashears, the USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. “However, the public health implications of these findings should be of concern to everyone. Even when consumers think they are effectively cleaning after washing poultry, this study shows that bacteria can easily spread to other surfaces and foods. The best practice is not to wash poultry.”
The results of the observational study showed how easy bacteria can be spread when surfaces are not effectively cleaned and sanitized. The USDA is recommending three easy options to help prevent illness when preparing poultry, or meat, in your home.
1. Significantly decrease your risk by preparing foods that will not be cooked, such as vegetables and salads, BEFORE handling and preparing raw meat and poultry.
  • Of the participants who washed their raw poultry, 60 percent had bacteria in their sink after washing or rinsing the poultry. Even more concerning is that 14 percent still had bacteria in their sinks after they attempted to clean the sink.
  • 26 percent of participants that washed raw poultry transferred bacteria from that raw poultry to their ready to eat salad lettuce.
2. Thoroughly clean and sanitize ANY surface that has potentially touched or been contaminated from raw meat and poultry, or their juices.
  • Of the participants that did not wash their raw poultry, 31 percent still managed to get bacteria from the raw poultry onto their salad lettuce.
  • This high rate of cross-contamination was likely due to a lack of effective handwashing and contamination of the sink and utensils.
  • Clean sinks and countertops with hot soapy water and then apply a sanitizer.
  • Wash hands immediately after handling raw meat and poultry. Wet your hands with water, lather with soap and then scrub your hands for 20 seconds.
3. Destroy any illness causing bacteria by cooking meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer.
  • Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops) are safe to eat at 145°F.
  • Ground meats (burgers) are safe to eat at 160°F.
  • Poultry (whole or ground) are safe to eat at 165°F.
  • Washing, rinsing, or brining meat and poultry in salt water, vinegar or lemon juice does not destroy bacteria. If there is anything on your raw poultry that you want to remove, pat the area with a damp paper towel and immediately wash your hands.
“Everyone has a role to play in preventing illness from food,” said Administrator Carmen Rottenberg of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). “Please keep in mind that children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk. Washing or rinsing raw meat and poultry can increase your risk as bacteria spreads around your kitchen, but not washing your hands for 20 seconds immediately after handling those raw foods is just as dangerous.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that millions of Americans are sickened with foodborne illnesses each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
More information about this study is available in an executive summary.
Have questions? Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MP-HOTLINE (1-888-674-6854). Live food safety experts are available Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time. Expert advice is also available 24/7 at AskKaren.gov.

Ask UConn Extension

food, health and sustainability venn diagram

Do you have food, health, or environmental sustainability questions?

Ask UConn Extension.

We have specialists located throughout the state to answer your questions and connect you with the power of UConn research.

Fill out this form with your question: http://bit.ly/AskUConnExtension

Extension & Bike Walk CT promote nutrition, fitness, & bike safety

three children in helmets on bikesUConn Extension, part of UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, Bike Walk Connecticut, and the Meriden Farmers Market will promote healthy living at the Get Out- Get Active-Get Healthy Bike and Back to School Rally on Saturday, September 7th from 8:30 am to 12 noon on the Meriden Green. This fun event will feature bicycle and helmet safety demonstrations, games, helmet decorating, a bicycle raffle, as well as nutrition education. Youth and families are encouraged to bring their own bikes or borrow a bike from Bike Walk Connecticut’s fleet, sized for ages 9-12 with a few for ages 5-8. Join us to practice bicycle safety and agility skills taught by certified League Cycling Instructors (LCIs). Under Connecticut State Law, anyone under the age of 16 is required to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, so families are encouraged to bring helmets if they have them and wear closed-toed shoes. New bicycle helmets will be available for free, first come, first served. Healthy food demonstrations will be provided by the UConn Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and Chef Kashia Cave, founder of My City Kitchen. This event is made possible by a grant and funding from the David and Nancy Bull Extension Innovation Fund at UConn, UConn Extension PATHS (People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability) Team, Bike Walk Connecticut, the Meriden Farmers Market, Community Health Center of Meriden and Meriden Public Schools. The free rally is open to the public on Saturday, September 7th from 8:30 am to 12 pm at the Meriden Green Amphitheater on State and Mill Street in Meriden. We look forward to seeing you there! For more information contact Laura Brown at 203-407-3161 or laura.brown@uconn.edu.

