UConn Extension

Job Opening: Master Gardener Coordinator

Master Gardener logoMaster Gardener County Coordinator: Litchfield County

The UConn Extension Master Gardener Program is seeking applications for the position of Master Gardener Litchfield County Program Coordinator. This is a 16‐hour‐per‐week position and is a temporary, six‐month appointment. Renewal is optional pending coordinator review and availability of program funding.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to: providing leadership for the base county Master Gardener program. Successful candidate will coordinate staffing of program mentors, volunteers and interns; work with UConn Extension center/county‐based faculty and staff, as well as university‐based faculty and staff as needed. Will also need to work with allied community groups and Extension partners such as the CT Master Gardener Association and Extension Councils; train and supervise interns in the Extension center when classroom teaching is completed; arrange and conduct Advanced Master Gardener classes each year; create, develop and coordinate outreach programs and projects in the county. They will prepare annual reports on program activities, impacts, incomes, outcomes (number of clientele contacts); and communicate effectively with the state coordinator, other county coordinators, center coordinators and support staff.

Preference will be given to candidates who are Certified Master Gardeners, or with a degree in horticulture, botany, biology or equivalent experience. Interested applicants should possess strong organizational, communication and interpersonal skills and be able to show initiative. They should be able to demonstrate experience in working collaboratively as well as independently, and be willing to work flexible hours including some evenings and weekends. Must be familiar with Microsoft Office.

Volunteer experience is desired. Monthly reports shall be communicated to the state coordinator and topical information may be shared with others as requested.

Submit letter of application, resume and names of three references to:

Sarah Bailey, State Extension Master Gardener Coordinator at sarah.bailey@uconn.edu

Please put Master Gardener Coordinator Position in the subject line.

If you are unable to use email, you may send it to:

Sarah Bailey

State Extension Master Gardener Coordinator

University of Connecticut

1796 Asylum Avenue

West Hartford, CT 06117‐2600

Screening will begin immediately.

To print a copy of this description, download: County MG Position Description – Litchfield.

Basic Food Safety Practices at Home

What made you sick? Is it food you cooked at home?

By Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH, Senior Extension Educator/Food Safety

 

bar graph showing thoughts of consumers on food borne illness causes
Source: FDA

As winter wanes and we begin to eat more seasonally—perhaps eat more salads, raw fruits and veggies, using the barbecue—it may be a good time to take stock of our safe food preparation skills.

Many Americans believe that the food that they prepare at home is unlikely to be the source of a foodborne illness. In 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration surveyed over 4,000 adults regarding the source of food “poisoning” in the U.S. According to the data, 53 percent of respondents believed that food poisoning from foods prepared at home is “not very common.” Only 12 percent thought it was “very common.”

I recently read an article that addressed European Food Safety Authority (an agency that addresses foodborne illness and food safety policy for the European Union [EU]) concerns about safe food handling in the home. The agency reported that 40 percent of foodborne outbreaks in the EU were traced to food prepared in private homes. There, the major sources were identified as meat, meat products; mixed food and buffet meals, eggs, fish and milk. Vegetables and fruits were further down the list, but not considered to be insignificant.

In the United States, the news is not quite so bad for the consumer. A 2014 report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest indicated that Americans are twice as likely to get food poisoning from food prepared at a restaurant than from food we cook at home. But that still equates to about 30% of outbreaks being tied to home food preparation.

Why are these figures different? Maybe food is prepared in the home more consistently in Europe? Americans go out for breakfast, lunch or dinner more frequently? Is it possible that those with more health care options are more likely to report their illnesses? The outbreaks that go unreported, especially sporadic incidents that affect low numbers of consumers, is a number we don’t have a great handle on.

The bottom line is that while we continue to blame farmers, processors, foodservice and restaurants for making the food that makes us sick, the fact is that home cooks are quite likely to handle food in a way that results in a foodborne illness. Each part of the food system from the farmer or producer all the way to the home cook has some responsibility to prepare, serve and store food so that risks for foodborne illness are minimized.

So, how can you lower your risk of contributing to the statistics of home-sourced food borne illness? It really is not all that difficult. We are often so busy with our lives that we just don’t think about how we handle food at home—or consumers just don’t know the risks, because no one told them. It can be really scary when you are attending a pot luck or bringing a dish to soup kitchen or elementary school event where kids are sharing their favorite cultural foods.

