Community

We Want You to Volunteer with UConn 4-H

Garret helping a younger 4-H member
Garret works with a younger 4-H member at the Middlesex-New Haven 4-H Fair. Photo: Kara Bonsack

Do you enjoy working with children? Want to share your time and talents with young people in the community? Like to have fun, learn new skills and make a difference? Then being a 4-H volunteer is for you!

4-H volunteers play a significant role in helping youth to reach their potential. As a volunteer, you will help youth in your group learn leadership, citizenship and life skills through projects and activities. If you have a hobby or interest you would like to share with young people such as photography, leadership, animals, plants, fishing, drama, community service, computers and technology, woodworking, fashion design, arts and crafts, rocketry and more, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.

Start volunteering today by going to https://bit.ly/2Oj4TkU

Urban Agriculture Graduation

2018 Urban Agriculture graduates from the UConn Extension program
Standing (left-right): Dr. German Cutz, Ecuadorian Consulate Representative, Franzel Ansah, Farron Harvey, Dr. Michael O’Neil (Associate Dean UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources), Angela Cusicanqui, Christopher Cane, Chef Mona Jackson (Cook and Grow), Diana Chacon, Olga Peralta, Cristina Sandolo (Executive Director of Green Village Initiate), Cornelia Olsen, Zonia Menendez, Marcial Menendez. Front (left-right): Richard Brana, Jane Jacobus, Renita Crawford, Fidelina Linares, I Messiah

UConn Extension in collaboration with Green Village Initiative offered the Urban Agriculture Program in Bridgeport, Connecticut from November 2017 to November 2018. A new group of urban farmers graduated on December 7, 2018. The UConn Extension urban agriculture program consists of three components: classroom instruction, hands-on vegetable production, and entrepreneurship. To complete the program students need to pass five modules including botany, soils, entomology, vegetable production, and Integrated Pest Management, with 70% or higher grade. Congratulations to the new Urban Farmers!!!

 

The urban agriculture program will be offered as follows:

Bridgeport: Starts on January 10, 2019

Bethel: Starts on January 8, 2019.

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La Extensión de la Universidad de Connecticut en colaboración con Green Village Initiative ofrecieron el programa de Agricultura Urbana en Bridgeport, Connecticut de Noviembre 2017 a Noviembre 2018. Un nuevo grupo de agricultores urbanos se graduaron el 7 de Diciembre, 2018. El programa de agricultura urbana de la Extensión de UConn consiste de tres componentes: clases teóricas, producción de vegetales, y negocios. Para completar el programa los estudiantes necesitan pasar cada modulo, que incluye botánica, suelos, entomología, producción de vegetales, y Manejo Integrado de Plagas con 70 puntos o más. Felicitaciones a los nuevos Agricultores Urbanos!!!

 

El programa de Agricultura Urbana se ofrece como sigue:

Bridgeport: Inicia el 10 de Enero, 2019

Bethel: Inicia el 8 de Enero, 2019

National Hand Washing Week

As part of Marc Cournoyer’s involvement with the Healthy Homes Partnership, he created a poster contest to recognize national hand washing awareness week which runs from Dec. 2-8.  Some of the kids from the Windham Heights 4-H club created posters to educate the public on the importance of hand washing. Marc is a UConn Extension 4-H educator.

CT’s First Stormwater Utility

Earlier this summer, New London became the first municipality in Connecticut to establish a stormwater utility which goes into effect January 1, 2019.  This means they will begin charging all property owners a fee for their contribution to the city’s stormwater runoff.  Previously, New London relied on property taxes to fund maintenance of their stormwater infrastructure which includes all the storm drains and underground pipes that carry runoff from buildings, streets, and parking lots into nearby waterbodies.  This model has left much of the city’s stormwater management efforts significantly underfunded.  By charging stormwater fees, New London, a small city with many tax-exempt properties, is securing a dedicated funding source to pay for maintaining their stormwater infrastructure and complying with other management efforts, like public outreach, removing illegal discharges from the stormwater system and sampling stormwater discharge for pollutants.