Download the flyer: Back to School Bash- Meriden-2019

Making Every Penny Count: 4-H and Financial Education

child looking at a jar of moneyAccording to a 2014 study conducted by the Connecticut Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, only 10% of Connecticut high school students participated in a personal finance class annually. Fewer than 20 high schools required students to take a personal finance course prior to graduation. According to the Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2015 by the Federal Reserve System, “Forty-six percent of adults say they either could not cover an emergency expense costing $400, or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money.” Young people need opportunities to learn about money and practice those skills to prepare for their financial futures.

Every 4-Her has the opportunity to learn about finances through their projects and activities. As a member of a local 4-H Club, they are likely to pay dues to cover the cost of their various activities. This fee (usually a dollar or two) may be used to pay for snacks, a club t-shirt, jacket, or supplies. Most clubs have officers including a treasurer who will record these funds under the supervision of an adult leader. In addition to learning about the financial aspects of their specific project such as animal husbandry, science and technology, leadership and community service, 4-H members can register for projects such as money management, consumer education, or financial literacy.

When 4-H members begin a project, they need to write down their project goal. This is great practice for managing their own finances as they will need to identify their personal financial goals and determine their priorities. 4-H members complete project record sheets for their major projects. If they spent money to complete their project, they document it. For example, when a 4-H member has a horse project, they need to consider all the costs involved in keeping that animal alive, healthy, and safe. They inventory their supplies and write down the financial value of those items. Expenses related to feeding and health such as veterinarian bills and costs related to participating in competitions are recorded. This practice reminds them that there are usually costs involved in almost any project they choose. A 4-H alumnus reports “We had to keep records of animals, breeding, litters, sales, [and] showing [events] as well as expenses such as grain, hay, feed and water bowls, carrying cages for showing, and entry fees… becoming responsible for keeping a written record for expenses and income.” In a consumer and family science project such as sewing or childcare, they record any expenses or financial values of items related to their projects such as patterns, fabric, and thread in sewing, or games, books, videos, or craft supplies to entertain young children.

4-H members have the opportunity to serve on county and state planning committees such as 4-H Citizenship Day and 4-H Advisory committees. They review the costs related to the event from the previous year to help in determining the budget for this year’s event. As a committee, they will discuss different ideas for the event and will learn that any changes they make in the program may also affect the final cost, learning financial decision-making and the need to balance income and expenses. In addition, they can become involved in county fair boards where one responsibility of each officer role is financial management. One 4-Her shared “When I was treasurer, I learned more about the financial system in 4-H. I was required to count money during the fair weekend and compare the income to past years. As Coordinator of home arts, I was responsible for calling a vendor with a request for tables. I had to know the estimated amount needed and get the estimate for the fair meeting. For entertainment, I was responsible for filling out forms for performers to ensure they were paid.“

Throughout a youth’s time in the UConn 4-H program, there are many opportunities to learn and practice financial decision-making and responsibility.

For more financial literacy resources visit https://financialliteracy.uconn.edu/

Article by Faye Griffiths-Smith, Extension Financial Educator and Margaret (Peggy) Grillo, 4-H Youth Development Educator

Katie Adkins – 4-H Volunteer Spotlight

Katie Adkins in front of Plymouth Meats signTalking to Katie Adkins you get a sense that anything in life is possible. That with a little hard work and enthusiasm you can accomplish anything. And that’s exactly what she has done. Katie is the owner of Plymouth Meats in Terryville, CT, a full service USDA inspected facility from harvesting to packaging all done under one roof. Her bright smile and infectious laugh make it seem like being a wife, mother, 4-H club leader and business owner is all part of a day’s work. The hard work ethic and drive to succeed came at a young age as Katie had to rise at 4:30/5:00 am to take care of the animals on her family’s farm. Her father jokes that when Katie was little they had 4-6 beef cows. But as Katie grew the herd grew as well to over 80 cows.