Did that person clean up before they cooked? How long did was that casserole at room temperature after it was cooked? Was a food thermometer used to make sure the food was cooked long enough to be safe? What does their refrigerator look like? Kitchens in most homes are used for many different activities: feeding the dog; creating the latest art project; counters become a resting place for cats when you are not at home; sinks are used for washing hands and cleaning fresh lettuce; cleaning the cutting board after boning a chicken; washing your hair. So many opportunities for cross-contamination of perfectly clean and healthy food with those pesky pathogens that make us sick.

I have tried to distill all of the food safety rules down to an easy five points. Copy, paste, and pin this on your fridge for a few days and see if you can make these habits part of your everyday food prep routine.

  • Keep your kitchen, utensils, and hands clean. At the very least, clean surfaces before cooking and use clean utensils. Wash your hands before food preparation—no matter what. Even if you just went to the bathroom and washed your hands. Wash out your sink regularly, especially after washing knives used on raw meat or cleaning freshly harvested garden tomatoes or cucumbers.
  • Handle raw and cooked foods with care—do not let them cross paths. If you are making a salad for dinner, time it so that you can do that BEFORE you prepare the chicken or the fish. Then revisit #1—wash every surface and utensil before using it on another food. If you do prepare raw foods (i.e. cracking eggs) before the cooked or ready to eat foods (slicing bread or chopping washed lettuce), preventing cross contamination is essential to reduce risks.
  • Use a food thermometer. No matter what you have been told by anyone (including the chef who insists they know meat is done by pressing it with his or her finger), you CANNOT tell the temperature of a food without a thermometer. This is especially important when checking if a meat, poultry, fish or egg dish is fully cooked. Or, if leftovers are heated to the proper temperature (165 degrees F). Once I purchased a good digital thermometer, I actually found that I was actually less likely to over cook meat and chicken.
  • Use a refrigerator thermometer. While refrigeration can slow the growth of bacteria, it does not totally stop it. For example, Listeria is a bacteria that loves a cold, wet environment. So, keep your fridge clean, wipe up spills quickly, do not let lettuce, herbs, and other perishables melt into a wet mush in the veggie drawer. Remove outdated or old foods when you are collecting the household trash for weekly collection. If your refrigerator does not have a built-in temperature gauge, buy one and place it near the door, the warmest part of the fridge. It should read between 38 and 40 degrees F. Also, look at that thermometer or temperature gauge periodically to ensure that the fridge is maintaining that safe temperature range.
  • Get leftovers into the refrigerator ASAP after eating. Many consumers are under the mistaken impression that once you clean a food (fruits and veggies) or cook a food (chicken, fish) to the safe end temperature, your food safety worries are over. Not so. Washing alone will never totally remove all risk of pathogens. Get that leftover salad back into the refrigerator ASAP. Once cooked, soups, stews, steaks and mac and cheese need to be sent back to the fridge as soon as they are cool enough to handle. No reason to let them cool to room temperature. Modern fridges can handle reasonable amounts of warm food—break the food down to smaller amounts, about no more than three inches deep. They will cool faster. Don’t leave leftovers on the counter for long. It is too easy to forget them!

 

For more information about food safety at home, visit our website at www.foodsafety.uconn.edu, or contact the Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 1-877-486-6271.

Kid Eats

Kid Eats app

A new interactive app named Kid Eats, designed to help parents and teachers promote healthy eating and introduce cooking skills, is now available at the Apple app store. The program incorporates youth-adult partnerships, with adult and child working together in the kitchen. Designed for youth grades three to six, the app is a collaborative effort between UConn Extension 4-H Fitness and Nutrition Clubs In Motion, a 4-H STEM after school program funded through USDA-NIFA, and the New Mexico State University (NMSU) Media Productions. Kid Eats app is currently compatible with iPad iOS 11.0 or later.

The UConn team brought their nutrition and health promotion background to the project while NMSU Media Kid Eats app visualproductions developed the app. The teams created the app to pilot the effectiveness of video instruction to encourage healthy habits. UConn 4-H FANs IM was designed to promote healthy eating and exercise for youth, through fun and engaging activities.

