Climate Smart Adaptation Strategies for Beginning Farmers a project of UConn Extension

Starting Your Farm With the Climate in Mind

With a changing climate, it becomes more and more important that our farmers are nimble and adaptable to a variety of weather and temperature events.  This is especially relevant for new and beginning farmers as they are building their farms and creating businesses that will ideally last throughout these new challenges.  We think it's important that these new farms have the right groundwork for the farms they are creating, so we have this new project to provide resources specifically for beginning farmers to adapt climate smart practices in their operations.

Online Class

UConn Extension's Solid Ground program is putting forth this a course that will help you understand the best practices for your farm in a changing climate.  Course includes expert instructors in various fields implementing climate smart agriculture practices, tools under $2000 that are suggested for use, virtual field trips and more. Each year the course will run twice in the late fall and the early winter months.

The Course is completely online and asynchronous so that learners can follow at their own pace in whatever way fits into their busy farm life.

Course Modules include: 

1. Intro to Climate Smart Farming*
2. Climate Smart Soil Health part 1*
3. Climate Smart Soil Health part 2*
4. On-Farm Composting
5. Agricultural Fabrics and Plastic Mulch
6. Managing Water on the Farm
7. Climate Smart Energy Efficiency
8. Biological Pest Control and Native Pollinators
9. Managing Native Species, Invasive Plants, and Noxious Weeds
10. Silvopasture
11. Matching Your Landscape, Climate, and Production
12. Financial Resources to Implement Climate Smart Farming*

Course completion requires you to finish only 10 out of 12 modules, though you are welcome to do all 12!  Some of the modules will be required, which are asterisked above.

Class cost $60, but on completion you will receive a $30 rebate for the cost of the class.  Farmers that complete the class will be eligible to apply for our Climate Smart Microgrants (see below).
Text: climate smart adaptation strategies for beginning farmers and a decorative image of farmers lifting the plastic on a high tunnel

Our Class will be opening up again in Fall of 2024


Climate Smart Microgrants

For those that participate in our Climate Smart Adaptations Online course, they are then eligible to apply for any round of our Climate Smart Microgrants.  These Microgrants are meant for the purchase of equipment/inputs that cost up to $2400 for implementing climate smart farming practices.  Invitation to apply will take place within our Climate Smart Adaptation course.

Eligible applicants (meet all of the following):

  • Completion of Climate Smart Online Course​ (10 of 12 modules)
  • Beginning Farmer (operating your own farm business for no more than 10 years)
  • Agricultural producers, singularly or jointly, whether such producers are owners or tenants of existing agribusiness within the State of Connecticut

Priority goes to:

  • Early phase (operating your own farm business for no more than 3 years)
  • Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) farmers, LGBTQ+ farmers, veteran farmers, and farmers who speak English as a second language
  • Limited Resource Farmers ( to find out if you are limited resource use the tool here )

All submissions should be

  • Equipment purchases and rentals to support implementation of climate-smart farming practices
  • Materials and supplies specifically related to the project

To see examples of the types of activities that fall under Climate Smart Farming practices, please reference the following pdfs provided by NRCS

Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry Fact Sheet

Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry Activity List

Free Soil Test and Expert Analysis

Working with the UConn Soil Lab, we will be providing 4 free soil nutrient analysis tests that include the organic matter at the value of $22 each to anyone that participates in our Climate Smart Adaptation Strategies class!  This portion of the program will open in December and allows students access to

  • Making a plan for future testing​
  • Understanding your options for improving soil health
  • Reviewing and interpreting test results with expert
Kip Kolesinkas

