Education

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

August is National Sandwich Month

national sandwich month infoAugust is National Sandwich month! With school around the corner, it’s a great time to learn to make the PERFECT sandwich. Sandwiches are a quick, easy and an affordable way to pack in nutrition when hiking or biking too!

Start with a whole grain base and go from there! Next, add a protein source such as lean meats or plant proteins, like peanut butter or tofu. Then load up the fruits and veggies from lettuce and tomato to apples and cucumbers – the options are endless! Finish your sandwich with a spread or low-fat dressing. 

This message is brought to you by the UConn Extension PATHS team – People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability. We are an interdisciplinary team of University of Connecticut extension educators, faculty, and staff committed to understanding and promoting the benefits of trails and natural resources for health, community & economic development and implementing a social ecological approach to health education.

Monarch Butterfly Series

Have you seen a Monarch caterpillar or butterfly recently? They enjoy eating milkweed, so look out for them on those plants. Kara Bonsack of UConn Extension caught this series from caterpillar to butterfly at our Extension office in Haddam, in case you don’t see one in person.

UConn Story Map in Esri Map Book

Esri story map created by Emily WilsonA map that Extension educator Emily Wilson created last year made it into the most recent Esri Map Book. The Map Book is a hard copy, glossy publication (complete with a textured cover) that Esri publishes every year and distributes to attendees of the Esri International User Conference in San Diego, that had an attendance of over 19,000 people this year. Here is the link to the online map book https://www.esri.com/en-us/esri-map-book/maps#/list and this is the direct link to the UConn map created by Emily Wilson: https://www.esri.com/en-us/esri-map-book/maps#/details/14/1. It is exciting that Emily’s map was selected, and is excellent exposure for UConn and the work that we do. 

Equine Owners Should Vaccinate For EEE, Warns CVMDL at UConn

horses in early morning light at UConn
An early morning view of horses along Horse Barn Hill Road. Photo: UConn

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a disease caused by a virus that mosquitos transmit. The name of the disease is misleading in that this virus can infect and cause disease in humans and a wide variety of animal species, including birds as well as horses and other equids. Horses that have not been vaccinated for EEE die within days of being infected as there is no treatment. There is an effective equine vaccine for EEE, however not for other species. Researchers and veterinarians at UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) encourage equine owners to consider vaccinating their animals, and other animal owners to implement measures to reduce mosquito habitats and thereby potential contact with mosquitos.

Mosquitos that feed on infected wild birds transmit EEE to horses and humans. Once infected, the virus attacks the central nervous system of the host. For horses, disease signs usually appear within five days and the clinical signs include fever, a dull or sleepy appearance, muscle twitches, and a weak staggering gait. Fatality in horses is 90% or higher as horses often go down and are unable to stand again, and those that do survive may have permanent brain damage.

EEE is transmitted by two main types of mosquito vectors; the primary vector and the bridging vector.Culiseta melanura, the primary vector which feeds almost exclusively on birds, serves to amplify and maintain the virus within wild bird populations. Other mosquito species, which indiscriminatingly feed on birds, horses, and humans, serve as the bridging vector capable of transmitting EEE from wildlife to horses and humans.

With the location of horse barns and pastures in rural areas the animals have increased exposure to mosquitos. Horses cannot pass EEE to humans, or to other horses, and are therefore referred to as a dead-end host. If an infected mosquito bites a human, that person can be infected and may develop disease. According to the Center for Disease Control, illness in humans due to EEE is rare, but when disease develops, it is serious.

Proactive steps can be taken to prevent EEE virus infection in humans and horses. A vaccine is available for horses, talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating annually for EEE. Mosquito control techniques include eliminating standing water, cleaning water troughs weekly, avoiding mosquito-infested areas, and using insect repellent.

CVMDL, part of the Department of Pathobiology in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is on the frontlines of research and testing to keep humans and animals safe. For more information visit http://cvmdl.uconn.edu or call 860-486-3738.

References:

LSU Ag Center Research and Extension: http://www.lmca.us/PDF/pub2834eee.pdf

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

FertAdvisor App Available from UConn

FertAdvisor app informationDr. Jason Henderson, Associate Professor of Turfgrass and Soil Sciences at University of Connecticut, is the lead investigator of an ongoing, multiple year research project that has been evaluating conventional, organic, and pesticide-free management systems for athletic fields and home lawns. Other investigators involved with the project include Vickie Wallace, John Inguagiato, Karl Guillard, Steve Rackliffe, and Tom Morris. To date, two graduate students have completed research studies while collecting data on this project.

Dr. Henderson has been a champion of research that supports environmentally sound turf care practices. Besides collecting data on the various management regimes, Dr. Henderson and his team of collaborators set out to develop a smartphone app, FertAdvisor, that assists users in calculating the amount of lawn fertilizer required to properly fertilize turfgrass areas.

FertAdvisor is designed to provide users with a comprehensive tool that will help ensure accurate applications of fertilizer and reduce misapplications that can potentially damage turfgrass, waste fertilizer and/or pose environmental risk. The app has recommendations about application techniques, accurate calibration, fertilizer timing, and nitrogen source selection. Built-in calculators within the app help determine how much fertilizer will be needed to properly fertilize turfgrass areas, streamlining calibration calculations and calculating the amount of nitrogen, phosphate and potash that will be applied to the area based on the fertilizer selected.

Animations and videos guide turfgrass enthusiasts on how to take a soil sample, properly apply fertilizer using both drop and rotary spreaders, calibrate a fertilizer spreader, and calculate lawn surface area. Ten tips and tricks for managing cool-season lawns are also provided, in order to help homeowners make the right decisions for a healthy lawn.