The app includes a step-by-step instructional recipe, while directing users to the KidEats website, which includes seven recipe videos along with one on safe knife skills. Recipes are available to download and include, Banana Breakfast Cookies, Fruit Slushies, Garden Salsa, Hummus Dip with Veggies, Kale Chips, Tortilla Pizza and Sautéed Veggies. The teams plan to expand the app to include additional kitchen skills, recipes and Spanish videos.

By Kim Colavito Markesich

Cloe Labranche: 4-H Alumni Spotlight

Meet 4-H Alumni and UConn undergraduate Cloe Labranche. We met with her and chatted about her 4-H experience, and what she is up to at UConn.

Cloe Labranche (left) and Laura Irwin at the 2017 Little International Livestock Show at UConn.
Cloe Labranche (left) and Laura Irwin at the 2017 Little International Livestock Show at UConn.

How did you become involved with 4-H? Can you tell us about your 4-H experience?

I came from a non-ag family and found out about 4-H when I was eight years old from a neighbor. I was very interested in larger animals, and I was lucky to find a dairy club close to my hometown of Ellington. I joined the Merry Moo-er’s of Enfield a year later, and was involved with them until I aged out of 4-H.

Did you visit UConn for a 4-H event prior to attending UConn?

My 4-H club was full of wonderful leaders who pushed me to take advantage of as many 4-H experiences as possible, including the ones at UConn. I showed at the UConn poultry show and Dairy Day, along with various workshops that were held throughout the years. I spent a lot of time at UConn before I came here as a student.

Why did you apply to UConn? What are you majoring in, and when is your expected graduation?

I am a sophomore majoring in Animal Science and will be graduating in May 2020. I applied to UConn because I knew that the connections I made here in my 4-H years would open up many opportunities for career options. I also knew that the Ag program here is unlike any other.

Did 4-H influence your choice of university or major?

4-H played a major part in my decision; however; I think I would have ended up here regardless. I knew I wanted to work with animals before I knew about 4-H, and I also come from a family of UConn alumni.

What was the most challenging part of 4-H?

The most challenging part of 4-H was doing things out of my comfort level. I had many mentors who pushed me to do things that I might not have pushed myself to do in my youth. I was lucky to have people to encourage me to join the CT Quiz Bowl team, show at the Big E, attend the Citizenship Washington Focus trip, run for club and county officer positions, and many more. After 4-H, I have learned to push myself to do things that I might not have done otherwise. Doing so helps anyone make the most out of 4-H, college, and life.

What was the most rewarding part of 4-H?

The opportunities. Every single aspect of 4-H that I took advantage of made me a stronger person with skills I will use forever. It opened up a world of career options that made me excited for my future in animal science, and I hope to become a passionate worker when I begin my career, whatever that may be.

What is your favorite 4-H memory?

I attended the National 4-H Dairy Expo Trip in Madison, Wisconsin when I was 16. After a long day of educational workshops and hands-on activities, the whole group of 4-Hers from all over the country gathered in the dining hall of our housing area and had a square dance. I can’t think of a time I had more fun.

Is your course work at UConn building off of your 4-H experience?

Yes. This is something I notice especially now as a sophomore, where my classes are becoming less generic. I have had a slight advantage in almost all of my classes I have taken this semester because of the knowledge I have gained throughout my 4-H years.

After you earn your degree, what are your plans for the future? 

I would love to work with animal genetics, or possibly biosecurity and research with animal products. If you ask me again in a month, that answer might be different, because I have many interests within animal science careers. All I know is that I would love to do anything where I can help create more sustainable agriculture in the world.

Can you tell us about some of your other interests?

I have a passion for music and have been playing piano and guitar for 12 years.

Anything else you think we should know?

I would not be the person I am today without 4-H.

Master Gardener Program Updates

vegetable gardenThe New Year ushered in a new crop of interns aspiring to become certified Master Gardeners. Classes began January 11th. The Bethel and New Haven classes alternate locations each year, and the 2018 class is being held in New Haven County at the Edgerton Park Carriage House. Both the New Haven County and Fairfield County coordinators work together each year facilitating the classes.

This year’s class has 40 students, the majority of whom will be completing their community outreach in New Haven County. However, at least a half dozen or more interns from the class are expected to complete their office internship in the Bethel office and complete their community outreach in Fairfield County.

