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.

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. 

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.

Man next to a giant pumpkin

Matt Debacco – Solid Ground Professional Vegetable Production and Hemp Consultant

Matthew DeBacco is a three-time UConn graduate, receiving his Bachelor of Science with a primary major in Pathobiology and a secondary major in Horticulture along with a minor in Molecular and Cellular Biology. He continued on to earn a Master’s degree in Education and a Master’s in Agronomy studying organic suppression of powdery mildew in cucurbits and analysis of the degradation of fiber pots in a field plot setting. He has also completed a Ph. D. in Education from Ashford University. He has worked with farmers across the state as a Nutrient Management on-farm Planner where he helped growers allocate nutrients in a cost-effective manner and has been the head diagnostician at the UConn Diagnostic Lab. He also has provided personalized consulting along with diagnosing field problems while offering guidance for growers and providing reports for grower alerts. In addition to this, he continues to teach college and high school level science classes. As a hobby, he enjoys growing giant pumpkins and has held the Connecticut state record twice, with his largest being 1,885.5 pounds. you can also find him sharing his knowledge via his youtube channel with videos ranging from basic science, to hemp production, to disease management.

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Picture of Carol Mann

Carol Mann- Cut Flowers- Wolf Neck Farm and Brambles & Bittersweet Studio

CAROL MANNAs owner of Wolf Neck Farm in Stonington, Connecticut and the associated floral design studio, Brambles and Bittersweet, from 2010-2022, Carol Mann brings a practical understanding of growing and marketing cut flowers to her consultant position at UConn Extension Services. Since a farm is idiosyncratic with respect to soil conditions, microclimate, insect and disease pressure, infrastructure, human resources, farming philosophy, and available markets, no single approach to farming can guarantee success. Carol provides guidance on how beginning farmers can acquaint themselves with the variables characterizing the land they are cultivating and the resources and markets in their specific locale. Once familiar with the assets and challenges involved, she will help to develop strategies so the farm can become a thriving and profitable enterprise.

Closed for 2023