agriculture

Lynn & Marjorie Brown: Promoting & Supporting 4-H for a Lifetime

Lynn & Marjorie Brown: Promoting and Supporting 4-H for a Lifetime

By Nancy Wilhelm, Program Coordinator, 4-H Youth Development

 

Lynn-Marj BrownMarjorie and Lynn Brown have spent a lifetime promoting and supporting UConn Extension and the 4-H Program. Both grew up on farms in Iowa where they were 4-H members – Marjorie participated in home economics and poultry projects and Lynn in the dairy cattle project area. Their 4-H participation provided some exciting opportunities.   Lynn attended National 4-H Dairy Conference while Marjorie attended State 4-H Conservation Camp. It was not until their college years that they met at a Rural Young People’s dance in the late 1940’s. They have been together ever since, contributing countless hours of support to 4-H youth across Connecticut

After graduating from college with a degree in Agricultural Education, Lynn got a job teaching agriculture to veterans coming back from World War II. Six months later he was drafted into the army and served two years in the Korean War. Marjorie was a 4-H member until age 21. She attended Iowa State University as a Home Economics major and obtained her master’s degree in Home Management and Family Economics and worked for a short while for Iowa Extension. They were married on March 22, 1953.

Obtaining his doctorate in dairy nutrition, Lynn was hired as the University of Connecticut Extension Dairy Specialist in the 1960s, bringing the Brown’s to Connecticut. He has had an impact on hundreds of 4-H dairy project members, providing programs, training dairy judging teams, introducing and working with quiz bowl teams, promoting, selecting and chaperoning 4-Hers to the National 4-H Dairy Conference and coordinating the entire Connecticut 4-H Dairy Program at Eastern States Exposition where he served as Chairperson for the New England 4-H Dairy Show for over 25 years.

“Dr. Brown has always had so much patience. When I was on the CT 4-H Dairy Judging team, there were five teenage girls and Dr. Brown. His lessons on evaluating cows and giving oral reasons still help me as I work with 4-Hers. I remember driving to the national contest in Columbus Ohio in an old Plymouth Valiant stopping at farms and dairy judging along the way. Every morning he would set our departure time early since he had to maneuver our suitcases and pack them in the same very precise manner just to get our luggage to fit in the trunk. He taught us very important life skills, how to remember and visualize classes of cows and how to pack a trunk. I still use both today!” Bonnie Burr, UConn Extension Department Head

Lynn’s involvement didn’t stop with his retirement from UConn in 1994. He has served as Chair of the Tolland County Extension Council. He has been a member of the 4-H Farm Board of Directors for many years, actively working with the Farm Committee to oversee farm operations. He continues to serve as Chair of Farm City Day, and has essentially spent his entire life promoting and supporting agriculture, the dairy industry and 4-H youth.

Marjorie has been a 4-H leader in Tolland County for over 40 years, teaching family and consumer science project skills to countless youth. She has been a strong supporter of the consumer education project of wardrobe planning and worked on a State 4-H Fashion Revue Committee that developed the Smart Shopper Project. She has served as a volunteer judge, coordinator of fashion revue events and served on the planning committee for the 1983 Northeast Regional 4-H Volunteer Forum when it was hosted by Connecticut. Along with her work in 4-H, she has served as treasurer of the Tolland County Extension Council, served on the Tolland County 4-H Advisory Committee and on the Tolland County Agricultural Board of Directors. An excellent seamstress, at 84, she still invites youth and some former 4-H members to her home to sew.

“Marge took every opportunity to promote life skills with 4-Hers. Among other projects and activities, she developed a life skills quiz bowl that was held at the Tolland County 4-H Fair for many years. She believed that both boys and girls needed to know how to understand the needs of younger children, sew, select their clothes, and to prepare healthy foods. Her work was invaluable to both the Tolland County Extension Program as well as to statewide Extension programs.” Rosemarie Syme, Retired 4-H Extension Educator

When asked about the importance of 4-H and the impact it has on youth, both Lynn and Marjorie agree that it gives youth the chance to learn some important life skills like leadership development, public speaking, and also receive recognition for a job well done.