New London may be the only stormwater utility in Connecticut but not in New England. According to a 2016 survey of U.S. stormwater utilities by Western Kentucky University, 3 New England states were home to established stormwater utilities: Maine (5), Vermont (3), and Massachusetts (7).  But outside our region, these utilities have become much more common.  Overall, the U.S. had nearly 1,600 stormwater utilities led by Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin each having more than 100 a piece.  Clearly, there are many states (including some with reputations of having less stringent regulatory environments than CT) that have already embraced stormwater utilities as a practical way to pay for strong municipal stormwater management programs.

stormwater utilities map
Number of Stormwater Utilities in every state. From Western Kentucky University Stormwater Utility Survey 2016.

By Amanda Ryan

 

A Marsh Migration Buffer Takes Shape

Dodge Paddock Beal Preserve is a small oasis in Stonington Borough and is owned by Avalonia Land Conservancy. With tidal wetlands, coastal grassland and a rocky intertidal area, the area has much to offer visitors. The preserve has been the focus of many efforts involving the land trust, CT Dept of Energy and Environmental Protection, Mystic Aquarium and Connecticut Sea Grant. Superstorm Sandy (2012) had significant impacts to the site with both physical (seawall damage) and ecological impacts. Work by Avalonia, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Mystic Aquarium have focused on restoration and management of the tidal wetland with extensive regrading, Phragmites australiscontrol work and planting of native marsh vegetation. Other significant site work includes grassland management to control invasive plants in upland areas.

Landward of the tidal wetland, numerous questions have arisen with the upland habitats. The Beal Family maintained several beautiful, large gardens as a condition of their land donation. Mrs. Beal recently passed away, so Avalonia needed to determine how to manage a large area of the property bordering the wetlands. Given the proximity of the formal gardens to the marsh, projections of sea level rise of approximately 20 inches by 2050, and observations indicating that the marsh is migrating landward in parts of the Preserve, the creation of a marsh migration buffer seems to be the most prudent approach. With a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Long Island Sound Futures Fund, we are moving forward with the creation of such a buffer.

Land Trust Steward, Beth Sullivan, led the clearing of the formal gardens by having local garden clubs, neighbors and friends come in and remove plants which included everything from fennel to canna lilies. More volunteers pulled roots and cleared as much as possible. Then we covered the gardens with black plastic, letting it “solarize” over the summer months. After much planning and determining what plants would work best, we planted the new buffer on Oct 19th. A hardy crew of volunteers rolled up the plastic, raked and leveled the gardens and then sowed seeds with a mix of native coastal grass species. We were also fortunate to obtain seeds for several native species that had been collected several years ago by the New England Wildflower Society as part of their Seeds of Successprogram. Seeds of native species that were collected locally include switch grass and little bluestem as well as herbaceous perennials such as tall goldenrod. Other donations included milkweed seeds and root balls of joe pye weed from local gardens.

people walking with plastic uncovering ground
Removal of the plastic sheeting that was used to solarize the area over the summer months. Photo by J. Benson Oct 19, 2018

spreading mulch over dirt and seed
Seeded area is covered with a thin layer of straw for the winter months. Photo by J. Benson Oct 19, 2018

 

So now we can wait out the winter months and hope for a fruitful spring. While marsh migration with sea level rise is very slow, we are hoping to develop a coastal grassland/meadow that will be an ecologically productive habitat.

By Juliana Barrett

Job Opening: Part-time Education and Outreach Consultant

POSITION ANNOUNCEMENT

Title: Education and Outreach Consultant

Location: Tolland County Extension Center, 24 Hyde Avenue, Vernon

Commitment: 20 hours/week part time position; January 2019-May 2019. This position will be guaranteed through May 2019, with the possibility of continuing through the summer.

Posting Close Date: Monday, December 3, 2018


Kale Yeah child at school
Photo: Molly Deegan

Organization Overview : The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) at University of Connecticut is committed to its status as a land grant institution, serving Connecticut and the global economy through research, education, and public engagement. CAHNR’s vision is to provide for a global sustainable future through scientific discovery, innovation, and community engagement. UConn Extension fulfills the land grant University’s mission of outreach and public engagement. Over 100 UConn Extension specialists work in the 169 local communities across Connecticut as educators, problem solvers, catalysts, collaborators and stewards. Our eight regional Extension Centers, the Sea Grant program at Avery Point, the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm, the Home and Garden Education Center and the UConn Extension office in Storrs are strategically located throughout the state to meet local needs. UConn Extension enhances small businesses, the economic and physical well-being of families, and offers opportunities to improve the decision- making capacity of community leaders.

