We all can do our part for the planet

My 2017 Climate Corps Summer Internship

By Nikki Pirtel

Bruce and students

Student teams led by Bruce Hyde and other CLEAR faculty will work with Connecticut towns as part of the UConn Climate Corps.

The shoreline community of Westbrook, Connecticut, situated halfway between New Haven and New London, is home to approximately 7,000 residents while supporting seasonal tourists with numerous beaches and shopping stores in the town’s outlet. It is also the municipality I was assigned to research and create a vulnerability assessment for during my time at the UConn Extension Office Internship in partnership with the Climate Adaption Academy and Climate Corps. Through the internship I achieved the Extension Office’s mission of using scientific research to engage with members of the public and municipalities, breaking down complex problems and developing easy to understand solutions that may help inform policy in the future.

Using the town’s Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan and various mapping services, I compiled a list of assets that I determined to have some level of vulnerability to climate hazards (such as flooding, sea level rise, damage from high precipitation events) primarily based on their geographical location to bodies of water. Although this information was similar to that described in the town’s plan, my created final product takes the basic material and provides recommended actions to reduce vulnerability, thus going one step further. With my help and the aid of future interns, the municipality can prepare for the impacts already being seen from climate change while simultaneously saving money. Figuring out the best way to protect assets and people within communities, whether proposing solutions on a town wide or specific infrastructure basis (an approach this internship takes with the Climate Corps Information Sheet), is an important discussion to have and comparison to make. Creating the vulnerability assessment was a rewarding process and the completed 38-page document (including references and figures) is something that I am proud to show to anyone willing to learn about the risk-based evaluations. I hope that the work done in this internship will grow into a much more substantial program and help Connecticut become a leader in climate adaptation.

Additional internship responsibilities included website updating and offering recommendations for a role-playing exercise that will occur in a new Climate Corps related class during the upcoming semester. These activities helped me reflect on past, similar experiences so that I could make any changes to proposed material to avoid previous problems I had encountered. Finding links to put on the Adapt CT website (through UConn’s Center for Land Use Education and Research) helped bring out my creative side and allowed me to delve into topics that really interest me.

Although attending meetings (except with the Westbrook town planner) and conducting a field site visit were not a part of my official obligations, seeing people and infrastructure in person really tied everything in the internship together. By seeing the people, along with their properties and other assets, that will be most negatively impacted by climate change in the future, my work felt much more important knowing what I did this summer may have a positive influence in time. Talking to members of shoreline communities from various backgrounds also made me realize that the climate will leave people of all classes vulnerable to events such as sea level rise, storm surge, flooding and tropical storms/hurricanes. Overall, this was more than just a summer job, rather a learning experience teaching me the ins and outs of local government, how input from the public affects an administration’s policies and the importance of maintaining natural landscapes within man-made ones.

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Standing for the value of water

Last week, water practitioners gathered in Stockholm for World Water Week.  This is an annual meeting to discuss the world’s water issues, organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute.  And if any reminder were needed as to the urgency of water challenges, this year’s event took place against a backdrop of Tropical Storm Harvey in the United States, monsoons and flooding in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, and an ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa.  Billions of dollars’ worth of damage to economies, communities displaced and people killed – it’s a terrifying window into the devastating impacts of water-related extremes. 
It’s for these reasons and others that the World Economic Forum categorizes water scarcity as one of the main global risks facing humanity today. Around the world, 4.5 billion people lack safely managed sanitation and 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed water.  And new World Bank research provides a wake-up call about the scale of the challenge in low and middle-income countries.
If we are to manage these hazards to minimize future suffering, urgent action is needed.  One of my main reflections post World Water Week is that valuing water must be an essential part of the policy agenda if we are to bend the curve towards a water-secure world.

“Valuing water must be an essential part of the policy agenda if we are to bend the curve towards a water-secure world.”