And for so many years, the Brown’s have played an important role in providing those life skills to youth across Connecticut.   Thank you Lynn and Marjorie for a job well done.

Wintonbury Land Trust

Wintonbury Land Trust: Supporting and Improving

Land Access to Local Farmers

By Rachel Murray for UConn Extension

 

Land trusts are at the forefront of reshaping the agricultural landscape in Connecticut. They can be a leader supporting and promoting new and beginning farmers by providing access to farmland.

Wintonbury Land Trust and Hawk Hill Preserve

Protection of natural resources, conservation of farmland, and community building through the natural landscape are part of the strongly held mission of The Wintonbury Land Trust (WLT) in Bloomfield, Connecticut. On a recent walk through the newly acquired Hawk Hill Preserve, Land Trust President Dale Bertoldi and Treasurer Vikki Reski spoke about the historical and agricultural presence Hawk Hill has in the community. According to the Connecticut Land Conservation Council (CLCC) there are over 137 land trusts throughout Connecticut. These include local, regional, and statewide organizations. Land trusts provide a real and thriving opportunity for new and beginning farmers to commence a local agriculture business.

The 45 acre Hawk Hill Preserve is nestled between two adjoining farms, including the farmland that’s part of the LaSalette Park owned by the Town of Bloomfield. Bloomfield is a community rich in agricultural and cultural history so the desire to acquire this property with its prime agricultural soils, scenic vistas, and potential to support multiple farmers selling local products has been very strong with the Wintonbury Land Trust. The Hawk Hill preserve is one of the oldest continuously operating farm properties in Bloomfield. The Kelly Family purchased the farm land in the 1860’s, and operated it as a Dairy Farm until it was sold to a developer in the early 1980’s. The original farmhouse, located on an adjoining parcel of land, dates back to 1746 and was originally a Tavern. Additionally, there are fields across the street that were once part of this farm, but are now owned privately could add to the 21acres of tillable land at Hawk Hill in the future.

Hawk Hill
Photo: Rachel Murray

Wintonbury Land Trust partnered with the Town of Bloomfield, CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to purchase the property from its current owners and additionally purchase the easement on the land so that Hawk Hill is guaranteed to stay as working farmland and open space. In this arrangement, the Town holds the easement rights and Wintonbury Land Trust owns the property outright. Through the work of a strong local campaign to raise money to purchase the land along with the help of several foundations, Wintonbury Land Trust purchased the Hawk Hill property on April 23, 2015. To help protect the multiple conservation values, and according to the easement, any farmer using the land must provide and follow a detailed Conservation Plan. Additionally, a designated walking trail is available and maintained for hikers to pass through Hawk Hill connecting several local trails.

For the 2015 season, Wintonbury Land Trust leased the 45-acre Hawk Hill Preserve to a local farmer raising Scottish Highland cattle. In this arrangement, the farmer provides and installs her own temporary fencing for the cattle while also mowing hay for her cattle for the upcoming winter. The farmer also agreed to mow the fields not suitable for hay to maintain the aesthetic appeal of the farm and continued management of perennial weeds and invasives. For the 2016 season, it is planned that Wintonbury Land Trust will formally accept “Request For Proposals” (RFPs) for farmers interested in a long-term lease on the Hawk Hill property. Keeping the farmable portions in agriculture will reduce WLT and the Town’s stewardship costs, help maintain the conservation values, and add fresh local agricultural products into the community. Stay connected with the Wintonbury Land Trust through their website for more details.

Connecticut Land Access Programs

As more Connecticut land trusts realize the value in making land available to farmers, the importance to list and find properties is increasingly significant. The Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s CT FarmLink is a statewide resource for farm owners and farm seekers to advertise land available and additionally to search farm properties that are available. Along with farm properties listed on CT FarmLink, New England Farm Finder (NEFF) is another resource that includes all properties and farm seekers throughout New England. Utilizing these two matchmaking websites are excellent opportunities for land trusts to efficiently and effectively find a farmer for their land. A statewide reality is that there are significantly more farm seekers then there are farm properties available making the case that land trusts have the potential to significantly alter and improve the agricultural landscape in Connecticut.

