“The mission statement of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (MPTN) states they will ‘…establish a social, cultural and economic foundation that can never be undermined or destroyed…,’” says Tribal Councilor Daniel Menihan, Jr. MPTN was facing challenges growing their fruits and vegetables at a scale to meet the tribe’s needs on their land in Ledyard, and some members were struggling with diabetes.
UConn has enjoyed a long history of engagement with members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal community. Many members have graduated from UConn and served on the UConn Foundation Board, among others. Despite the fact that there is an Extension office only 10 miles from the reservation, MPTN has rarely participated in any educational outreach or training offered by UConn Extension.
UConn Extension received the four-year Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP) grant from USDA-NIFA with the goal of having the tribe share their ideas for growing food and health, and help them learn about the Extension resources that are available. As a result of the grant, the relationship between MPTN and UConn is strengthening, and there is growth in agricultural production, food security, and health for the tribal people.
“MPTN is still learning, but they are now able to grow their own food, in what looks like a commercial setting,” states Shuresh Ghimire, PhD, Vegetable Crops Extension educator and principal investigator on the grant. “They have high tunnels, a rototiller, a plastic mulch layer, and cold storage, which are common tools for a commercial farm.”
Extension provides expertise through one-on-one consultation, and classroom and hands-on training on-site in a collaborative setting. Educational outreach addresses the following critical areas identified by the MPTN Council:
- Improve food security
- Improve economic viability
- Improve youth engagement and communications
- Improve nutrition and diabetes awareness through collaborative education
An Extension program involving several specialists in fruit and vegetable production, farm business management, marketing, 4-H youth development, health and nutrition, communications, evaluation and assessment is working with the MPTN on their goals. Tribal members are participating in other Extension programs, beyond the scope of the grant. A 4-H club is being established at MPTN to increase opportunities for youth.
“Once this grant came, we started working with UConn Extension Educators. There has been a substantial gain in the knowledge and skills regarding growing food, writing a business plan, nutrition, and health,” says Jeremy Whipple, a MPTN member.
Growing with MPTN
Extension provides education for MPTN in state-of-the-art sustainable vegetable and fruit production techniques, and through
collaboration with MPTN, is melded with traditional and historical tribal farming methods. This provides MPTN with a means to continue the richness of their history while moving into modern sustainable farming economically.
Tribal youth are included in all aspects of the agricultural venture with the tribe’s expectation that several youth will develop major roles in the business venture. Two tribal youth are being paid by the grant to work in vegetable production at MPTN.
“Learning how to grow tomatoes, including pest management, is one of the many things I enjoy working with on this grant” Ernest Pompey, one of the tribal youths working on this grant says. “I am excited to share what I learned about growing and eating healthy food to other youth in my community.”
“The tribe also established a community garden where they bring other youth from the community to teach them about growing. The knowledge is expanding within their own community, and they are teaching each other now,” Shuresh says.
UConn Extension’s nutrition team is working with the tribal community health providers to deliver educational programming in healthy eating and diabetes prevention using classroom education, and hands-on learning in the selection and preparing of healthy food, and exercise through gardening. The goal is to reduce the risk and incidence of diabetes in the tribal community.
“The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) utilizes a hands-on approach to nutrition education, combining nutrition knowledge with enhancement of skills to apply this knowledge to prepare healthy foods that are convenient, affordable and culturally appropriate,” says Mike Puglisi PhD, RD, state EFNEP director. “Erica Benvenuti, New London County nutrition educator, taught children in the MPTN High 5 Program the importance of food safety and increasing vegetable intake, and enhanced learning through getting the children involved in preparation of a traditional recipe prepared by the MPTN, the Three Sisters Rice recipe.”
The grant is starting its third year, and another Extension educator is working with tribal youth and adults in developing a business plan for the agricultural venture to increase their success rate. Youth and adults are also learning about their agricultural history and how it can successfully be integrated into today’s modern sustainable agriculture by combining classes with in-field learning experience.