Katie grew up on Blue Moon Farm in Harwinton where her family raises Hereford beef cattle along with pigs, lambs, poultry, rabbits and goats. They process and sell meat from their own cattle. Plymouth Meats is the retail store for their farm products. They also do live animal sales. Both Katie and her parents are members of the New England Hereford Association. Her father is the President. As Hereford breeders, they also focus on genetics and perform embryo transfers as well. Katie joined the 4-H program at the age of 12 and was a member of the Litchfield County 4-H Beef Club, where she served in several officer positions, did public speaking and showed her cattle at the local fairs and the Big E. She is now in her fifth year as the leader of the same club. In taking over leadership of the club, she explains that they started out with only a few youth but have grown to 12 youth currently. She lost a lot of the older youth who aged out of the club. Their parents had beef cows and grew up on family farms. The current crop of youth are younger and only three of them have project animals. The rest are there because they also love the animals and want to come to the fair and help with the projects.

Katie has them come to her farm occasionally for meetings to get hands-on experience. Some of the kids who have multiple animals will share them come fair time so everyone in the club gets to have show experience.

Katie attended Wamogo High School and then went to Delaware Valley University in Pennsylvania where she majored in large Katie Adkins as a UConn 4-H member showing a Hereford at the Big Eanimal science and Ag Business. She finished college in 3 ½ years and landed a good job cutting meat at a small store. She decided to forego additional schooling for a career harvesting and processing meat with the goal of starting her own business. In 2011 she started the permitting process for her business which had to be approved by the town. Finding a building was the next step along with the remodeling process which took an additional 2 ½ years. In October 2017 Plymouth Meats was officially up and running. Katie explains that she was only doing custom processing at the time. It was January of 2018 when the 7,000 square foot building was completed and in March of that same year she came under inspection so that the business could do harvesting and processing.

Plymouth meats also offers seasonal deer processing and buys in some other products for weekly specials which Katie promotes strictly through social media. She also goes to the Collinsville Farmer’s Market.

Katie states that the leadership and people skills learned through 4-H provided a good foundation to help her with her business. The life-long friendships established through 4-H have also been wonderful in a lot of ways. Some of these friends are now customers and people she helps out with their 4-H clubs.

A lot of her 4-H members are realizing that 4-H provides great leadership experiences. Watching older club members help younger members is a really nice thing to see. Katie explains that 4-H teaches kids responsibility especially when it comes to the care of their animals. She states that 4-H kids seem to have a better work ethic and do well working as a team. These are all skills Katie learned as a child and uses every day running her business.

Article by Nancy Wilhelm

Auerfarm Appoints Erica Fearn as Executive Director

Erica FearnThe Auerfarm 4-H Education Center in Bloomfield, Connecticut announces the appointment of Erica Prior Fearn, CAE, as its new Executive Director, beginning July 24.

Fearn succeeds Interim Executive Director Barbara G. DeMaio, who held the position since March.

“Auerfarm is thrilled to have an executive of Erica’s caliber lead our organization. Her experience at the CT Farm Bureau at both the state and nationals brings a wealth of talent to our organization. In addition, Erica’s 25-year involvement with Connecticut

4-H, both as a youth participant and now as leader, speaks volumes about her commitment and passion for agriculture and the environment, which are at the heart of everything we do at Auerfarm,” said Mark Weisman, chair of Auerfarm’s board of directors.

“I have always admired the mission and work of Auerfarm. It is an invaluable community resource for children, families and guests from across the region who want to learn about agriculture and the environment. I look forward to working with its very dedicated staff and volunteer force to further enrich the visitor experience and chart Auerfarm’s future,” said Fearn.

In addition to her work with the CT Farm Bureau, Fearn served as a consultant to several agricultural and environmental related non-profits.  Fearn has a BS in Animal Science from UConn and earned a certificate in Financial Success for Non- Profits from Cornell University.

Fearn is a resident of West Suffield, CT.

“We are very thankful to Barb DeMaio for serving as our Interim Director for the past several months. Her work was integral in maintaining Auerfarm’s level of excellence as a community resource,” said Mary Eberle, Auerfarm board member and chair of the recruitment committee. “We also thank Harvest Development Group for their assistance is recruiting both Erica and Barb to our organization,” said Eberle. “Harvest identified the type of leaders that we needed to continue Auerfarm’s heritage as a one-of-a-kind destination and experience.”

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.

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