As I have written before, water is a unique issue because it has an economic aspect, an ecological aspect, and a spiritual, cultural and social aspect.  These three all interlink with one another so the solution needs to be cognizant of this complexity. 
Historically, water has been undervalued.  Perhaps that’s because so many of us take it for granted – we turn on the tap and it flows.  But this undervaluing has led to misuse and misallocation – because water provides multiple uses and services, all too often it is it is used for purposes that do not maximize wellbeing and regulated in ways that do not recognize scarcity or promote conservation. 
So how do we translate the individual and community-level values into a common value system for societies and countries?  Institutional mechanisms to manage water and deliver services are crucial. 
Released earlier this year, the Bellagio Principles on Valuing Water encourage us to do a number of things.  Firstly, they encourage us to recognize water’s multiple values principle by considering the multiple values to different stakeholders in all decisions affecting water. Secondly, to build trust by conducting all processes to reconcile values into management systems in ways that are equitable, transparent, and inclusive of multiple values. Thirdly, to protect water sources by valuing and protecting all sources of water, including watersheds, rivers, aquifers and associated ecosystems for current and future generations. Fourthly, empowering people by promoting education and public awareness about the essential role of water and its intrinsic value. And finally, to invest and innovate by putting resources behind our institutions, infrastructure, information and innovation to realize the full potential and values of water.

All of this involves broadening our outreach and turning up the volume.  With so many important issues in the world and so much content competing for public attention, events like World Water Week are crucial for raising awareness, highlighting the scale of the challenge and showcasing solutions.  But we need to go beyond talking to those in the water sector and engage those from other sectors.  And we need leadership on this topic to catalyze action, such as from the High Level Panel on Water, which presented some of its global initiatives at World Water Week and launched a consultation on the Bellagio Principles.
In conclusion, I believe we need a seminal shift to value water based on the values necessary to chart an inclusive course that respects culture, religion, and environment. 

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2012_11_27_Loch Leven_AirLandWater1

Loch Leven in Scotland, where water quality has significantly improved in the last 25 years following effective water management. Image: Laurence Carvalho

Between 19th and 21st September the MARS project will host an online eConference on The Future of Water Management in Europe.

The eConference aims to gather constructive and practical suggestions from the scientific community to help improve the monitoring and management of aquatic ecosystems across Europe.

Speakers from across Europe will lead presentations and discussions on key issues surrounding aquatic science, policy and conservation. These include Dr Lidija Globevnik from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, talking about the stressors impacting freshwaters in Europe, and Dr Victor Beumer from Deltares, Netherlands, who will present on the implementation of nature-based solutions to supply multiple benefits in water management.

More than 200 delegates are expected to take part in online discussions at the eConference, the outcomes of which are intended to inform the effective implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), which is scheduled for review in 2019-20.

Leven_sampling_20170815 (2)

Ecological sampling on Loch Leven. Image: Laurence Carvalho

Professor Laurence Carvalho, the eConference organiser, and a freshwater ecologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) said, “The aim of this eConference is to bring together leading experts in river basin management concerned with constructive and practical ideas on how we can more effectively implement the Water Framework Directive, due for review in 2019-20.

“It is over 15 years since the WFD was formerly adopted and in that time Europe has changed, with new pressures being recognised. This includes impacts linked to climate change – and associated flood and drought risks – as well as the rise of invasive species and a broad range of emerging pollutants. At the same time new perspectives on environmental management have developed, including payment for ecosystem services, nature-based solutions and circular economies.

“Given these changes in pressures and policy approaches, this eConference aims to gather scientific opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of current WFD implementation, innovation in monitoring and management and best practice in policy implementation.”

The eConference presentations are being recorded and will be available on the conference website for a year afterwards. A synthesis of the eConference will also be written up as a science-policy opinion article.


Online registration for The Future of Water Management eConference is free.

