Agriculture and Food

Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply

Connecticut stays on guard against toxic algae blooms

Emily Van Gulick prepares a sample for examination under the microscope.
Emily Van Gulick prepares a sample for examination under the microscope. Photo: Judy Benson

Article by Judy Benson

If you’re a Connecticut shellfish farmer, your ears might perk up a bit when you hear the term HABs – harmful algal blooms.

Toxic HABs outbreaks, sometimes referred to as “red tide” or “brown tide” because of the discolored water that can occur along with it, have caused recent shellfish bed closures around the country, including states neighboring Connecticut.

Connecticut has remained relatively sheltered from HABs thus far, but there have been sporadic, rare closures in isolated portions of the state. So while shellfish farmers and regulators here keep watch for any warning signs just in case, the rest of us can keep enjoying fresh clams and oysters grown in local waters, either from a commercial farm or harvested from certified recreational municipal beds.

“People can eat shellfish from Long Island Sound with confidence,” said Gary Wikfors, director of the Milford lab of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

That’s because of the well-coordinated early warning system in place in Connecticut to catch an outbreak of the particular kinds of algae that can sometimes emit toxins harmful to clams, oysters and mussels, and sicken the people who eat them.

Algae, which range from seaweeds to tiny single-celled microalgae (also called phytoplankton), form the basis of the aquatic food chain. Among the thousands of different species, about 100 can contain or emit toxins into marine and freshwater bodies that can cause illness and even death in humans, pets and wild animals. Of these 100, a handful of are of greatest concern in Connecticut waters.

The mere presence of these types of algae isn’t a danger – most of the time a bloom occurs with no release of the toxin. But thanks to constant monitoring, there’s a system in place to respond quickly if that were ever to change. It’s a crucial part of ensuring the continued success of the state’s $30 million shellfish industry.

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USDA Non-insured Disaster Assistance Program

 

rows of vegetables with black plasticUSDA Non-insured Disaster Assistance Program or “NAP” is accepting applications until Sept 1, 2020. NAP provides financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops (such as shellfish) when low yields, loss of inventory, or prevented planting occur due to natural disasters. The annual fee is $325 and is free in some cases. Beginning, limited resource, socially disadvantaged and qualifying veterans farmers or ranchers are eligible for a waiver of the service fee and a 50 percent premium reduction. This is not a COVID-related program. It is a traditional program that is available each year.

Want to learn more? Click here to view a fact sheet
Full program details can be found on the agency’s website here.
If you have questions about this program, or are interested in applying please reach out to the state office (below) or to access the contact information for your county office, click here.
Farm Service Agency, Connecticut
344 Merrow Road, Suite B
Tolland, CT 06084-3917
Phone: (860) 871-4090
Fax: (855) 934-2463

Meet Erin Korowotny: New Haven County 4-H Intern

Erin Korowotny

Hello everyone! My name is Erin Korowotny and I am very excited to be the intern for New Haven County 4-H this summer! I am a rising senior in UConn CAHNR, studying Agriculture and Natural Resources. Currently, I serve as the Treasurer of the UConn Agriculture Advocacy Club. After graduation, I hope to pursue a career in either Extension education, or become a high school agriculture teacher. I was an avid FFA member in my 4 years of high school, but never got involved in 4-H, so I am excited to learn more about what it has to offer to its members. This summer I am working on virtual ways for our 4-H members to celebrate their annual fair and their accomplishments, as well as activities that can be done from home to keep members engaged and busy.
To see more of what I’m doing with New Haven County 4-H, check out our new Instagram page: middlesexnewhaven4hfair

There is Still Time to Garden

school garden plant
Photo: Molly Deegan

August is just around the corner, and somehow you never got your vegetable garden started. Perhaps you had a wonderful early-season harvest but didn’t plant any later-season crops. The garden bed is just sitting there, empty except for weeds.

Don’t think the garden season is over! There are plenty of short-season crops and cold-tolerant veggies you can grow starting right now.

Connecticut’s first frost dates vary from mid-September in the area of Coventry to early November along the coast in the Bridgeport area. For most of the state, that frost date falls sometime in October. (You can check your specific area at  https://www.plantmaps.com/interactive-connecticut-first-frost-date-map.php) That means most of us have anywhere from eight to ten weeks (55 to 70 days) of growing season left.

There are plenty of short-season vegetables to choose. Once you have determined your likely first frost date, select plants and varieties that will mature in that time frame. This includes vegetables such as beets, bush beans, some cabbages, lettuce, kale, Asian greens, scallions, radishes, turnips, spinach and Swiss chard.

Some vegetables can tolerate cooler temperatures and even a light frost. These selections provide a little extra insurance against an early frost. These include small, round beets, short carrots, radishes, bunching onions, mustard greens, Swiss chard, kale, and spinach. The cooler temperatures will actually improve the sweetness of carrots, cabbages and beets.

You can extend your season further by using plant protectors such as floating row covers, cloches and other similar devices that will give your plants a little extra warmth when the temperatures drop.

So, don’t put the garden tools away just yet. Get started on round two – or three – of your garden to table season!

Article by Sarah Bailey, State Coordinator, UConn Extension Master Gardener Program

Meet Ryan Morais: Vegetable Entomology Intern

Ryan MoraisI am a Senior undergrad environmental engineering major and ecology and evolutionary biology minor with a passion for entomology. This summer I will be working as a vegetable entomology intern through UConn’s Extension Internship Program. I work closely with Professor Legrand to develop an informational entomology website and outreach educational materials. Other than web development,  I am creating informational and fun content for Bug Week, developing a social media presence for the IPM entomology lab, as well as collecting and rearing various insects. Through this internship, I am excited to continue learning about entomology and the various aspects of integrated pest management.     

Meet Autumn Blasi: UConn EFNEP Intern

Autumn BlasiHi! My name is Autumn Blasi, and I’m one of the summer interns with UConn CAHNR Extension. I’m currently working in clinical and community nutrition with organizations like the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), and the Human Resource Agencies (HRA) of Bristol and New Britain. At UConn, I major in Nutritional Sciences, with a concentration in the Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD), and have a minor in Food Science. Also at UConn, I’ve been involved with various volunteer programs. I have been a member of both the Boston Understanding Homelessness and the New Haven Urban Food Insecurity alternative break trips, in addition to working with SOS Food Recovery. This involvement in volunteer work has greatly influenced my outlook on health and nutrition, as I have had the opportunity to learn first hand how limited resource populations are impacted by food insecurity. Beyond volunteer work, I’m also a peer educator for UConn Students Helping to Achieve Positive Esteem (SHAPE), and will be the secretary of UConn Nutrition Club beginning this fall. Currently, I also work as a dietary aide at Foxhill Center, a nursing home and rehabilitation facility.

Thanks to this experience, I have been able to begin my internship with a diverse background in food and nutrition subjects. Currently, I am helping to co-create and teach a summer nutrition education course through HRA. Additionally, I’m working on recipe and meal kit development, and have been attending clinical nutrition webinars. As the summer progresses, I hope to do more with clinical nutrition, and look forward to continuing my work with my amazing internship supervisors. Through this experience, I’ve already learned so much, and have found new ways to connect with those experiencing food insecurity. If you would like to learn more or support those experiencing food insecurity, check out the UConn EFNEP web page, or contact your local food pantry!

UConn EFNEP Website: https://efnep.uconn.edu/