“Ultimately, after the grant ends, MPTN’s farm will operate as a commercial vegetable farm would in terms of production and reaching out to Extension when they do need help. They will be independent, and continue growing their operation to support the goals of the tribal nation,” Shuresh states.
Article by Stacey Stearns and Shuresh Ghimire
UConn Extension is proud to announce our newest team member, Indu Upadhyaya. Indu accepted the position of Food Safety Extension educator. She is based in our Tolland County Extension Center and started with Extension in June.
Indu obtained her bachelor of veterinary science and animal husbandry (equivalent to DVM) and a master’s degree in veterinary biochemistry from Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Veterinary Education and Research in Pondicherry. She completed her PhD from UConn in Animal Science with a focus on Food safety and Microbiology. She moved to Arkansas as a postdoctoral associate at the University of Arkansas Center of Excellence for Poultry Science, where she worked in collaboration with the USDA Agricultural Research Service Poultry Production and Product Safety Research Unit.
Before coming back to UConn as a faculty, she worked as an Assistant Professor in the School of Agriculture at Tennessee Tech University for one year. She was involved with developing a research program on poultry and fresh produce safety, including writing grants and collaborating with other faculty from various disciplines. She also taught two upper level undergraduate courses and worked on various food safety outreach and recruitment activities in Tennessee.
Indu is excited to serve as UConn’s Food Safety Extension Educator. In her spare time, she likes to read, listen to music and watch tennis. She enjoys trying different cuisines and likes to travel new places.
This fall short course will take place at The Connecticut Tree Protective Association (CTPA), 60 Church Street, Wallingford, CT.
Please respond with your registration and payment as soon as possible. We have limited space for 28 participants, and seats are given out once payment is received. Directions and class schedule will be sent out with your registration confirmation letter.
UConn Extension, with the CT Department of Energy and Environment (CT DEEP), has developed a series that explains and clarifies Connecticut’s pesticide restrictions on school grounds.
In 2010, Connecticut state legislation banned the application of all pesticides registered with EPA, and labeled for use on lawn, garden, and ornamental sites, on the grounds of public or private daycares and schools with grades K-8. The law was amended in 2015 to allow the use of horticultural oils and microbial and biochemical pesticides.
Since enactment of this legislation, weed control on school ground properties has been a significant challenge for school grounds managers. Although the law is nearly 10 years old, widespread understanding and awareness of the law remains elusive. UConn Extension’s primers aim to break down the most essential details of the law for grounds managers, administrators, parents, guardians, teachers, and other members of the school community.
Vickie Wallace and Alyssa Siegel-Miles, of UConn Extension, with the assistance of Diane Jorsey, of CT DEEP, created three versions of the primer: a brochure for the school community; a more detailed primer for school administrators, and longer primer that includes management information for school grounds managers.
The primers answer the most frequently asked questions, such as:
- Which school locations are affected by this law?
- Which pesticides are banned?
- Who can apply minimum risk pesticides on school properties?
- Are exemptions to the law permitted for emergencies?
- Are there pesticide products that are permitted for use on K-8 school properties?
- How must a school notify the school community, including parents, of pesticide applications, whether minimum risk or emergency?
- Can playing fields, grounds, and lawns be managed without the use of pesticides?
Read and download the primers:
A Superintendents’ Primer on Connecticut’s School Grounds Pesticide Regulations:
A School Grounds Manager’s Primer on Connecticut’s School Grounds Pesticide Regulations: http://ipm.uconn.edu/documents/view.php?id=1450
School Grounds Pesticide Regulations for the School Community (brochure):
Enroll Now in the UConn 2019 Master Composter Program
Almost 25% of household waste can be recycled through composting. The purpose of the UConn Master Composter program is to educate and train residents about the basics of small-scale composting and in exchange for the training, volunteers will pass on their knowledge to others through outreach activitiessuch as talks, demonstrations, tabling at events, providing promotional activities, working with schools or community gardens etc. Master Composter classes will be held at the New London County Extension Center in Norwich. There will be four weeknight lectures (October 15, 17, 22 & 24), Worm Day (Oct 19) and two Saturday field trips with only one being mandatory. The cost of the program is $100. The Master Composter brochure with registration information is available at www.ladybug.uconn.edu or www.soiltest.uconn.edu or call (860) 486-4274 for more information.
