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Author Archives: Sara Putnam

About Sara Putnam

Sara is director of the College’s Office of Communications. She has a BA and an MA, both in English, from UConn. She is also assistant to the dean for human resources.

The Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics: An overview

Rigoberto Lopez

Rigoberto Lopez

As of June 2017, the College’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ARE) was ranked nineteenth worldwide among university agricultural economics departments, a significant achievement for a relatively small department competing with departments at much larger institutions such as Ohio State University, the University of Illinois and Purdue.

“Our goal is to continue our status as a premiere department of agricultural and resource economics, committed to excellence in teaching, research and extension,” says Rigoberto Lopez, professor and department head. “ARE is uniquely positioned within UConn, as a nexus between biological and physical sciences and the social and policy sciences.”

ARE is home to the Charles J. Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy, which focuses on solutions to high-priority problems related to food, health, natural resources and the environment. The center is named for Charles J. Zwick, an alumnus and benefactor of the department. A distinguished scholar, public servant and business leader, Zwick served on the faculty at UConn and at Harvard University and was director of OMB during President Johnson’s administration. After leaving government service, Zwick served as president, CEO and chairman of the board of trustees for the Southeast Banking Corporation.

Recent Zwick Center activities include a pilot project involving graduate and undergraduate students to collect data on low-income households in Willimantic; co-funding a new portable economic laboratory; presentations to the Connecticut Farm Bureau and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture detailing the economic impacts of Connecticut’s agricultural industry; and funding a study on the impacts of diet quality and food consumption behavior by low-income households.

ARE encourages and supports research collaborations with other units, including the College’s Departments of Natural Resources and the Environment, Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Extension, and the UConn School of Engineering. The department also partners with UConn’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity in its mission to improve public health issues related to food. (more…)

CAHNR Pop-Up Store Nov. 15-16

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Meet undergraduate student Taylor Cheek

  • Getting ready to battle the cane grass and deciding which tool to use: machete or sickle?

Taylor Cheek is a senior and expects to graduate in May 2018.

“What are you going to do after you graduate?” Ah, that inescapable question that everyone asks. If you’re anything like me, you have no idea. My whole college career has pretty much been a bunch of “winging it.” This approach, however, has left me with a sense of fulfillment and an eagerness to embrace whatever comes around the corner next.

How on earth does one go from art school to a B.S. in horticulture? I don’t really have an answer for that, besides simply doing what you love and taking every opportunity that arises. My advisor, Gerry Berkowitz, told me a story about himself  that I think everyone in college could  hear. When he was in school, a professor stopped him and told him he was approaching his education the wrong way; he needed to put himself, his passions, into his work. Focus your work toward things you’re passionate about. This is how you’ll get the most out of your college career, and life beyond that.

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Willimantic 4-H FANS after-school program flourishes

Amy Walker and students harvest kale from the garden.

Amy Walker and students harvest kale from the garden.

It’s been a busy year for the students involved in the W.B. Sweeney Elementary School 4-H FANs IM program, culminating with an exciting eight-week summer program.

During the 2016-17 school year, students met weekly to participate in fun activities designed to teach healthy eating, exercise and gardening. Summer Story Days, held on Wednesdays, included guest readers and food demonstrations in which students created healthy snacks. Families attending took home a bounty of fresh vegetables from the students’ garden.

Guest readers were well received by students and their families and included Cameron Faustman, dean of the College, wearing his popular corn hat; Jim Rivers, town manager of Willimantic, where Sweeney is located; Elsa Núñez, president of Eastern Connecticut State University; Mae Flexer, state senator; Patricia Garcia, superintendent of Windham School District; Susan Johnson, state representative; Marc Cournoyer, Windham County 4-H youth development program coordinator; Lindsey Brush, 4-H FANs IM program assistant; and Amy Walker, third-grade teacher and club adult leader.

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Horticulturist brings patience and perseverance to development of new plant cultivars

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The original plant selected in 2012 to be Prunus x cistena ‘UCONNP001’. The cross was made in 2012. In 2016, the final decision was made to introduce and license the plant, and Brand was able to provide hundreds of plants generated via tissue culture to Monrovia Nursery, the licensee.

It takes years of perseverance and patience to bring a new plant cultivar to market. Mark Brand, professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, has what it takes to plod through this lengthy process. To date, his lab has introduced twenty-seven new cultivars and currently has about a half dozen others in trials, of which he is optimistic several will be licensed in the next year or two.

The first step in launching a new cultivar is choosing a particular species of plant. Some ideas come from grower suggestions, others from a specific need. The latter was the case for Berberis (barberry), a plant that used extensively in commercial landscaping that had become an invasive. Brand developed a sterile version of the plant. Other new plant cultivars come about when an unusual seedling or plant habit is observed, such as a different growth pattern or color, presenting an opportunity to produce something special.

“Occasionally, you find these serendipitous things about a plant,” Brand says. “We originally started working on Buddleia [butterfly bush] because we wanted a sterile version. In Connecticut overwintering Buddleia can be problematic, but in milder climates butterfly bush can be weedy and invasive. With Buddleia, that was our original tactic. But our mutation breeding program produced a dwarf mutant that had a cool form and habit but so-so flower color, so we bred it with other cultivars with strong flower color to get dwarf plants in a range of colors. These plants have been introduced as the Better Homes and Gardens Soda Pop series.” The same mutation breeding program also produced the variegated ‘Summer Skies’ butterfly bush that is part of the Proven Winners® program.

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