Attendees will be able to pose questions to presenters, and take part in discussions. Afterwards, they will asked to complete a survey to give their views on future options for water management in Europe, which will be used to help shape policy recommendations from the eConference.


eConference programme

All times are Central European Time (CET)

Tuesday 19th September: Monitoring and Assessment Systems – The Good, the Bad and the Innovative

10:45 – 11:00 Welcome to eConference & day from Chair
Anne Lyche Solheim (NIVA, Norway)

11:00 – 11:30 Strengths and weaknesses of current assessment systems
Martyn Kelly (Bowburn Consultancy, UK)

11:30 – 12:00 Innovation in Monitoring – Satellites, citizens and sequences
Laurence Carvalho (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, UK)

12:00 – 12:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Christine Argillier (Irstea, France)

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch break

14:00 – 14:30 Tracking progress in a one-out-all-out world
Daniel Hering (University Duisburg-Essen, Germany)

14:30 – 15:00 A new biomonitoring approach to optimize mitigation and recovery
Annette Baattrup-Pedersen (Aarhus University, Denmark)

15:00 – 15:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Peter Pollard (SEPA, UK)

Wednesday 20th September: Programmes of Measures – How do we Best Manage Multiple Stressors?

10:45 – 11:00 Welcome to day from Chair
Ursula Schmedtje (Federal Environment Agency (UBA), Germany)

11:00 – 11:30 Stressor situation in Europe
Lidija Globevnik (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)

11:30 – 12:00 How do we diagnose the cause of degradation under multiple stressors?
Christian Feld (University Duisburg-Essen, Germany)

12:00 – 12:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Dr Jeremy (Jay) Piggott (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland)

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch break

14:00 – 14:30 How multiple stressors are managed under water scarcity? The case of the Ebro River
Sergi Sabater (University of Girona and ICRA, Spain)

14:30 – 15:00 Implementation of Nature-based Solutions to supply multiple benefits
Victor Beumer (Deltares, Netherlands)

15:00 – 15:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Teresa Ferreira (Univ. of Lisbon, Portugal)

Thursday 21st September: The Policy Mix – Can we get Better Integration?

10:45 – 11:00 Welcome to day from Chair
Ana Cristina Cardoso (European Commission Joint Research Centre)

11:00 – 11:30 Integrating ecosystem service concepts into River Basin Management
Bruna Grizzetti (European Commission Joint Research Centre)

11:30 – 12:00 Synergies and conflicts between policies – how do we join up?
Josselin Rouillard (Ecologic, Germany)

12:00 – 12:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Angel Borja (AZTI, Spain)

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch break

14:00 – 14:30 Joining up water & agricultural policy
Sindre Langaas (NIVA, Norway)

14:30 – 15:00 Legal Issues for Policy Integration
Sarah Hendry (University of Dundee, UK)

15:00 – 15:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Kirsty Blackstock, James Hutton Institute, UK

15:30 – 15:45 Closing remarks to eConference
Sebastian Birk (University Duisburg-Essen, Germany)

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Worm Day

holding a worm

Saturday, October 21, 2017 at the Fairfield County Extension Center from 10 am to 1 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 or www.soiltest.uconn.edu for more information. Please RSVP as we need to know how many worms to bring!

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Sheep Shearing School

sheepThe Connecticut Sheep Breeders Association Inc. in conjunction with the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension Service are again offering a one-day shearing school.
Saturday, October 14, 2017
UConn Beef Barn (Livestock Unit 1)
Horsebarn Hill Road
This program is offered for those individuals who have a strong interest in learning how to shear sheep and have a basic understanding of sheep husbandry and handling. As sheep shearing is a physically demanding skill, it is highly recommended that you be able to perform a squat and touch your toes without discomfort and hold for an extended amount of time.
Class is limited to 12 students
Preregistration is required: Deadline for registration is October 7
CSBA members and UConn student: $20.00
All others: $40.00
Audit course: $10.00
Send: Name, address, email and phone # along with registration fee payable to CSBA to:
Kathy Robinson
743 Murdock Ave.
Meriden, CT 06450
Instructor: Matt Best
Equipment: provided
8am-classroom, introductions, registration, waivers, brief overview of the day.
8:30am-classroom, first principal of shearing, know the equipment. Shears, combs and cutters, shearing area, etc, Q and A.
10:30am- Laboratory, Handling sheep. Catching, proper position, leg work, shearing pattern. Second principal, know the pattern.
Lunch (plenty of places to choose from!)
Shearing, Third principal, know the contour of the animal.
Close: 4:30pm
Questions?  ctsheepshearer@gmail.com or 860-966-9264