2018 is the 40th anniversary of the Master Gardener Program in Connecticut. In addition, this is the first year the new hybrid Master Gardener classes are being rolled out. This year, students will be completing a substantial portion of the program online, where they have access to presentations and class materials that can be viewed asynchronously. After they view the week’s assigned material, they come to class, where discussions of the material, hands on activities, and workshops that supplement the material are held. Various activities are led by instructors and coordinators, assisted by certified Master Gardener volunteers.

To date, the new format seems to be working well. Students seem to be accessing the material, taking online quizzes, and coming to class energized ready to participate in discussions on the material and in hands on activities.

Classes are scheduled to run through the end of April, but are subject to an extension if weather creates any issues.

By Sandi Wilson, Fairfield County Master Gardener Coordinator

Who Keeps Our Food Supply Safe?

Who keeps our food supply safe?

Rules, regulations, jurisdiction

 By Diane Wright Hirsch

Senior Extension Educator/Food Safety

 

I am often asked who to contact when someone has a concern about the regulation of our food supply. It might be a budding entrepreneur who needs to know which agency they need to contact to figure out which regulations they need to comply with. A consumer might want to report that they found something in a food product that shouldn’t be there (a piece of plastic, a rodent part) or they may suspect that an allergen is not properly labeled. A farmer might want to build a packing facility or commercial kitchen on their farm to increase the value of their food product with further processing. Processors may want me to act as a go-between in order to retain their anonymity while finding the answer to a question about regulation of their operation.  Sometimes these questions relate to a Federal rule or regulation. There are many layers that can be tough to wade through.

Connecticut is rather unique in the food regulation department: we actually have three agencies that have primary responsibility or “jurisdiction over” food. Most states have one or two.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) Food Protection Program oversees regulations relating to foodservice operations: restaurants, department of public health logocaterers, temporary food events (fairs, community dinners), food trucks, and institutions such as college foodservice. The Program’s overall mission (as stated on their website), “is to reduce the risk of foodborne disease by ensuring reasonable protection from contaminated food and improving the sanitary condition of food establishments.”

The Program develops new and updates existing regulations. Recently, the Federal Model Food Code was adopted as the state’s food code. This allows for standardization with other states who follow that code—making it easier for businesses (i.e. Stop and Shop or Burger King) that have operations in many states to have similar rules to follow from state to state. Food Protection Program personnel train, certify and re-certify sanitarians in each local health district to ensure that foodservice operations in their jurisdictions are complying with the Connecticut food code. The local/city/district health departments carry out the actual inspection and regulation of the operations. All foodservice operations must be licensed. You can go to the website at www.ct.gov/dph, go to the A-Z menu and find both the Food Protection Program (under F) and a listing of all Local Health Department (under L). The phone number is (860) 509-7297.

The Food Protection Program is also responsible for monitoring complaints of foodborne illness and investigating outbreaks in collaboration with local health departments, the DPH Epidemiology Program, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). If you fear that you might have a foodborne illness you should contact either your local or the state health department.

The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) “regulates all persons and businesses that manufacture or sell food products in the State in order to detect and prevent the distribution of adulterated, contaminated, or unsanitary food products,” according to the website.

department of consumer protection logoThe Foods Program employs food inspectors who are responsible for inspecting retail food operations (grocery stores; big box stores that have grocery store operations, such as Costco or Walmart; farm stands and other retail operations). They also inspect food manufacturers and food operations that transport or store food (distributors). Many of these operations are licensed by DCP, who administers licenses for food manufacturing establishments, bakeries, non-alcoholic beverages including cider, wholesale and retail frozen desserts and vending machines. They are involved in food recall implementation. If you have food safety concerns regarding a Connecticut food processor or retailer (including food products they are selling) or if you want to start a food manufacturing business, the DCP is the regulatory agency to contact. The exception to this is meat and poultry processors. All meat and poultry processing is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS).

DPC’s website is www.ct.gov/dpc. Go to the “Programs and Services” tab and you will find the “Food Program” listed. Or call them at (860) 713-6160.

The third state agency with food safety responsibilities is the Connecticut Department of Agriculture (DoAg). Like the federal agency (USDA), the department of agriculture logoDepartment is involved in a variety of regulatory and marketing activities. If you have questions related to the products they regulate, you can give them a call at: 860-713-2500 or go to the website at www.ct.gov/doag.

