Agriculture

Solid Ground Farmer Trainings Continue

modeling pesticide safety outfit solid ground farmer training models pesticide safety outfit

UConn Extension’s Solid Ground Training class for beginner farmers on the “Safe and Effective Use of Pesticides For Organic and Non-Organic Producers”, held in Bethel on April 10 and taught by Mary Concklin. A part of the class was devoted to learning about personal protective equipment (PPE) with Chelsey Hahn modeling several different PPE items.

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.

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.

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.

Job Opening: Master Gardener Coordinator

Master Gardener logoMaster Gardener County Coordinator: Litchfield County

The UConn Extension Master Gardener Program is seeking applications for the position of Master Gardener Litchfield County Program Coordinator. This is a 16‐hour‐per‐week position and is a temporary, six‐month appointment. Renewal is optional pending coordinator review and availability of program funding.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to: providing leadership for the base county Master Gardener program. Successful candidate will coordinate staffing of program mentors, volunteers and interns; work with UConn Extension center/county‐based faculty and staff, as well as university‐based faculty and staff as needed. Will also need to work with allied community groups and Extension partners such as the CT Master Gardener Association and Extension Councils; train and supervise interns in the Extension center when classroom teaching is completed; arrange and conduct Advanced Master Gardener classes each year; create, develop and coordinate outreach programs and projects in the county. They will prepare annual reports on program activities, impacts, incomes, outcomes (number of clientele contacts); and communicate effectively with the state coordinator, other county coordinators, center coordinators and support staff.

Preference will be given to candidates who are Certified Master Gardeners, or with a degree in horticulture, botany, biology or equivalent experience. Interested applicants should possess strong organizational, communication and interpersonal skills and be able to show initiative. They should be able to demonstrate experience in working collaboratively as well as independently, and be willing to work flexible hours including some evenings and weekends. Must be familiar with Microsoft Office.

Volunteer experience is desired. Monthly reports shall be communicated to the state coordinator and topical information may be shared with others as requested.

Submit letter of application, resume and names of three references to:

Sarah Bailey, State Extension Master Gardener Coordinator at sarah.bailey@uconn.edu

Please put Master Gardener Coordinator Position in the subject line.

If you are unable to use email, you may send it to:

Sarah Bailey

State Extension Master Gardener Coordinator

University of Connecticut

1796 Asylum Avenue

West Hartford, CT 06117‐2600

Screening will begin immediately.

To print a copy of this description, download: County MG Position Description – Litchfield.

Cloe Labranche: 4-H Alumni Spotlight

Meet 4-H Alumni and UConn undergraduate Cloe Labranche. We met with her and chatted about her 4-H experience, and what she is up to at UConn.

Cloe Labranche (left) and Laura Irwin at the 2017 Little International Livestock Show at UConn.
Cloe Labranche (left) and Laura Irwin at the 2017 Little International Livestock Show at UConn.

How did you become involved with 4-H? Can you tell us about your 4-H experience?

I came from a non-ag family and found out about 4-H when I was eight years old from a neighbor. I was very interested in larger animals, and I was lucky to find a dairy club close to my hometown of Ellington. I joined the Merry Moo-er’s of Enfield a year later, and was involved with them until I aged out of 4-H.

Did you visit UConn for a 4-H event prior to attending UConn?

My 4-H club was full of wonderful leaders who pushed me to take advantage of as many 4-H experiences as possible, including the ones at UConn. I showed at the UConn poultry show and Dairy Day, along with various workshops that were held throughout the years. I spent a lot of time at UConn before I came here as a student.

Why did you apply to UConn? What are you majoring in, and when is your expected graduation?

I am a sophomore majoring in Animal Science and will be graduating in May 2020. I applied to UConn because I knew that the connections I made here in my 4-H years would open up many opportunities for career options. I also knew that the Ag program here is unlike any other.

Did 4-H influence your choice of university or major?

4-H played a major part in my decision; however; I think I would have ended up here regardless. I knew I wanted to work with animals before I knew about 4-H, and I also come from a family of UConn alumni.

What was the most challenging part of 4-H?

The most challenging part of 4-H was doing things out of my comfort level. I had many mentors who pushed me to do things that I might not have pushed myself to do in my youth. I was lucky to have people to encourage me to join the CT Quiz Bowl team, show at the Big E, attend the Citizenship Washington Focus trip, run for club and county officer positions, and many more. After 4-H, I have learned to push myself to do things that I might not have done otherwise. Doing so helps anyone make the most out of 4-H, college, and life.

What was the most rewarding part of 4-H?

The opportunities. Every single aspect of 4-H that I took advantage of made me a stronger person with skills I will use forever. It opened up a world of career options that made me excited for my future in animal science, and I hope to become a passionate worker when I begin my career, whatever that may be.