Saturday, October 19, 2019 at the Middlesex County Extension Center from 10 am to 2 pm.
Want to learn more about invasive earthworms in Connecticut? Ever thought about making a worm bin to recycle kitchen scraps into rich vermicompost? Join us for Worm Day! It is free and open to the public. Following presentations on beneficial and invasive earthworms, and how to make and care for a worm bin, folks are invited to make their own worm bins. Attendees supply the materials and we will supply the worms. A $5 donation is suggested to cover the cost of the worms. Go to www.ladybug.uconn.edu orwww.soiltest.uconn.edu for more information. Please RSVP to Dawn.Pettinelli@uconn.edu as we need to know how many worms to bring! Limited to 40 participants.
NEW TEAM TO LEAD CONNECTICUT TRAIL CENSUS DATA COLLECTION AND EDUCATION PROGRAM
The University of Connecticut (UConn) Extension is pleased to welcome Charles Tracy as the new Coordinator, and Ryan Faulkner as the new Project Specialist of the Connecticut Trail Census Program. The Connecticut Trail Census is a statewide volunteer-based data collection and education program that operates on trails across the state. The program collects information about trail use through trail use counts recorded by infrared pedestrian counters and trail user intercept surveys administered by trained volunteers, and disseminates trail use information through public education programs.
“Connecticut’s diverse trail networks are among the state’s most scenic, valuable and enduring assets,” said Tracy. “Connecticut’s trails support public health, promote community, provide alternative transportation, encourage tourism, and strengthen the economy. I’m looking forward to developing an accurate and compelling picture of who uses trails in Connecticut, and then finding creative ways to share that picture to advance and inform new trail design and construction throughout the state.”
“We’re thrilled to have such an amazing team on board to continue and grow this work,” said Census team member Laura Brown with UConn Extension. “The new staff will focus on developing new partnerships with public and private organizations in areas such as economic development, health, and transportation who have an interest in trails but might not have engaged with the trail user community before. We’ll also be increasing our educational programs to help communities and leaders make better use of this valuable data.”
The Trail Census encourages data informed decision-making and promotes active citizen participation in multi-use trail monitoring and advocacy. It has operated since 2017 and in 2018 the Census documented an estimated 1,449,220 uses on the 16 participating sites. The program has since grown to over 20 participating data collection sites across the state. The program received $206,043 in funding from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Recreational Trails Program to continue work through 2019.
Charles Tracy has been leading community and regional trail development and landscape conservation initiatives throughout New England since 1988 and will be retiring from his current position as a National Park Service landscape architect. Tracy has been superintendent of the New England National Scenic Trail and national lead for NPS art partnerships. He holds master’s degrees in landscape architecture from the University of Massachusetts and in classics from the University of Texas.
Ryan Faulkner joins the Census after nearly two years of contributions as a project intern while completing his BA in
Economics from UConn in 2017. He is currently a Master’s Degree Candidate in Geography at Central Connecticut State University.
“I look forward to forming closer relationships with our volunteers and partners,” Ryan said. “It’s exciting to now have the resources and staff to take the Trail Census to the next level. Trails are a keystone to building a prosperous and healthy Connecticut, and I’m excited to see what we can accomplish this coming year.”
The Trail Census is statewide and serves community leaders and decision makers including local elected officials, planners, economic development professionals, trail advocates, trail maintenance professionals, environmental, health and outdoor activity advocates, as well as the general public. The program was developed as a partnership program between UConn Extension, the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments, the Connecticut Greenways Council, and local trail advocacy organizations. The project is advised by a volunteer steering committee. For more information or to get involved visitcttrailcensus.uconn.edu.