Recently, the DoAg was given responsibility for implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule in Connecticut. This is an FDA rule addressing the safety of fresh produce grown on Connecticut farms. The agency also provides produce farmers with a voluntary third-party audit program, called GAP (Good Agricultural Practices): sometimes grocery stores or produce distributors will require farms they buy produce from to have a third-party audit. The Agency also addresses animals and animal health, including food animals; milk and cheese producers and processors; retail milk sales; and a programs for small poultry producers who want to process and sell their birds directly to consumers and restaurants. The Bureau of Aquaculture addresses the safety of the Connecticut clam and oyster industries via water testing, regulation and licensing programs.

Sometimes the regulatory jurisdictions of these three agencies cross paths. A grocery store may have DoAg inspectors looking at their dairy case; a local health inspector checking out their rotisserie chicken operation and a DCP inspector conducting a regular whole-store inspection all in one week. A farmer who wants to develop a jam and jelly processing kitchen on the farm may have to contact the local health department to ensure that their commercial kitchen meets town regulatory requirements before the DCP inspects the processing operation. The farm could be visited by a DoAg inspector who is making sure the farm complies with the Produce Safety Rule.  This is why, at times, the regulation of food in Connecticut can be confusing. However, if you contact any of the agencies directly, they are able to direct you to the appropriate agency to handle your questions.

To add to this, there are also two agencies at the federal level who regulate food. The USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) regulates all meat, poultry, and processed eggs. A few states have equivalent state inspection programs for these products, but Connecticut is not one of them. Therefore, anyone with questions about how meat and poultry is regulated or, if who wants to obtain a grant of inspection from FSIS (the only way you can legally process meat/poultry in Connecticut), must talk to the folks at FSIS.  The best place to start is the web site at www.fsis.usda.gov. You may also contact the Philadelphia regional office (215) 597-4219.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all foods that are not covered by FSIS. The enormity of the job is tempered by the fact that retail foods and foodservice are regulated by state food or public health agencies. In addition, the FDA may contract with state food and/or health agencies to carry out inspection programs for FDA regulated foods, including seafood, fresh juices, fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, and pretty much anything else. Check for the appropriate contacts on the web site, www.fda.gov. Click on the “Food” tab as FDA is responsible for pharmaceuticals, animal food, and many other health and food related areas. On the food landing page, there is information regarding how to contact the FDA directly.

For more information about regulation and food safety, visit our website at www.foodsafety.uconn.edu, check out some of the links in the article, or contact the Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 1-877-486-6271.

SNAP-Ed Programming in Fairfield County

By Rachel Hathaway (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Rachel Hathaway (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Nutrition outreach in January at the Danbury New Hope Church mobile food pantry included an on-site food demonstration with Banana Oatmeal, recipes and information were also distributed to 235 participants while waiting for their number to be called. Nutrition outreach at the Walnut Hill Church mobile food pantry in Bethel was on January 24th and reached 140 families.

Extension educator Heather Peracchio and intern Marianna Orrico, a Health Promotion and Exercise Science student from Western Connecticut State University, attended this month’s Danbury Food Collaborative meeting hosted at United Way on January 17th. Food pantries in attendance were given 200 copies of seasonally appropriate recipes to distribute to clients this month.

Heather also attended the Danbury Coalition for Healthy Kids meeting on January 24th. Danbury area agencies met to plan out a strategy for reducing childhood obesity in the greater Danbury area. Heather shared EFNEP and SNAP-Ed resources with community partners in attendance.

Lifelong Learning in March

string group

CLIR, a lifelong learning program offered in collaboration with UConn Extension, will hold the following classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in March, all in Vernon Cottage on UConn’s Depot Campus, from 1:15 to 2:45, except for the Memoir Club.

Memoir Club                 Thursdays     10:15 – 11:45

Mar 1 UConn’s Osiris Quartet
Mar 7 What are Stem Cells and Why Should We Care?  
Mar 14 Slavery in America and the Underground Railroad  
Mar 15 Have the Irish Lost Their Sense of Humor?  
Mar 20 Why Europe Went to War in 1914?  
Mar 21 A Two Part Class on the Food Waste Epidemic

Part I: Implications of Food Safety Quality as they Impact Food Waste

 
Mar 27 A Poetry Discussion  
Mar 28 Part 2: Environmental Impacts of Food Waste and the Global/National Perspective

My 4-H Story

MY 4-H STORY

By Mia Herrera

Mia Herrera and goat at show in KentuckyIt is safe to say that 4-H has more than just impacted my life. It has given me opportunities that would enhance my leadership and citizenship skills, and it has also shaped me into the person I have become. 4-H has provided life skill s and given me the confidence to take responsibility in preparation for a successful future, in both my career and helping others.