What is your favorite 4-H memory?

I attended the National 4-H Dairy Expo Trip in Madison, Wisconsin when I was 16. After a long day of educational workshops and hands-on activities, the whole group of 4-Hers from all over the country gathered in the dining hall of our housing area and had a square dance. I can’t think of a time I had more fun.

Is your course work at UConn building off of your 4-H experience?

Yes. This is something I notice especially now as a sophomore, where my classes are becoming less generic. I have had a slight advantage in almost all of my classes I have taken this semester because of the knowledge I have gained throughout my 4-H years.

After you earn your degree, what are your plans for the future? 

I would love to work with animal genetics, or possibly biosecurity and research with animal products. If you ask me again in a month, that answer might be different, because I have many interests within animal science careers. All I know is that I would love to do anything where I can help create more sustainable agriculture in the world.

Can you tell us about some of your other interests?

I have a passion for music and have been playing piano and guitar for 12 years.

Anything else you think we should know?

I would not be the person I am today without 4-H.

Tick Alert!

Headed outdoors? The recent warm weather has brought the ticks back out. Make sure you take precautions against ticks in October and November. Adult ticks are more active during this time of the year, creating a problem for both humans and animals.

These disease-carrying arachnids reside in moist areas, long grass and the leaf litter and will latch onto humans and animals alike. Although there are many different species of ticks, people generally think of one tick species in particular when worrying about illness: the deer tick. While the Deer tick is predominantly known for transmitting Lyme disease (caused by the corkscrew-shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi) it can also carry other disease causing agents such as Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia microti and Borrelia miyamotoi. These are the causative agents of Granulocytic Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis and Borrelia miyamotoi respectively. A single tick has the potential to transmit one, two, or even all four of these illnesses simultaneously! Other species of ticks found in the Northeast such as the Dog tick (Dermacentor variablis), Brown Dog tick (Rhiphcephalus sanguineus) and Lonestar tick (Amblyomma americanum) can also be tested for different pathogens known to cause illness in humans and/or animals.

ticks
Photo: CVMDL
ticks being tested for Lyme disease at UConn lab
Photo: Heather Haycock

If you find a tick on yourself, your child, or your pet, remove it immediately but do not make any attempt to destroy it. The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) at UConn can test the tick for all those pathogens. Ticks received at the CVMDL are first examined and identified by trained technicians using a dissection microscope. This identification process determines 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 (the host). Ticks may then be tested for the DNA of pathogens that are known to be transmitted by that tick species. Results are reported within 3-5 business days of receiving the sample. Next business day RUSH testing is available for an additional fee. The information obtained from testing your tick at UConn is very useful when consulting with your physician or veterinarian about further actions you may need to take.

Compared to 2016, this year, the CVMDL has seen a significant increase in the numbers of tick submissions to the laboratory. In the month of April the number of submissions increased 92% relative to the same month in 2016. The increases for other warm weather months were 104% in May, 70% in June and 60% in July. CVMDL speculates that changes in weather patterns this year may have affected changes in tick populations and with that, increased number of tick submissions to the lab.

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, and collaborates with federal, state, and local agencies to detect and monitor diseases important to animal and human health.

How to send in ticks: Please send ticks in sealed, double zip lock bags accompanied by a small square of moist paper towel. The submission form and the “Do’s and Don’ts of tick testing” can be found on our website at http://s.uconn.edu/tickform. You can also watch a video produced by UConn Communications for the Science in Seconds series here.

Who Keeps Our Food Supply Safe?

Who keeps our food supply safe?

Rules, regulations, jurisdiction

 By Diane Wright Hirsch

Senior Extension Educator/Food Safety

 

I am often asked who to contact when someone has a concern about the regulation of our food supply. It might be a budding entrepreneur who needs to know which agency they need to contact to figure out which regulations they need to comply with. A consumer might want to report that they found something in a food product that shouldn’t be there (a piece of plastic, a rodent part) or they may suspect that an allergen is not properly labeled. A farmer might want to build a packing facility or commercial kitchen on their farm to increase the value of their food product with further processing. Processors may want me to act as a go-between in order to retain their anonymity while finding the answer to a question about regulation of their operation.  Sometimes these questions relate to a Federal rule or regulation. There are many layers that can be tough to wade through.

Connecticut is rather unique in the food regulation department: we actually have three agencies that have primary responsibility or “jurisdiction over” food. Most states have one or two.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) Food Protection Program oversees regulations relating to foodservice operations: restaurants, department of public health logocaterers, temporary food events (fairs, community dinners), food trucks, and institutions such as college foodservice. The Program’s overall mission (as stated on their website), “is to reduce the risk of foodborne disease by ensuring reasonable protection from contaminated food and improving the sanitary condition of food establishments.”