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Invertebrate Investigators

by Jon Markovich

In the previous Healthy Waters blog, my colleague Micka Peck wrote about the stream sampling we did for benthic macroinvertebrates. Pulling on a pair of waders and kicking around in the stream sampling was only half the fun.  After the outdoor fieldwork, I changed wardrobe from field gear to lab coat. Ok, I didn’t really wear a lab coat, but I was in a lab processing the preserved macroinvertebrates for later identification.

It’s been established that macroinvertebrates are good indicators of water quality conditions. Identifying which macroinvertebrates are present in a stream sample provides a link to determining whether a stream has good water quality and supports a healthy aquatic community.

One sample collected from a stream can have hundreds, even thousands, of macroinvertebrates. Thankfully, my target was to process a small sub-sample – around 200 individuals. This involves spreading the entire sample onto a gridded pan, randomly selecting a grid and removing all materials within it, and “picking” through the leaves, dirt, gravel, and other debris to separate out macroinvertebrates. At times, it felt as though I was playing a game of “Where’s Waldo?” In this case, “Waldo” could have no tails, two tails, or three tails, gills or no gills, or a whole number of different features. Sorting through these samples is no joke – it takes serious skill to quickly pick out bugs from non-bug debris. But after they’ve been picked from the sub-samples, the macroinvertebrates are identified under a microscope.

Looking under the scope, I marveled at these creatures. The different features and shapes of each bug were jaw-dropping. One bug, a burrowing mayfly in the family Ephemeridae, has protruding tusks on the side of its mouth like an elephant. The tusks help this family of mayfly to burrow into soft sediment to feed. Another bug, a dragonfly in the family Aeshnidae, had a hinged-mouth that extended to be nearly half the length of its body! Dragonfly larvae are predatory and this super-extendable mouthpart allows them to quickly snap up prey. These kinds of distinguishing features and characteristics are what scientists look at under the microscope for macroinvertebrate identification.

Although they look way cooler under a microscope, you don’t need one to see macroinvertebrates. If you have the chance, go check out your local stream, flip over rocks and search the stream bottom. You too could become an invertebrate investigator!


About the Author: Jon Markovich joined EPA’s Water Protection Division in 2014 and works in the impaired waters and Total Maximum Daily Load programs. In his spare time, Jon enjoys hiking, kayaking and camping in the Mid-Atlantic Region’s many great state parks.

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Water flows through development – big ideas from World Water Week

Guangzhe Chen, Senior Director, the World Bank’s Water Global Practice, 
speaks at the opening plenary of World Water Week 2017. Credit: Tim Wainwright

It was inspiring to see so many committed water practitioners at World Water Week in Stockholm the last week of August, coming together to share experiences and advance global action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of safe and accessible water and sanitation for all (SDG6) by 2030.  As we know, access to water and sanitation is key to thriving communities. It determines whether poor girls are educated, whether cities are healthy places to live, whether industries grow, and whether framers can withstand the impacts of floods and droughts.

Without it, we are limiting our full potential. In fact, today we face a “silent emergency”, with stunted grown affecting more than a third of all children under five in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Niger and Guatemala. This was presented in the new World Bank report WASH Poverty Diagnostics, provides new data on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for 18 countries and finds that we get the biggest bang for the buck when we attack childhood stunting and mortality from many angles simultaneously, in a coordinated way. While improving water and sanitation alone does improve a child’s well-being, the impacts on child height are multiplied when water, sanitation, health, and nutrition interventions are combined. The report also pinpoints the geographical areas in a country where access to services are low or missing completely, and suggests that to move the needle on improving poverty indicators, policies need to be implemented and resources have to be better targeted to reach the most vulnerable.