Program Overview : Since 2012, the University of Connecticut (UConn) Extension has worked to strengthen farm to school in the state. Our Put Local on Your Tray Program, launched in 2015, helps schools source, serve, and celebrate local food. We offer communication materials that feature 16 seasonal products and several resources to help school food directors connect with local farmers. For the 2018-19 school year, 56 school districts have signed up to participate in Put Local on Your Tray; participating districts commit to serving locally grown products on “Local Tray Days.” In our work ahead, we plan to add a new set of educational resources that can be used by classroom teachers that reinforce learning about local food that is being served in the cafeteria. Our major program partners are CT Dept. of Education and FoodCorps CT.

Position Overview : UConn Extension is looking for an experienced and committed individual to join our Tray team to assist in outreach efforts in 2019. A successful candidate will have a proven track record of:

● Outstanding professional relationship and collaboration skills

● Excellent skills in communications and outreach

● Experience working in classroom settings and developing activities for students in K-8 settings

● Managing multiple deliverables with deadlines

● Familiarity with Farm to School programming in Connecticut

This Education and Outreach Consultant will report to the Associate Extension Educator in Sustainable Food Systems, Jiff Martin. The Project Coordinator, Molly Deegan, will help guide day-to-day activities. The position will be filled ASAP, with a preferred start date of January 1, 2019.

handing a smoothie cup
Photo: Molly Deegan

Responsibilities:

1. 35% time = Develop new educational materials – Develop new resources for classroom use (K-8) that reinforce Put Local On Your Tray program materials that are being used in cafeterias of participating districts. Work with a professional designer, if needed, to develop these new tools. This task includes dissemination of final products to participating districts.

2. 35% time = Program representation – Attend Connecticut and regional major conferences, professional meetings, and events to represent the program and deliver presentations about the Put Local On Your Tray Program. Wherever possible, dates are indicated below. Please do NOT apply unless you can fulfill the majority of the following:

○ 3-5 presentations for School Nutrition Association of Connecticut Regional Chapter Meetings to provide overview of program resources and tools

○ Attend and staff info table at CT Farm to School Conference (Jan 22, 2019)

○ Attend and staff info table at CT Northeast Organic Farming Assoc Winter Conference (Mar 2nd, 2019, location tba)

○ Attend and staff info table at Ag Day at the Capitol (March 20, 2019, Hartford)

○ Attend and staff info table at Farm-to-Institution New England Summit (April 2-4, Leominster, MA)

○ Attend and participate at CT Farm to School Collaborative Meetings – Meets monthly (every third Wednesday, 9:30 – 11:30, Hartford)

3. 30% time = Communications – Ensure consistent and reliable interaction with partners andstakeholders. This includes:

○ Respond to enquiries from stakeholders interested in the program.

○ Respond to enquiries and requests for resources from school districts already participating in program.

○ Social media – Develop and schedule regular posts to Facebook and Instagram accounts twice a week.

○ E-Newsletter – Publish monthly e-newsletter for program partners and stakeholders.

○ Maintain inventory of program materials (posters, stickers, bookmarks).

○ Assist with gathering data from participating school districts at the end of the school year.

Compensation : We anticipate filling this position for a start date of January 1, 2019 . The position will be guaranteed through May 2019, with the possibility of continuing apples drawing and stickers from childthrough the summer. The compensation will be: $25/hour for up to 20 hours per week. Due to the nature of the position, the expectation of 20 hours per week is an annual average, but it likely to vary based on outreach events. Travel costs will be reimbursed at the applicable federal rate.