Land For Good (LFG) is a New England based non-profit with Field Agents in each state working to improve farmland access and keep more farmers working the land. LFG has an extensive “Toolbox” available on their website with resources helpful for farm seekers and farm owners, including sample leases and different models to use as a guide depending on the needs of the land trust and farmer. Consultation to actually help craft the match between the two parties is also available. In addition, the Connecticut Land Conservation Council, provides users information about land trusts throughout the state and has model agricultural easement language and leases to use as guidance. Lastly, UConn Extension has a helpful website with various agricultural programs and services they provide, from a list of essential resources for beginning farmers called “The Bucket List”, to contacts for Extension educators and specialists, and the Farmland ConneCTions Guide and model leases. All of these resources are ready, available, and free of charge for land trusts, land owners, and land seekers alike to utilize.

The role of land trusts is becoming one of establishing a model for acquiring the land through creative partnerships, protecting the land, and establishing a farmer on the land. They can help lead the renaissance for agriculture in Connecticut.

International Year of Soils

soilThe U.S. Department of Agriculture kicked off its celebration of the International Year of Soils  to highlight the importance of healthy soils for food security, ecosystem functions and resilient farms and ranches.
“Healthy soil is the foundation that ensures working farms and ranches become more productive, resilient to climate change and better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said during an event at USDA headquarters. “We join the world in celebrating this living and life-giving resource.”
With an increasing global population, a shrinking agricultural land base, climate change, and extreme weather events the nations of the world are focusing their collective attention to the primary resource essential to food production—the soil. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, working within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership, spearheaded the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly designating 2015 as the International Year of Soils. The year of awareness aims to increase global understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions.
“Most people don’t realize that a diverse, complex, and life-giving ecosystem is right below our feet,” said Lisa Coverdale, State Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Connecticut. “NRCS is helping producers unlock the power of soil health as part of an important and very successful national campaign which demonstrates our renewed commitment to soil conservation and soil health.”
NRCS is coordinating activities to mark USDA’s involvement in the International Year of Soils. Nearly 80 years ago, NRCS (formerly the Soil Conservation Service) was created to improve the health and sustainability of our nation’s soils. The agency’s original mission continues to this day – providing assistance to producers looking to improve the health of the soil on their land. 
Conservation that works to improve soil health is one of the best tools NRCS has to help landowners face these impending challenges – and maintain and improve their productivity with the use of soil management systems that includes cover crops, conservation tillage, and no-till and crop rotations. These systems reduce sediment loss from farms; buffer the effects of drought, flood, and other severe weather; sequester carbon; and create biodiversity in our rural landscape.
“The International Year of Soils provides an opportunity for all of us to learn about the critical role soil conservation and improved soil health play in the economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture,” Coverdale said.
Working with the Soil Science Society of America and other partners, NRCS will be showcasing the importance of soil with monthly themes:
  •         January: Soils Sustain Life
  •         February: Soils Support Urban Life
  •         March: Soils Support Agriculture
  •         April: Soils Clean and Capture Water
  •         May: Soils Support Buildings/Infrastructure
  •         June: Soils Support Recreation
  •         July: Soils Are Living
  •         August: Soils Support Health
  •         September: Soils Protect the Natural Environment
  •         October: Soils and Products We Use
  •         November: Soils and Climate
  •        December: Soils, Culture, and People
To listen to the announcement made by Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack yesterday, or for more information about the International Year of Soil, visit the Connecticut NRCS soil health webpage.

Controlled Environment Agriculture

CONNECTICUT FEDERALLY FUNDED STARTUP AIMS TO BRING OUT-OF-SEASON FARMING TO FINANCIALLY STRESSED NEW ENGLAND GROWERS; Connecticut Tech Business To Introduce Year-Round Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) To Area Strawberry Farmers; Recent CBS’ 60 MINUTES Segment Highlights California Drought Impact on Local Food Availability

December 15, 2014 — As the outdoor farming season in New England is shut down for the winter, Connecticut-based technology company, Agrivolution LLC, is about to open up a research project on how farmers can extend the growing season into the winter months using special indoor farming techniques popular in Europe and Asia.

