Free Consultations

As part of our Solid Ground programming, funded by the USDA, we are able to offer a limited amount of free one on one consultations, with specialists in certain fields of knowledge, to Beginning  Farmers in Connecticut. These consultations are intended for individuals who have been farming for 10 years or less, but folks can apply if they have been farming for longer than this period of time.

Please note: These consultations are intended for Commercial Farmers and Farm businesses. If you are homesteading, have a hobby farm, or simply love gardening, please access the UConn Home and Garden Education Center.

If you have any other questions, please email our Communications Coordinator- Becca Toms

Meet Our Consultants

Man in baseball cap picking blueberries in a field

Evan Lentz – Fruit Production and Integrated Pest Management, UConn Extension

Evan Lentz is the new Assistant Extension Educator in Fruit Production and Integrated Pest Management. His expertise includes small, tree, and niche fruit crop production systems. He works with both organic and conventional growers. He is well versed in various pest management strategies and emphasizes grower use of IPM.

***Please note- this consultation is for farmers that are doing commercial fruit production.  There is no minimum amount that you must grow, but you do need to be selling your product to the public.  Please reach out if you are unsure it applies to you.***

man standing in a field of grain

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). Shuresh utilizes vegetable growers’ field reports with his own scouting reports to create weekly pest alerts from May to September every year for wider audience that include other vegetable producers, urban farmers, community gardeners, and Extension peers. 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. 

Maggie Ng

Maggie Ng -Outreach Assistant for UConn Extension Vegetable IPM

Maggie started farming at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA as an undergraduate. Since then, Maggie has worked on different farms and in Extension as a research and field assistant. Maggie is coming from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she also worked in Extension as a departmental assistant for the Vegetable Program, with responsibilities ranging from administrative support to on-farm research and technical assistance. At UConn Extension, Maggie works to disseminate information to farmers with the goal of building and sharing knowledge to help farmers reach their goals. Her area of interest is in climate change and agriculture—she is most interested and invested in supporting farmers in exploring and implementing climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies in vegetable farming. This can encompass issues related (but certainly not limited) to pests, diseases, or abiotic stresses (heat, drought, and other extreme weather events). She got interested in this subject through working as a farmer on diversified vegetable farms, and experiencing these issues first-hand.

Maggie is excited to connect and build community within the farming world of Connecticut. She is available to collaborate with conventional and organic beginning farmers.

 

man smiling

Kip Kolesinskas – Solid Ground Professional Soil, Conservation, and Land Use Consultant

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.

Jacqueline Kowalski

Jacqueline Kowalski – Urban Agriculture Educator, UConn Extension

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.

Becca Toms behind a bouquet of flowers

Becca Toms, Communications Specialist, UConn Extension- Branding and Marketing Specialist

Becca Toms works with the UConn Extension  programs Solid Ground, Climate Smart Adaptation Strategies, and Grown ConNECTed as a Communications Specialists.  She has worked with these programs on branding and marketing and has also worked at other farms and non-profits on various areas of marketing/branding including: website development, social media management, logo creation and design, product design, etc.

She also works at a small farm in Woodbridge CT to help grow herbs, cut flowers, and veg but has had experience working with livestock, educational farms, maple syrup operations, and fiber farms. Becca ran the recently retired social media account heartCTgrown and currently manages the marketing for the Grown ConNECTed program. In all the different programs that she has managed and assisted with she has brought on new followers, customers, and has helped to create cohesive approaches to how the community interacts with them.