Cities are always a hot topic of discussion for us working in development and they took center stage in Stockholm this year. The SDGs provide even more impetus for cities to be inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. This goal is inextricably linked to securing safe and sustainable access to WASH services for all and managing water as it travels across the city.

As cities grow and become thirstier and often dirtier, different users and uses of water are competing for this scarce resource. We therefore have to be smart in how we provide clean water, sanitation and related services to all city dwellers, especially the poor. We brought together practitioners from cities in Brazil, Sweden, Ethiopia and the United States for a series of rich discussions on Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) approaches for sustainable cities. We hope that these conversations will contribute to shifting mindsets which embrace a more efficient use of water while including the needs of all water users in a city through broad stakeholder participation. Our IUWM sessions also sparked discussions of partnerships and learning between Brazil and Ethiopia as well as with Stockholm and some of our client counterparts.

We also took a detailed look at the challenges of the urban sanitation agenda where it is clear that, with only 26% of urban excreta safely managed in developing country cities today, we won’t be able to deliver safely managed urban sanitation to all through business as usual. Together with key partners we promoted action on Citywide Inclusive Sanitation, highlighting the need for a radical shift in how we think about urban sanitation for all, embracing a mix of approaches combining reticulated and on-site solutions.

In Stockholm, issues of social inclusion – gender in particular –also received a lot of attention. We took the opportunity to launch “The Rising Tide”, a report on water and gender and to discuss how broad societal inequalities are mirrored in, or exacerbated by, water-related areas such as fishing and farming while being cemented by norms and traditions. This usually disadvantages women, but in our research we also saw some surprising findings. For example, we often think that women give higher priority to water and sanitation than men, but the data from across several African countries show that in fact, men and women have very similar priorities. We also found that men, not women, are more likely to die from drowning which perhaps runs contrary to popular belief.

With a changing climate, greater incidences of droughts and floods, and more fragile environments, our clients are suffering the impacts of water scarcity.  So we need to step up our efforts to help them. This is most evident in our work in the Middle East and North Africa region, and it was the main topic of our new report  Beyond Scarcity that looks at how countries can anticipate water scarcity and act to strengthen water security rather than waiting to react to the inevitable disruptions of water crises.

That water has long been a subject of conflict was echoed by this year’s Stockholm Water Prize Winner Stephen McCaffrey, who quoted Mark Twain when he said ‘Whiskey is for drinking, while water is for fighting over’, and underscored the need for stronger adherence to international legal structures around resources that are increasingly scarce – and often shared between countries.

What became perhaps most clear at this year’s Stockholm Water Week is that Standard Operating Procedures won’t cut it if we are to achieve SDG6. On a macro level, we need strong leadership from heads of state, such as through the High Level Panel on Water, and on a micro level, we need to work with countries to develop lending instruments and strategies, and make sure that our organizations are adaptable and nimble enough to provide us with the innovative tools needed to meet the many challenges faced. Just as water touches most of the SDGs, our work has to entail collaboration and cooperation with every actor involved in protecting the most vulnerable around the world.

But the SDGs will not be met without significant changes in how the sector is financed.  The financing gap is growing and it is likely that public and concessional finance will not close this gap.  Thus, increased commercial finance will be needed, regardless of whether services are provided by the public or private sector.  In developed economies, long-term financing is raised in domestic capital markets and we are seeing increased evidence that this is working in emerging markets as well.  To reach this goal, service providers need to become more technically and financially efficient and governance and regulatory structures managing water need to be more transparent.  With increased accountability, service providers improve their operations, become more viable, and can diversify their financing options. Our report “Easing the Transition to Commercial Finance” intends to help our client countries and service providers access the domestic financial market.

At the opening plenary at which I served as a panelist along with other ministers and youth representative, I reiterated these messages to all participants.  They were well received and appreciated by the audience. It is my hope that by next year’s World Water Week, I will be able to reflect in the progress made in all these areas.