If successful, the research could create a new revenue source for farmers in harsh weather states who go mostly dormant in the winter months. It would also mean more farm jobs, greater levels of locally grown produce for consumers, and protection against the impacts of drought conditions in California where most of the produce available in the northeast is grown.

“Experience outside the U.S. shows it is possible with controlled environment agriculture (CEA) to grow pesticide-free fruits and vegetables year-round,” said Richard Fu, Agrivolution president who recently returned from Japan where he toured indoor CEA facilities and met with operators. “If we can prove that controlled environment agriculture is economically viable for farmers here in the northeast it could have significant implications for the farming industry. We want to help northeast farmers and others claim a larger market share during colder weather months when upwards of 90-percent of fruits and vegetables are trucked in from warm weather states or flown in from outside the U.S.”

CEA refers to the production of plants in protected indoor structures such as a greenhouse or a warehouse that maximizes the productivity while being benign to the environment. Agrivolution uses an irrigation technique called hydroponics which involves growing vegetable plants indoors with their roots suspended directly in nutrient-rich water rather than soil.

A USDA funded Specialty Crop Block Grant offered through the Connecticut Department of Agriculture was awarded to Agrivolution to investigate farming methods that could be used to help farmers produce out-of-season strawberries, the fifth most consumed fresh fruit in the United States. It’s the first time the state has funded indoor, or, CEA farming research.

State data shows that the number of strawberry growers in Connecticut is on the decline. Several berry growers still operating though have already expressed interest in partnering with controlled environment agriculture system provider Agrivolution.

Sandra J. Rose, manager of Rose’s Berry Farm in South Glastonbury — one of the largest berry farms in southern New England — is one of the farmers interested in the Agrivolution pilot.

“Strawberries are in high demand all year long,” Rose said. “Our normal growing year produces great fruit here in Connecticut. The season is however, very short and we are picked out in about 3 weeks. Year-round growing will help farmers expand their operations, create jobs, and help compete for shelf-space in grocery stores who would otherwise support us but import berries during the colder months instead because our harvest is depleted.”

The majority of the estimated 437 million pounds of strawberries consumed annually in the northeast region alone are transported across the U.S. in a 5-7 day period before reaching the hands of local consumers. When the domestic products from local growers are seasonally unavailable, strawberries are flown in from Mexico and South America in order to ensure constant availability. Because of its fragile nature (i.e., bruising) and short shelf life, strawberry is an ideal crop for local hydroponic production.

Drought conditions in California, now in its 4th year, have forced farmers to cut back on the acreage dedicated to farming according to news reports. These production shortages have triggered price hikes in regions of North America that have become dependent on California-grown crops. CBS’ 60 MINUTES broadcasted a segment (aired on November 16, 2014) “Depleting the water” that focused on drought conditions in California and groundwater depletion in the aquifers there that supply irrigation water to grow 25-percent of America’s food.

“Relying on California growers to produce and deliver a significant amount of the food we consume in the northeast has consequences,” says Agrivolution’s Fu. “If the California drought continues to be a problem we can expect product shortages and price volatility. But growing more locally produced food ensures that there is volume, quality and price protection we can count on.”

Indoor farming is common in other parts of the world where the percentages of locally grown foods are much higher than they are in Connecticut and other regions of the U.S. While many parts of the world’s strawberry production have transitioned to CEA for years, its adoption in the U.S. has been slow. Approximately 90 percent of strawberries in Japan are grown in greenhouses whereas nearly 100 percent of U.S. strawberries are grown in open fields.

With uncertainty looming with the ongoing extreme drought in California, it is an opportunity for the growers in the northeast to recapture the local market share using the CEA technique Fu said. He considers CEA technology to be a necessary component in the nation’s agricultural base to build a more resilient food supply network.

“We’re under tremendous pressure to keep our workers on the job and our businesses in the black,” said Joe Geremia of Geremia Greenhouse in Wallingford who has investigated the Agrivolution technology. “Indoor farming is something that can change the region’s agriculture landscape. It will help the whole economy.”