Required Qualifications :

● B.A. or B.S. in sustainable food systems, agriculture, natural resources, public health, education, or related field

● A minimum of 2-3 years experience in education, agriculture, or related work in a not-for-profit setting or extension program setting

● Outstanding communication skills, teaching skills, and the ability to work with teams

● A strong understanding of school environments

● Strong work ethic and reliability

● Oral speaking skills, including experience as a presenter

● Comfortable working with individuals and organizations committed to meaningful social change and food justice through sustainable food and agriculture systems

● Excellent competency with computer and communications technologies including Microsoft Office Suite, Google Drive, and major social media platforms

● Must own a vehicle and be willing and able to travel across state for events or meetings

● Must be willing to commute to UConn Extension office in Vernon

● Must be available until May 2019

● Flexibility and optimism a must

Preferred:

● Experience working in school cafeterias or closely with school food services

● Good understanding of the federal meal guidelines of the National School Lunch Program and other child nutrition programs in school settings

● Familiarity with function and role of education service providers, including CT State Department of Education and USDA Food and Nutrition Services

What’s in it for you?

● Work in an environment with colleagues that see broad connections between sustainable agriculture, food systems, and food justice

● Develop professional relationships with a new cohort of leaders in farming and food systems in Connecticut and across the nation

● Work alongside a supervisor willing to support your own professional development and networking opportunities

● Develop new contacts and introductions across University of Connecticut, state agencies, and at USDA

To Apply: Our team is more innovative and responsive when our staff represents a diversity of perspectives and life experiences. People of color, people with disabilities, veterans, and LGBTQ candidates are strongly encouraged to apply. UConn provides reasonable accommodations to employees as required by law. Applicants with disabilities may request reasonable accommodation at any point in the employment process.

To apply, send a cover letter, resume, 3 references to Jiff Martin, Associate Extension Educator in Sustainable Food Systems. Send all documents together in ONE email to jiff.martin@uconn.edu. In the subject line please use this description: “Last Name, First Name – Tray Education and Outreach Consultant position.” Only competitive candidates will be invited to participate further in the recruitment process. Position closes Monday, December 3, 2018 .

University of Connecticut is an Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity Employer and Program

Communicating Towards Improved Health and Nutrition

Obesity is increasingly affecting residents of Connecticut. Recent statistics report that 20% of children and 36% of young adults are afflicted by obesity (Poulin & Peng, 2018). A team of Extension educators, faculty, and graduate students in Allied Health Sciences are working with community partners to take a multi-faceted approach to addressing health and nutrition issues in schools and families through research and outreach.

“We’re trying to empower income-challenged families to minimize the barriers to healthy eating and lifestyles,” says Valerie Duffy, PhD RD, principal investigator or co-principal investigator on the projects, and Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in Allied Health Sciences. “We’re working with stakeholders to determine what modes of communication are best for them, and how to close the gap between what the families are doing, and what behaviors would be better.”

Allied Health Sciences program for families in East Hartford
Lindsey Fenn, RD, a graduate student in Allied Health Sciences working with a group of children and parents in East Hartford.

Currently there are three funding sources supporting the initiatives of the team. The first is a grant from the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut 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. Duffy and Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA from Allied Health Sciences and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity are the co-PIs. Other team members are from Allied Health Sciences, the Rudd Center, the Department of Nutritional Sciences, the Department of Communication, and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. The community partner is East Hartford Family Resource Center.

“We have a collaborative team that’s trying to develop simple messages for families to help them establish healthy eating behaviors in toddlers. We hope to make messages are tailored to families so they are more meaningful,” says Duffy.

Hatch funding from the Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station, also in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources funds tailored messages for health promotion and obesity prevention using e-health and m-health. The inter-disciplinary team is also on this project, with many of the same team members. Three connected studies will harness technology to deliver tailored nutrition and health messages to middle school students, adolescents, and young adults to improve diet quality for obesity prevention. Community partners include Windsor Public Schools and UConn Student Health Services.

The SNAP-Ed program, funded by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) of the United States Department

Allied Health Sciences graduate student working with Windsor resident
Heidi Karner, RD, a graduate student in Allied Health Sciences works with a Windsor resident.

of Agriculture (USDA) is the third funding source, and glue that connects all of the projects. The SNAP-Ed program has built a foundation in communities throughout central Connecticut and developed strong partnerships over many years of collaboration. In turn, these partnerships allow the team to identify community needs with input from audiences served and program partners.

“We make lessons applicable to our audiences’ lives,” says Tina Dugdale, MS, RD/RN. “It’s possible to eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables in recommended serving sizes.” The SNAP-Ed program engages undergraduate and graduate students in Allied Health Sciences – especially those in the Dietetics Coordinated Undergraduate Program and Internship – who work in a variety of communities in Connecticut to deliver nutrition education and carry out service and outreach projects.

