Solid ground 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.

The consultations will be awarded on a first come, first serve basis and are subject to the consultants availability. If all spots are filled, we will maintain a waiting list for consultations. Deadlines for sign ups are dependent on each consultant. The current specialists are listed below with short bios to describe their experience in the field.

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

Click their image, or the link in their bio, to sign up for a consultation with the below specialists

Man next to a giant pumpkin

Matt Debacco- Solid Ground Professional Vegetable Production 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.

Click HERE for Consultations with Matt>>


man with cuts of beef

Joe Emenheiser- Livestock Specialist, UConn Extension>>>

Joe obtained a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University, where he competed on the intercollegiate meats and livestock judging teams. He earned a master’s degree in Animal and Poultry Science from Virginia Tech, where he studied quantitative genetics and lamb carcass composition. He also earned his PhD from Virginia Tech, where his dissertation research focused on pasture-based beef systems. In between degrees, he managed several sheep farms and worked as a butcher. He moved to Connecticut in fall 2020 from Vermont, where he had served as state extension livestock specialist, and most recently taught Animal Science courses at UVM and Vermont Technical College.

His position at UConn is split between Extension (75%), and Animal Science (25%), where he teaches Livestock Production and Management and Livestock and Carcass Evaluation courses. His extension duties focus on two primary goals: livestock industry economic development and meat quality improvement. He is skilled in helping producers design livestock systems and set goals that align animals, resources, products, and markets. He is also trained in using ultrasound technology to evaluate meat quality traits in livestock, and in applying that information to selection and breeding decisions. In addition to his work with farmers, Joe is actively-engaged with meat processors and government agencies to identify and overcome barriers in meat harvest and processing. Joe is excited to work with new farmers to ensure viable farms and livestock industries in the state and region that can meet growing demand for local meat with high quality, consistent product.

Click HERE for Consultations with Joe>>


man standing in a field of grain

Shuresh Ghimire- Vegetable Specialist, UConn Extension>>>

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. 

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.


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.

Click HERE for Consultations with Kip>>


Woman teaching in an orchard

Mary Concklin, Fruit & Flower Specialist, UConn Extension>>>

Mary has a BS in Horticulture from UMass, a MS in Horticulture from WVU and an MS in Education from the College of St Rose. She has been involved in fruit production for 46 years as an Extension Educator - previously as Fruit extension specialist in the Hudson Valley for Cornell, Extension Horticulture Educator with Penn State Extension, and at UConn since 2012; a private fruit consultant, and a grower. She and her husband own Raspberry Knoll Farm, a berry PYO farm in North Windham.

Mary has been at UConn since 2010 and the Fruit specialist since 2012 working with members of the commercial fruit industry. In addition, she has been the IPM Program Coordinator since 2019. She works with beginning and experienced growers in all aspects of small fruit and tree fruit production, including assessing sites prior to planting. Mary has conducts research and demonstrations in plant nutrition, currently using drones for early detection of nutrient deficiencies. She teaches undergraduate Small Fruit Production and Plant Pest Management courses.

Click HERE for Consultations with Mary>>