Agrivolution, which began as a company in the Technology Incubated Program at the University of Connecticut, will begin examining the quality of the strawberries grown indoors by local farms participating in the research project in early 2015. The company will then determine how the CEA production is viable for larger facilities in the other regions in the U.S.

Agrivolution partnered with Mary Concklin from the University of Connecticut (UConn) Extension on this project to help increase awareness with local growers about the business opportunities presented by indoor farming. UConn Extension supports the Connecticut greenhouse industry with information and educational programming on sustainable production methods.

Agrivolution was named to the CT Innovation Summit’s “Tech Companies to Watch” list in 2012 and 2013.

Funding has been provided by the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program of the Agricultural Marketing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, awarded and administered by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. 

 

Farming with Technology

Extension manure spreaderUConn Extension has taken delivery of a new manure spreader.  This spreader is not your typical manure spreader.  This spreader has gone hi tech with integrated scales, computer and GPS.  Unlike a typical spreader which requires the farmer to guess how much manure is being loaded, and keep handwritten records of how many loads went to which fields, this spreader will do all of the recordkeeping for the farmer,  on its own.   The integral load cells provide the weight.  The computer records the amount.  When the PTO shaft starts to turn the computer records the GPS position to begin documenting where on the face of the globe the manure is being applied.  As successive GPS positions get are recorded and the weight starts decreasing the computer calculates the application rate in tons/acre on the fly.  Using this technology a farm will be able to print a map of the data showing exactly how much manure went on every field.

 

Extension Educator Richard Meinert purchased the spreader using a Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA NRCS.  The grant supported the purchase of the spreader to allow farmers to use the spreader on their own farms.  The purpose of the grant research is to document the effectiveness of the spreader and the electronics.  Once the effect of the spreader is determined an economic analysis will be conducted using data from the farm applications to calculate the payback period of the technology.  Eventually all farms with more than a few livestock will need to purchase a manure spreader.  The question to be answered is will the increase efficiency save enough in fertilizer, or increased crop yield, or decreased recordkeeping time to pay for the extra $6,000 needed to add the scales, computer and GPS to a standard spreader?

 

Anyone interested in using the spreader to try it out as part of the grant project is asked to contact Richard Meinert by phone at 860-626-6240 or by email at richard.meinert@uconn.edu.

When to Turn Under Spring Cover Crops?

spring maple buds

I heard the peepers last night for the first time this year. There have already been a couple of sunny, almost warm, spring-like weeks in my neighborhood. Recently the overwintered rye has switched its dull reddish-green color scheme to bright green.

I remember reading a couple of years ago that stands of overwintered rye, if killed early, will provide the most nitrogen value.  Incorporating the young plants when they are just beginning to grow, will give as much as a 30-50 lb N credit. Providing soils are dry enough to drive onto, the best time to kill winter rye is when plants are no more than 6-8 inches tall and shortly after they have greened up.

Usually a light harrowing can kill winter rye when root crowns are small and the young stalks are not yet fibrous.  Allowing rye to continue to grow will put on biomass, however, the early spring nitrogen credit will be lost.  Nitrogen scavenged the previous fall and held in its roots throughout the winter will be utilized to put on rapid spring growth. Additional nitrogen will be required to mineralize it, when incorporated into the soil later in the spring.

If significant biomass is one’s goal, as well as field grown nitrogen, it’s better to seed a legume into one’s fall planted winter rye. Let the green manure cover crops grow to full maturity late into May or early June. Then turn them under and allow them to slowly break down to feed later summer cash crops.

Meanwhile, utilize the extensive root growth of an overwintered cover crop and benefit from the value of its winter carry over of “free” nitrogen. Many overwintering cover crops give the most value if you turn them under quite early.

— Eero Ruuttila,

Sustainable Agriculture Specialist – Scaling Up Program

UConn Extension – Tolland County

Information on early killing of spring cover crops came from the March 2011 Cornell VegEdge newsletter, authored by Thomas Bjorkman