The Program develops new and updates existing regulations. Recently, the Federal Model Food Code was adopted as the state’s food code. This allows for standardization with other states who follow that code—making it easier for businesses (i.e. Stop and Shop or Burger King) that have operations in many states to have similar rules to follow from state to state. Food Protection Program personnel train, certify and re-certify sanitarians in each local health district to ensure that foodservice operations in their jurisdictions are complying with the Connecticut food code. The local/city/district health departments carry out the actual inspection and regulation of the operations. All foodservice operations must be licensed. You can go to the website at www.ct.gov/dph, go to the A-Z menu and find both the Food Protection Program (under F) and a listing of all Local Health Department (under L). The phone number is (860) 509-7297.

The Food Protection Program is also responsible for monitoring complaints of foodborne illness and investigating outbreaks in collaboration with local health departments, the DPH Epidemiology Program, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). If you fear that you might have a foodborne illness you should contact either your local or the state health department.

The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) “regulates all persons and businesses that manufacture or sell food products in the State in order to detect and prevent the distribution of adulterated, contaminated, or unsanitary food products,” according to the website.

department of consumer protection logoThe Foods Program employs food inspectors who are responsible for inspecting retail food operations (grocery stores; big box stores that have grocery store operations, such as Costco or Walmart; farm stands and other retail operations). They also inspect food manufacturers and food operations that transport or store food (distributors). Many of these operations are licensed by DCP, who administers licenses for food manufacturing establishments, bakeries, non-alcoholic beverages including cider, wholesale and retail frozen desserts and vending machines. They are involved in food recall implementation. If you have food safety concerns regarding a Connecticut food processor or retailer (including food products they are selling) or if you want to start a food manufacturing business, the DCP is the regulatory agency to contact. The exception to this is meat and poultry processors. All meat and poultry processing is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS).

DPC’s website is www.ct.gov/dpc. Go to the “Programs and Services” tab and you will find the “Food Program” listed. Or call them at (860) 713-6160.

The third state agency with food safety responsibilities is the Connecticut Department of Agriculture (DoAg). Like the federal agency (USDA), the department of agriculture logoDepartment is involved in a variety of regulatory and marketing activities. If you have questions related to the products they regulate, you can give them a call at: 860-713-2500 or go to the website at www.ct.gov/doag.

Recently, the DoAg was given responsibility for implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule in Connecticut. This is an FDA rule addressing the safety of fresh produce grown on Connecticut farms. The agency also provides produce farmers with a voluntary third-party audit program, called GAP (Good Agricultural Practices): sometimes grocery stores or produce distributors will require farms they buy produce from to have a third-party audit. The Agency also addresses animals and animal health, including food animals; milk and cheese producers and processors; retail milk sales; and a programs for small poultry producers who want to process and sell their birds directly to consumers and restaurants. The Bureau of Aquaculture addresses the safety of the Connecticut clam and oyster industries via water testing, regulation and licensing programs.

Sometimes the regulatory jurisdictions of these three agencies cross paths. A grocery store may have DoAg inspectors looking at their dairy case; a local health inspector checking out their rotisserie chicken operation and a DCP inspector conducting a regular whole-store inspection all in one week. A farmer who wants to develop a jam and jelly processing kitchen on the farm may have to contact the local health department to ensure that their commercial kitchen meets town regulatory requirements before the DCP inspects the processing operation. The farm could be visited by a DoAg inspector who is making sure the farm complies with the Produce Safety Rule.  This is why, at times, the regulation of food in Connecticut can be confusing. However, if you contact any of the agencies directly, they are able to direct you to the appropriate agency to handle your questions.

To add to this, there are also two agencies at the federal level who regulate food. The USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) regulates all meat, poultry, and processed eggs. A few states have equivalent state inspection programs for these products, but Connecticut is not one of them. Therefore, anyone with questions about how meat and poultry is regulated or, if who wants to obtain a grant of inspection from FSIS (the only way you can legally process meat/poultry in Connecticut), must talk to the folks at FSIS.  The best place to start is the web site at www.fsis.usda.gov. You may also contact the Philadelphia regional office (215) 597-4219.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all foods that are not covered by FSIS. The enormity of the job is tempered by the fact that retail foods and foodservice are regulated by state food or public health agencies. In addition, the FDA may contract with state food and/or health agencies to carry out inspection programs for FDA regulated foods, including seafood, fresh juices, fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, and pretty much anything else. Check for the appropriate contacts on the web site, www.fda.gov. Click on the “Food” tab as FDA is responsible for pharmaceuticals, animal food, and many other health and food related areas. On the food landing page, there is information regarding how to contact the FDA directly.

For more information about regulation and food safety, 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.