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Connecticut Grown Strawberries Ripe for Picking

Connecticut grown strawberries in cartonsFresh from the field, Connecticut Grown strawberries are now ripening and ready to eat. Strawberries are the first fruit available in Connecticut and signal the arrival of summer for many residents who look forward to visiting one of the state’s pick-your-own farms.

“Visiting a Connecticut strawberry patch to pick your own is a wholesome, family fun activity,” said Bryan P. Hurlburt, Connecticut Department of Agriculture Commissioner. “This type of activity supports local farms and farm families while generating millions of dollars in agritourism for the state’s economy. And, the best part of it all is that you get fresh Connecticut Grown strawberries to eat at home.” 

While it’s early in the season, producers are reporting that picking is quite good. “Despite the amount of record breaking rain in April and early May, the strawberries crop is now experiencing excellent weather for maturing to ripening. The season is off to a great start and it appears that the production will be right in line for a successful strawberry season,” said Nancy Barrett, owner of Scantic Valley Farm in Somers, CT.

It’s a good idea to call ahead, or check the farms website, for daily updates as weather conditions impact availability. Sweet and juicy strawberries are also available now at farmers’ markets and farm stands throughout the state. Find one near you at www.CTGrown.gov/strawberry.

When ripe, strawberries smell wonderful and taste even better. As members of the rose family, this perennial plant is a good source of vitamin C, manganese, folate, and potassium. They are also loaded with antioxidants.

Strawberries should be plump and firm with a bright red color and natural shine. The color and fragrance of the berry, not size, are the best indicators of flavor. Once you get your strawberries home, wash them and cut the stem away to store in a cool place. If you plan to keep them in the fridge for a few days, wait to clean them until you plan to eat them. Rinsing them speeds up spoiling.

Strawberries can be used to make jams, jellies, shortcake, pie and more. They can also be pickled, especially when picked green or unripe, or frozen to use later in smoothies. Find more recipe ideas to create your own delicious dishes by visiting our Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/GrowCTAg/.

Make plans to visit a Connecticut strawberry patch this weekend to create lasting memories and delicious, healthy dishes.

Article by Connecticut Department of Agriculture

4-H in Vernon Afterschool Program

youth members work on an afterschool project while a mentor observesThe 4-H in Vernon Afterschool Program was started in 2014 as a partnership between UConn Extension Tolland County 4-H and UConn Community Outreach (CO) Program. The 4-H in Vernon Afterschool Program is an enrichment opportunity where UConn CO student volunteers work with local area elementary school students in a fun and informal education setting, engaging in hands-on experiential learning activities in STEM and Healthy Living.

The 4-H in Vernon program meets on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in three elementary afterschool programs, presently run by the Vernon Department of Parks and Recreation. Coordinating all these partnerships and overseeing the program is the job of the UConn CO student leader.

For the last two semesters, Muhammad Shahzad has served as the UConn CO student leader for the 4-H Program.

Muhammad is responsible for coordinating between program and community partners as well as recruiting volunteers and implementing the program. He provides experience, motivation and opportunities for reflection for the collegiate volunteers, while striving to help meet the needs of the community.

Article by Maryann Fusco

Join us for a Garden Party

Garden party invite graphic with logo

Please join the UConn Extension Master Gardener Program for an exclusive Garden Party, hosted by Master Gardener Susan Saint James.

Saturday, June 15, 2019
11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Susan Saint James Home*
Litchfield, CT

Speaking program includes:

Susan Saint James
Dean Indrajeet Chaubey of UConn CAHNR
Amy Chesmer, CAHNR ‘94

Tickets:
Individual – $100 
($60 tax-deductible)

Table of 10 – $1,000 
($600 tax-deductible)

Register now: http://bit.ly/UConnGardenParty

Trail Use: Leave No Trace

trail users on a trail in Connecticut, people walking way into the woods
Photo: Virginia Raff

Connecticut has a wealth of trails for us to enjoy, from state parks and forests to local land trusts. As you’re out there enjoying the trails, it’s key to practice the principles of Leave No Trace.