FertAdvisor is available for both iPhone and android users. It’s easy to use and takes the guesswork out of lawn fertilizer applications.

Submitted by Vickie Wallace and Jason Henderson

10 Tips for the August Gardener

Ten Tips for the August Gardener

flowersClick on highlighted links for additional information.

  • Fertilize perennials with a 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 product to encourage continued blooming.
  • Scout for C-shaped notches on the edges of the leaves of your perennials such as dahlias, roses, basil or coleus that are caused by Asiatic beetle feeding.
  • Houseplants can dry out quicker in the heat and extra sunlight of summer. Check them frequently to evaluate their moisture needs.
  • Keep an eye out for insect, slug, and snail damage throughout the garden. Use the controls in our fact sheet Snails and Slugs.
  • Remove old plants that have stopped producing to eliminate a shelter for insects and disease organisms. Replant sites with chard, quick maturing beans or cucumbers, leafy greens etc.
  • Even though tomatoes continue to ripen after picking, fruits develop greatest flavor when allowed to ripen on plants. The exception is cherry tomatoes since many varieties are prone to splitting. Pick any almost ripe ones before a heavy rain.
  • Pick up, bag, and trash (do not compost) any dropped apples that show signs of apple maggot.
  • Think about what fruits trees you might like to add to your yard this fall. Some suggestions for native plants may be found at Trees and Shrubs: Suggested Native Species for Pollinators.
  • Reseeding the lawn in late August gives the new grass two growing periods (fall and spring) before the heat of summer. Be sure to keep the seed moist until germination.
  • Fruiting plants such as winterberry, holly, and firethorn need regular watering during dry spells to ensure that berries mature and don’t drop off.

For more information visit the UConn Home and Garden Education Center or email ladybug@uconn.edu.

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

UConn Helps New Farmers ‘Bridge the Gap’

Originally published by UConn Today on July 29, 2019

vegetables on a table at Ghost Fawn Homestead in Willington
Photo: Ghost Fawn Homestead

Cari and Ken Donaldson had always wanted to farm. After finding a property in Willington, they established Ghost Fawn Homestead five years ago. Today, gardens and vegetable beds dot the hillside, while chickens quietly go about their day in the yard.

“We are the second owner of this farm. It’s just under 10 acres, and we currently have three acres in cultivation, with plans to expand,” says Cari Donaldson. “New farmers don’t know what they don’t know, or what resources are available. UConn Extension has been really good at bridging that gap for us.”

Farming can be a challenging profession filled with joys, discomfort, and economic risk.  The Donaldsons have tapped into a suite of UConn Extension programs to help them get established as farmers, including the Solid Ground Farmer Trainings, Vegetable Crops Integrated Pest Management, Put Local on Your Tray, as well as Taste of Mansfield.

“Cari has been a smart user of Extension resources and training,” says Jiff Martin, associate extension educator in sustainable food systems. “As much as we want to help her family’s farm business grow, her feedback also helps us grow and evolve our own programming so we can offer new farmers the types of help they really need. We’ve been especially interested in supporting Cari’s enthusiasm for selling to schools and have leveraged resources through our Put Local on Your Tray program to assist.”

Put Local on Your Tray helps school districts source, serve, and celebrate local food by incorporating Connecticut-grown ingredients into school lunch menus.  In the 2019-2020 school year, more than 80 school districts will participate in Put Local On Your Tray.

“Stephanie Richard, the Mansfield schools’ food service director, gave us an entrance into the wholesale market,” Cari says. “It’s a weight off our minds being able to grow for the schools. I can’t say enough about UConn Extension’s Put Local on Your Tray Program, and Stephanie. People are always the most excited about the fact that we grow food for the schools.”

“As a food service director, I find that Put Local on Your Tray is a great asset for promotional and marketing materials,” says Richard. “Making arrangements with farmers, meetings, figuring out how much product we can take in and work with pulls time away from the marketing part. With Put Local on Your Tray, I am able to focus more time on building relationships with farmers and coaching my staff who work with the produce.”

Working with Richard also helped Cari Donaldson develop the language she needed to attract other wholesale buyers, including other schools that will begin purchasing from the farm in the fall.

“Put Local on Your Tray has information that schools need to alleviate their concerns about purchasing from local farms,” Donaldson says.

And Put Local on Your Tray isn’t the only program offered by Extension to help new farmers in Connecticut. Solid Ground Farmer Trainings, for example, are for farmers with less than ten years of farming experience. Small group workshops are offered in-person with experts in soils, production, farm finances, pesticide safety, irrigation, agriculture mechanics, and more. Fact sheets, guides, videos, and online tutorials on the program’s website are frequently used resources by farmers throughout the state.

Charlotte Ross, project coordinator for Solid Ground Farmer Trainings, owns and operates Sweet Acre Farm in Lebanon. Before serving as project coordinator, she participated in Extension’s beginning farmer trainings. Ross says, “We’ve learned a lot about new farmers through the Solid Ground Training Program. New farmers are as time-limited as anyone and are hungry for practical knowledge. Given the amount of information you can find online already, our training provides more than how-to instructions. They offer opportunities to have your questions answered by an expert, hands-on practice, and a chance to network with other new farmers.”

“You just want to farm. You don’t want to be a salesman, but that’s half of the job,” Ken Donaldson says. “UConn Extension helps with that. The networking and assistance in finding buyers is huge, and has been the most beneficial part of our involvement with Extension. We’re getting better at farming each year, and that’s a really cool thing.”

The Solid Ground Farmer Trainings are sponsored by the USDA-NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program Award #2016-70017-25416.

Article by Stacey Stearns