All three of the projects offer communication and outreach that is culturally relevant and tailored to the populations served. Materials and classes are offered in English and Spanish. Survey research will identify the key gaps in behavior, and further influence the communication campaigns. The goal connecting all projects is to improve family dietary quality and energy balance in families of economic disadvantage.

“Many people are banded together throughout the state putting forth efforts to help people with their hardships,” Dugdale concludes. “It’s a satisfying victory when we see our participants make small changes that contribute to the improvement of their health and nutrition.”

 

References

Poulin, S. M. & Peng, J. (2018). Connecticut Childhood Obesity Report, 2018. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Department of Public Health.

 

Text by Stacey Stearns

Coastal Storm Preparedness Story Map for Connecticut

coastal house damaged from a storm in ConnecticutAs part of the Coastal Storm Awareness Program (CSAP) 10 social science research and related new technology projects were funded to improve public response to coastal storm hazard information. In one of these studies, Jennifer Marlon, of Yale University, and other collaborators in 2015 found that 70 percent of coastal Connecticut residents are either unsure or unaware if their home is in an evacuation zone as determined by flood maps developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Another 74 percent of coastal Connecticut residents have never seen an evacuation map for their community.

In order to provide information on evacuation zones, local evacuation routes and customized municipal preparedness, Extension faculty at Connecticut Sea Grant and UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research and a UConn student developed a Coastal Storm Story Map. A story map is a tool developed by the software company, Esri, that allows authoritative maps to be combined with text, images and videos to tell a story. This story map provides information on evacuation zones and local evacuation routes, as well as links to sign up for town emergency alerts. Piloted with four coastal towns, the project’s goal is to have information for all coastal and riverine communities throughout the state. Any town interested in providing evacuation route and shelter information for the story map, please contact Juliana Barrett at juliana.barrett@uconn.edu.

CT Trail Census Update

CT Trail Census logo

Greetings, trail folks! As seasons change and everyone debates which one is the best, we here at the CT Trail Census (CTTC) realized that thanks to last year’s CTTC volunteer participants, we actually do have data with which to rank the seasons with!

Trail use data, of course!

So here it goes: According to last year’s data, the average total daily uses across all trails during the summer was 336 versus 221 in the fall. This may surprise people since fall is such a beautiful time to use the trails for walking, running, horseback riding, and almost any activity besides skiing! We should probably compare these numbers to next year’s data before we make any hefty conclusions about which season is the best.

Show us know how you enjoy the trails in the fall! Tag Connecticut Trail Census on Facebook with your fall trail photos!

Fall Data Update
While volunteer teams continue to hit their local trails and greenways counting and intercepting the autumn trail users, CTTC staff are busy travelling the state, enjoying the views of the foliage while checking on the IR counters and downloading the IR counter trail use data from the summer.  To date, we have received over 700 surveys! Considering it is only October not all sites have sent surveys yet, we are well on our way to exceeding last year’s total of 1,003 surveys!
As a reminder, please send us any completed surveys once you have around 100 and don’t forget to include a Data Summary & Refusal Form with each group of surveys. 
Any & all surveys should be completed and sent in the mail by the end of the month.
Behind the Scenes
If you catch us not on the road, you will most likely find us hard at work behind computers crunching numbers and compiling resources for our application to continue the program using funds from the Connecticut Recreational Trails Plan Program. This process has lead us to think a lot about the future and we are excited about what we have come up with. Our goals involve program expansions and alterations that we hope will only improve the Trail Census. We will keep you posted!

Well Water: Protecting Your Well

faucet with running water
Photo: Kara Bonsack

There are a number of steps that a homeowner can take to help protect their private well.

  • Water should be diverted away from the wellhead to prevent the pooling and potential introduction of contaminated water  into the well.
  • Keep the well in good repair.  A faulty well can allow surface water to reach groundwater without filtering through the soil.
  • Use care when applying pesticides and fertilizers to lawns and gardens near the well (better yet, avoid use entirely if possible).  These products contain chemicals and/or nutrients that can contaminate well water.
  • Abandoned wells should be sealed.  They are a prime entryway for contaminants.

Article by Karen Filchak, Retired Extension Educator