The seven principles of the Leave No Trace program are:

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

3. Dispose of Waste Properly
4. Leave What You Find
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
6. Respect Wildlife
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

For more information on these principles and other resources visit LNT.org.

For more information on trail etiquette, download our brochure.

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.

Plant Sales on May 18th

Fairfield Plant Sale flyer Windham Plant Sale flyer

Gardeners: Join us for a plant sale on Saturday, May 18th. We have one on each side of the state: Bethel and Brooklyn. We’ll be at the Windham County Extension Center in Brooklyn on Saturday, May 18th from 9 AM until 2 PM. The plant sale at the Fairfield County Extension Center in Bethel is from 9 AM until 1 PM. We’ll have perennials, annuals, tomatoes, vegetables, herbs, and house plants. You can bring garden problems to be diagnosed, and purchase soil test kits. Email windham@uconn.edu or fairfield@uconn.edu for more information.

4-H Robotics Team Receives Creativity Award

In April, the Power Surge 4-H Robotics team from Fairfield County was in Maine for a FIRST Robotics Competition. Here is a recap of their competition:

4-H Power Surge Robotics team robot from Fairfield County climbing during a robotics competition.
The robot climbing during competition.

“Things went well in Maine, but we got knocked out in the quarterfinals on our third match for best two out of three.

We were scoring “Hatch” pieces well with a guaranteed climb in every match during qualifications, but we had tough losses by just a few points, and ended up 22 out of 31. However, our scoring and defensive ability was recognized enough to be selected to join a three team alliance to go to eliminations.

In the quarterfinals we had to play defense to shut down the scoring of the second ranked alliance, and got roughed up enough to damage our climber mechanism. With that damage, we just missed our second win to move on to semifinals.

The high honor of the competition was that we won the “Creativity” award for robot design. This really energized the team to not only be recognized for a unique and effective robot climbing design, but also the ability of the students to effectively communicate the strategy and design process to the judges.

The students incorporated the lessons of 4-H into their discussions with the judges and it was reflected in the announcement of the team as the winner of the Creativity award.

Looking back on where we came from, having no shop and equipment in December, this has really been a miracle season to get to where we are and be recognized with an award. We now have a great foundation to really develop the team further next year. We plan to have training classes for the students over the summer in electronics and programming to get a jump on more advanced control techniques for next year.

We will continue competing in post season competitions around New England in late spring and the fall, to give the younger students some competition driving experience. New students can learn from the seniors’ competition experience before they graduate.

Now that the serious competition is over we are concentrating on “catching up” on our 4-H commitment.  Members will be getting their binders up to date etc.

Thank you again to the UConn 4-H – Fairfield County program for all your support. Below are a couple of links that FIRST posted on their sites (Twitter and Instagram) because our design was so unique.”

Dan Biron, Volunteer Leader

Power Surge 4-H Robotics

https://twitter.com/FRCTeams/status/1114295538701209600?s=03

https://www.instagram.com/p/BwDb5JogDH8/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=4v8av22r4hg8

Trail Etiquette 101

bicycle on trailHeaded out on the trails? Trail safety and etiquette is vital on our trails for all users, including bicyclists, hikers, and equestrians. Be courteous to other trail users. Here are some simple steps to follow.

What does “Yield” mean?

Yielding means slow down, establish communication, be prepared to stop if necessary, and pass in a safe and friendly manner.

All Trail Users

  • Avoid Wet Trails. Minimize trail erosion and ecological impact around wet trails by walking/ biking/riding through the center of the trail, even if muddy, to keep the trail narrow.
  • Stay on the Trail. Do not go off trail (even to pass), create new trails, or cut switchbacks. Narrow trails mean less environmental impact and happier critters.
  • Respect. If you offer respect, you are more likely to receive it. All user groups have rights and responsibilities to our trails, and to each other.
  • Don’t Block the Trail. When taking a break, move to the side of the trail.
  • Smile. Greet. Nod. Every user on the trail is a fellow nature lover. Be friendly and expect to see other folks around every corner.
  • Travel on the right side of the trail, and pass on the left.
  • Remain Attentive. If you wear headphones, keep the volume down, or only wear one earpiece so you can hear other trail users.
  • Expect the Unexpected. Humans and animals can be unpredictable.