My 4-H experience started in 2006, when I was very young, at the age of 7. Our family had decided to purchase land to have chickens and dairy animals in order to produce homemade products for heal their living. I started out wanting to show the chickens because of how cute and cuddly I found them. Quickly my interest in showing chickens soon initiated my desire to show dairy goats as well at our local 4-H county fair.  For my first year showing a goat, I bought a doeling from a fellow 4-H member. I groomed that doeling, fed her, and cared for her as if she were my child. When it was time to bring her to the show ring, it was an event I could never forget. It was not about winning a ribbon (although my eyes lit up with such enthusiasm when the judge handed me that maroon ribbon with gold script for: “Participation”

written on the bottom of it). It was the thought of taking an animal that I had raised, taken responsibility for, and presented to the public eye. It was such a prideful moment for me! I was hooked. My desi re for more experience grew fast, and I began spreading across the map (you know like when Indiana Jones tracks his excursions in red on the map? That is how it felt anyway.) I was exhibiting at as many fairs as I could, determined to strengthen m y goat showing skills.

My first time entering the huge show ring at the State Fair, I was 8 years old. I inspected every comer, every animal, and the face of every showman. Every exhibitor in the ring had the same look of determination – ready to execute anyone who stepped in their path of winning the competition. Here I came with my little doeling, with her dainty little prance, and me, clueless of what the competition had in store for me. I learned what it truly meant to be in the State Fair. I showed my heart out, and I think the judge realized this. He pulled me aside after the show was over and sort-of interviewed me about where I bought my goats and m y experience so far. He was surprised to see that an exhibitor of my age was

attempting to show in such a tough competition, with adults on top of it. He took me around to some of the big breeders at the fair and introduced me to them. I spent the rest of the weekend at the State fair receiving advice from Dairy Goat Celebrities. Enhancing my showing skills was daunting at first. I began competing with not only youth, but also in the Open Shows, which consisted of 4-H Youth and various breeders that had been in the business for quite some time. Years passed from my first time showing a goat, and the more I practiced the more determined I became to make myself the best exhibitor.

After that time the State Fair Judge introduced me to some of the major dairy goat breeders, I became acquainted with some of the representatives and chairmen of the State Fair. They told me they were so impressed by my accomplishments as such a young youth exhibitor, that they chose me to conduct the Dairy Goat Showmanship Class and hands-on training portion of the State Fair Annual Pre­

Fair Seminar and Ethics Training! My task was to schedule and build a curriculum that would allow me to teach everything I had learned about showing a dairy goat, to over 100 youth exhibitors (and their parents). The pressure was on, but I grabbed that microphone and I showed every exhibitor how to tum, walk, set up, and groom their animals, even down to how to answer the judge when he wanted to evaluate your knowledge on the ADGA Scorecard and the conformation of the animal you were exhibiting.

Standing up in front of that many people, and presenting something I had learned so much about was difficult for me. Not because I was not prepared to present my knowledge on dairy animals, but because I was never a good public speaker, and I wasn’t sure how to go about explaining it all to them. Before 4-H, I was always shy. My development as a public speaker from County Events presentations of Public Speaking, and providing these annual seminars seemed to peak quickly.  That first time I just went for it, and after much improvement, I was able to give public speeches in various setting effortlessly. Between teaching other youth my knowledge and speaking out in school and other settings, I was confident I could do anything if I put my mind to it!