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Citizenship Washington Focus

By: Jessica LaRosa, Hartford County 4-H Member

This summer, I had the opportunity to attend the 2017 Citizenship Washington Focus with 38 other 4-Hers from Connecticut. The trip was held in Washington D.C., and focused on our nation’s Legislative Branch in government, along with looking at how to become better leaders and citizens in our communities.  When I attended the trip, there were also delegates from 9 other states who were interested in becoming better leaders in their communities.

While in Washington D.C., we attended workshops and committee meetings, and even got to tour the memorials in the District, and famous landmarks near D.C, such as Mount Vernon.  We participated in events such as Twilight Tattoo at an Army base, and attended a dinner theatre.  Overall, the trip was an amazing experience, and it was very educational on how our country’s Legislative Branch operates.  Thank you to everyone who was able to help make this journey happen.

Please visit http://www.4-h.uconn.edu for more information on Citizenship Washington Focus, and our other UConn 4-H programs.


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Brush Hill Farm – CT Dairy Farm of the Year

Brush Hill Farm – CT Dairy Farm of the Year 2017, UConn Extension Green Pastures Program

By Joyce Meader

Brush Hill Farm family

Brush Hill Farm family and team members.

Looking for cows at Brush Hill Farm? Look no further than the pasture. Other than a few hours a day when the cows are being milked in the barn, they enjoy fresh air, sunshine, and lush greens.

The herd spends their days — and nights – outside, from the moment the grass sprouts in April to the beginning of November, when winter starts to take hold.

The dairy farm in the small town of Bozrah isn’t the biggest dairy farm in the state, but this year, it’s been named Connecticut’s Dairy Farm of the Year, the 2017 Green Pasture Award winner.

The Green Pasture Award is given every year to one outstanding dairy farm in each of the New England states, with winners evaluated on production records; herd, pasture, and crop management; environmental practices; contributions to agriculture and the local community; and overall excellence in dairying.

Sarah and her husband, Texas Moon, oversee 35 Holsteins on about 160 acres. The farm’s been in the Brush family since the late 1800s, but while Sarah’s great-grandparents milked Jerseys, her grandfather and father rented the fields to local farmers for haying. Her dad had pigs, with little interest in cows, but Sarah and her husband used to raise heifers on the farm and sell them, then repeat the process.

Finally, in the early 90s, she and Texas rented the farm from her dad. They converted his pig barn to a freestall barn for their cows, started milking and haven’t looked back since.

Their three children were all involved in 4-H, and since this is a family operation, they help out when they can. The oldest, April, earned a degree in agricultural economics and worked on the farm until two years ago. Recent high school graduate Dixie loves being on the farm, says her mother, and is an award-winning member of the National FFA Association, while son Levi, 15, likes tinkering with tractors and other machinery.

Family is the focus of life on the farm, says Sarah, who admits dairying isn’t an easy way to make a living. “But it’s what we want to do,” she explains. “This is our comfort zone, our passion. My mom lives with us here on the farm, and though she’s never been a farmer, she’s part of the farm.”

The Green Pasture Award came as a welcome surprise. “It’s a huge honor to be nominated by our peers,” says Sarah, “and it shows that there is definitely still a place for small ‘ag’ in this country. Small or big – there’s room for all.”

Being a small operation, Brush Hill Dairy relies on community support as a key to success, whether it’s loyal customers showing up to browse the small farm store or the members of Brush Hill’s CSA garden. She and Texas are also gratified by assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which has provided financial and other support to help establish the farm’s intensive rotational grazing program, as well as grants for other improvements. “We’re as sustainable as we can possibly be,” says Sarah, and that includes being mindful of the farm’s environmental impact.

But back to those ever-grazing cows. Think they mind being outside in all kinds of weather? As Sarah explains with a laugh, “In the spring, they’re ready to go out, and in November, they’re ready to come back in!”

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Economic Impacts of Connecticut Agriculture


You are cordially invited to the release the Zwick Center’s new ag econ impact report on Friday, September 29th at 9.30 AM at the Legislative Office Building (room 1-B) in Hartford.

Speakers include U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, the Commissioner of Ag Steven Reviczky, and Dean Cameron Faustman.


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