For Walkers, Hikers, Runners

  • Keep dogs on a short leash. Other trail users may be frightened by dogs or be unsure how to pass safely.
  • Dog poop on the trail is a major complaint among other trail users. Clean up after your dog, and take the waste home to dispose it. UConn Extension educator Dave Dickson explains why it’s important to scoop poop: http://s.uconn.edu/4gg.
  • Yield to equestrians.

For Bicyclists

  • You move fast – and many other trail users will be startled, especially if you approach from behind. Greet other trail users early to alert them of your presence.
  • Anticipate other trail users around blind corners.
  • Yield to hikers and equestrians.

For Equestrians

  • Communicate your needs. Most people aren’t familiar with horses and are intimidated by them – let other trail users know what will help make the situation safer for everyone.
  • Slow down to a walk to pass other trail users.
  • Clean up any manure your horse may leave at trail heads and on trails whenever possible.

Download the brochure: http://bit.ly/TrailEtq 

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.

Private Well Water Testing

dripping tapPrivate wells provide water to 820,000 people in Connecticut, approximately 23% of the population’s water supply comes from private wells according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health. These wells are not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, although Local Health Departments do have the authority over the proper siting and construction of private wells. It is the responsibility of the well owners to test the quality of the water—it is recommended that you perform a Basic Indicators Test once a year. Additionally, if you notice a difference in taste, color, odor, or clarity contact your Local Health Department for assistance. Well water testing can be done for bacteriological elements, trace metals and minerals, pesticides and herbicides, and organic and inorganic chemicals. Click here to read about what elements you should test for and how frequently.

After your water is tested you should document the date of the test and the results. The EPA has established standards for maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) and the CT DPH has set action levels for certain contaminants. Should your results come back high you should retest the water to verify the results, stop drinking the water until the issue is resolved, and contact your Local Health Department for advice moving forward.

You can get your well water tested at state certified testing facilities. Procedures vary depending on the facility that is being used. Some facilities will send a technician to the location to take a sample and bring it back to the lab for testing. Other facilities allow for the homeowner to collect a sample. It is important to follow their instructions to ensure the proper collection practices and prevent contamination. Proper maintenance and operation of your well water system is important for protecting the water quality. Check out this best management practice checklist for private well owners.

Originally published by the Eastern Highlands Health District

It’s Spring – Head Outside!

picture of a bridge on a trail that says let's be adventurers

Finally the weather is getting warmer and we can wake up from our winter hibernation. With milder temperatures, heading outside is a great plan. We are fortunate to live in Connecticut and have access to many beautiful parks, beaches and trails.  Here are some moderate to vigorous activities to get us started in the right direction for the Spring season. Hope to see you out there!

https://www.eatright.org/fitness/exercise/workout-ideas/spring-into-action

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

Join UConn for a Panel Presentation on GMOs

UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources is offering two events on the science of GMOs next week that we welcome you to attend.

GMO 2.0: Science, Society and the Future is on Wednesday, April 24th in the UConn Student Union Theater on the Storrs Campus at 7 PM.

The panel features four experts that have research connections to GMOs, and will be moderated by Dean Indrajeet Chaubey from the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Panel topics include the risks and benefits of genetically engineered crops; ethical, legal, and social implications of GMOs; CRISPR and other GMO technologies; and the future of GMOs and big agriculture. It’s open to anyone interested in attending.

The goal of the panel presentation is to provide science-based, and unbiased information on GMOs, and the misinformation around them. The panelists will present information in a non-science format for those unfamiliar with the terminology and nuances of the subjects.

GMOs: Answering Difficult Questions from your Customers is being held on Thursday, April 25th at 7 PM at the Tolland County Extension Center, 24 Hyde Avenue, in Vernon.

This presentation is specifically for farmers, but all are welcome to attend. Dr. Paul Vincelli from the University of Kentucky will give a presentation on the risks and benefits of GMOs, and answering questions about GMOs. His presentation will be followed by a question and answer session.

Both events are free for anyone to attend, but registration is requested for planning purposes. For more information on the events, or to register please visit https://gmo.uconn.edu/events/ or call 860-486-9228.