After my 6th year in 4-H, at 13 years old, I was invited to go to the American Dairy Goat National Show in Loveland, CO, with one of the Oberhasli Dairy Goat Breeders I met at the State Fair, who had seen me giving seminars on my knowledge of dairy animals. Never in my life had I seen so many lovely animal s I Walking into the show ring when it was time for Showmanship was nerve-wracking. Compared to prior experiences, this was not the type of pressure I felt when I had to stand up in front of 100 youth and give a seminar. THIS was not showing my first time at the State Fair. It was more than that. I was being live-streamed across Amen ca. My family, friends, everyone was sharing this moment with me. It was talking my breath away. Before I stepped into the ring, however, I heard a familiar voice behind me say “you can do this!”. It was the judge from the State Fair! My confidence came back, and I was ready to go. There were 54 other youth competitors in my division, and after 2 bloodcurdling hours, I walked out of that show ring 3rd place in my division, in all of the U.S. What an emotional life experience.Mia at her graduation from Woodstock Academy

As my confidence grew after having exhibited at so many fairs, I began conducting other seminars and showmanship clinics with other 4-H and FFA groups that were implementing Dairy Goats into their curriculums. I found it satisfying and refreshing to help other youth be prepared for the State Fair competitions as well as National Competitions. I felt it would be a nice gesture to not only share all the knowledge I had obtained throughout my experience as a youth exhibitor, but it would be something that would help me grow as an individual. My life experiences with 4-H also enhanced my academic standing and improved my overall achievement in many aspects of my life. For both 4-H, and during homeschooling / my High School years, I served many community service hours monthly, if not weekly. These hours included cleaning up local historical sites to singing Christmas Carols at retirement homes There were times when I would supervise Petting Zoos for rehabilitation centers and schedule Summer Camp clinics on how to mil k, raise, and make dairy products from goats. Organizing my time as well as my knowledge in 4-H has helped me establish who I am, and grow as a person. I realized after many years in 4-H that even my career goals were set to help others. 4-H just makes you a better person! I plan on incorporating my knowledge of the Spanish language along with my knowledge on agriculture and husbandry to conduct classes as a professor here and in other countries giving lectures on how to rai se dairy animals for homesteading purposes. In all, 4-H is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I look forward to staying involved in it, making a difference in my community, and passing on my knowledge in the future.

Growing Gardens, Growing Health in Norwalk

The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) helps families learn about healthy eating, shopping on a budget, cooking and physical activity. EFNEP staff strive to empower participants, providing knowledge and skills to improve the health of all family members. Participants learn through doing, with cooking, physical activity and supportive discussions about nutrition and healthy habits.

EFNEP classes will help you to prepare delicious, low-cost, healthy meals for you and your family. Some of our past classes are highlighted in this series. Contact the office near you for more information. 

student in Norwalk with strawberry in the garden
Photo: Heather Peracchio

Growing Gardens, Growing Health connects low income parents and their children to instruction, hands-on practice, and resources for gardening, nutrition, and cooking in order to encourage healthier food choices for the whole family. Over the course of the past 6 summers, participants worked with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist from EFNEP and certified master gardeners from Extension to plant and grow fresh vegetables and herbs. Over ten weeks, families received practical, family- and budget-friendly information about nutrition and built essential skills by making fun, healthy recipes. Each week children of the families learned about MyPlate and the food groups through fun and interactive games and activities with the help of EFNEP volunteers and an Extension summer intern.

Economically disadvantaged families were recruited to participate in a 10-week, hands-on, nutrition and gardening education program (n=35). Program goals were to enhance participants’ knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy associated with purchasing, preparing and consuming produce; incorporating physical activity into everyday life; and gardening and growing produce for personal use. Childhood obesity rates are higher than national average, 39% in this city. The Growing Gardens, Growing Health program helps families work together to grow fruits and vegetables on a community farm, learn about nutrition and how to prepare healthy foods in the on-premises, fully equipped kitchen classroom, and enjoy the freshly prepared fruit/vegetable-based meals as a group seated around the table. Local health department educators partnered with University Extension educators including a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), bilingual program aide, Master Gardener (MG) volunteers and student volunteers to implement this program. Data collection included a pre-post survey (n=21), and participants demonstrated increased readiness to change physical activity behaviors (47%), cooking behaviors with vegetables/fruits (40%) and consumption of 5 servings vegetables/fruits daily (31%). A family shares, “I am so glad we committed to this. We are eating better, with more nutrition, using less of a budget.” In summary, garden-based nutrition education that is family-focused may improve physical activity, vegetable/fruit consumption and self-efficacy associated with purchasing, preparing, and consuming produce; such improvements may decrease risk of obesity.