Kip Kolesinkas- Land Conservation Specialist

Kip’s major clients include the University of Connecticut Extension, American Farmland Trust (AFT), the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Connecticut Farmland Trust, and the North Central Conservation District. Much of the focus of his recent work has involved efforts to improve land access and affordability, and provide technical services to new and beginning farmers. He serves on the UConn Extension Solid Ground Farmer Training cadre, where Kip provides training, one-on-one consultations, and site assessments on land access, soil health, and climate change. In addition, he worked on AFT’s recent National initiatives Farms Under Threat, Farmland For The Next Generation, and Climate Change initiatives. Kip also assists the CT Department of Agriculture with the Farmland Restoration Program to sustainably bring additional lands back into production, and the CT Farmlink Program, a farm access posting-matching service. Formerly USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service State Soil Scientist for Connecticut and Rhode Island, where he worked extensively with farmers, educators, government and nonprofits to help them protect farmland and wetlands, and use soils information to make better-informed land-use decisions. He is a recognized regional and national speaker on soils and land use planning, farmland protection, climate change adaptation, and farmland access. Kip is the Co-Chair of the Working Lands Alliance and a member of the Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality. In addition to this wealth of professional experience, Kolesinskas is an avid fisherman, cook, gardener and local foods advocate.

Upon receiving an A.A.S. in Plant Science from SUNY Cobleskill, Kolesinskas received a B.S. in Soil Science from Cornell University and completed additional coursework at Texas A&M and Lancaster University and Schumacher College in the United Kingdom.

How to Take a Soil Test

Shuresh Ghimire

Shuresh Ghimire- Commercial Vegetable and Hemp Specialist, UConn Extension

As a Vegetable Extension Specialist at UConn, Shuresh works with commercial vegetable growers to create and disseminate information regarding vegetable production practices and integrated pest management (IPM).  UConn’s vegetable IPM program emphasizes healthy soils, balanced plant nutrition, pest and beneficial identification, scouting and monitoring techniques, preventative management strategies, and resistance management. In collaboration with UConn Extension team and stakeholders, Shuresh has developed an online vegetable production certificate course to benefit beginner vegetable producers. The goal of the certificate course is that the participants would learn answers to the basic questions about farm business planning, planning and preparing for vegetable farm, warm and cool-season vegetable production techniques, season extension, identification of biotic and abiotic issues, and marketing. In addition to working as a vegetable specialist at UConn, when hemp became a regulated agricultural crop in CT, he started working with hemp growers to create and disseminate information regarding hemp production practices and IPM.

Shuresh obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degree in agricultural science from Tribhuvan University in Nepal. Shuresh completed his Ph.D. in Horticulture (2015-2018) from Washington State University where he studied biodegradable plastic mulches for vegetable production. Prior to working in Washington, Shuresh was a Horticultural Development Officer for the Department of Agriculture in Nepal (2010-2015), where he worked extensively with farmers conducting trainings and plant clinics and created extension publications and technical reports. Shuresh also served as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Horticulture at the Himalayan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology in Nepal. 

Rainfall Simulator with CT NRCS-USDA

Jacqueline Kowalski

Jacqueline Kowalski- Urban Agriculture Educator, UConn Extension

Jacqueline Kowalski

Jacqueline Kowalski has recently joined UConn Extension as the Urban Agriculture Extension Educator. She was most recently with Ohio State University extension in Cleveland and Akron where she primarily focused on working with small acreage and urban farms, community gardens, and volunteer management. Her specialty areas are specialty crop production and integrated pest management.

What excites her most about working with urban farmers in Connecticut is the excitement they have for learning and growing fresh produce for their communities. She received her formal education from Michigan State University (BS-horticulture with a specialization in vegetable crops) and the University of the Virgin Islands (MA-education). In previous roles, she served as the Director of Horticulture and Agronomy for the US Virgin Islands (2007-2011) and Research Analyst for the University of the Virgin Islands (1993-2007) first for the Vegetable Crops program and later for the Biotechnology and Agroforestry program.

Visit to the UConn Soil Lab

Videos to Understand Soil

In addition to our consultations, we work with multiple professionals to help us have a better understanding of our soils and soil health. Check out the videos below so that you can gain from their knowledge as well!

How to Take a Soil Test

Rainfall Simulator with CT NRCS-USDA

Visit to the UConn Soil Lab

Funding for this project was paid for by the Climate Smart Farming: Agriculture and Forestry Grant. Funding awarded and administered by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture.

CT Department of Agriculture Logo and website