Join us for the second biannual UConn Native Plants & Pollinators Conference! Come for an exciting day of presentations featuring current science-based research and information on supporting pollinators in managed landscapes. This program is designed for growers and other green industry professionals, landscape service providers, landscape architects and designers, town commissions, municipalities, schools, and homeowners. Learn how to utilize native plants to provide the greatest value for pollinators throughout the year!
Download the agenda: NPPC2 Agenda (1)
Register online at s.uconn.edu/pollinators2019.
• Register online or visit the UConn IPM website (www.ipm.uconn.edu)
Early registration $50.00, by Friday August 30, 2019 • $60.00 after August 30, 2019
• Students $25.00 with valid school ID
The registration fee includes: Admission to sessions Lunch & Parking
Parking is available in the North Parking Garage (103 North Eagleville Road) and South Parking Garage (2366 Jim Calhoun Way). Please bring your parking garage ticket with you to check-in for validation. See Link to UConn Storrs Campus map.
Questions about registration? Contact: Alyssa Siegel-Miles, email@example.com or call at 860-885-2821.
Pesticide Recertification credits: PA, 1A, 3A, 3B, 3D, 6, 10/5
UConn is an equal opportunity employer and program provider.
APPLY TO BECOME A UCONN EXTENSION MASTER GARDENER –
APPLICATION DEADLINE IS OCTOBER 18.
Garden harvests are underway, and it’s a great time to plan ahead for next year. Apply now for the 2020 UConn Extension Master Gardener Program. Classes will be held in Vernon, New Haven, Norwich, Torrington and Stamford. The deadline for applications is Friday, October 18, 2019.
UConn Extension Master Gardeners have an interest in plants, gardening, people and the environment. Specifically, they are willing to share their knowledge, passion and enthusiasm with their communities, providing research-based information to homeowners, students, gardening communities and others. They receive horticultural training from UConn, and then share that knowledge with the public through community volunteering and educational outreach efforts. UConn Master Gardeners help with community and museum gardens, school gardens, backyard projects, houseplant questions and more.
“The Master Gardener Program opened my eyes to the wonderful world of horticulture, gardening, and the fragile ecosystem
we share with animals and insects,” says Pat Sabosik of Hamden, who completed the program in 2017.
The program is presented in a hybrid class format with three to four hours of online work before each of the 16 weekly classes, followed by a half-day classroom session. Classes run from 9 AM to 1 PM. New this year is a weekend session which will be held in Vernon on Saturdays.
“The combination of in-depth classroom learning with subject matter experts, extensive reading materials, and hands-on projects and outreach experiences is a good balance of learning experiences”, says Anne Farnum who also took the class in 2017.
Classes begin the week of January 6, 2020. Subject matter includes basic botany, plant pathology, soils, entomology and lectures on other aspects of gardening, plant groups, and pest management. Lectures and reading are combined with hands-on classroom experience. After the classroom portion, students complete 60 hours of outreach experience during the summer.
The program fee is $450.00, and includes all needed course materials. Partial scholarships may be available, based on demonstrated financial need.
For more information, call the UConn Extension Master Gardener office at 860-409-9053 or visit the UConn Extension Master Gardener website at: www.mastergardener.uconn.edu , where both the on-line and paper application can be found.
Under the USDA FRTEP grant we have with Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, on the morning August 15th, Erica Benvenuti, Mike Puglisi, and Alyssa Siegel-Miles of the UConn Extension EFNEP program conducted a food preparation workshop for the tribal youth. There were 13 teens and seven adults at the event. Erica and team did an excellent job engaging and teaching the youth to prepare three sisters meal – corn, squash and bean (tribe’s traditional meal) and salsa. The objective of the workshop was to teach the tribal youth the importance of healthy food and give hands-on training on food preparation (from washing hands to following recipe to serving food). This falls under our goal of improving the overall health of the tribal members. I personally very much enjoyed the workshop.
Submitted by Shuresh Ghimire, PhD, and PI on the grant