NERCRD Small-Grants Program

In 2015, NERCRD launched a competitive small-grants program aimed at helping Northeast Land-Grant University faculty and educators document the impacts of their work while also encouraging collaboration across state lines. Since then, the program has been offered in 2017 and 2019. To learn about future iterations of this funding program, be sure to join the NERCRD mailing list.

Since its launch, the NERCRD small grants program has engaged 53 people in 12 states, resulting in new collaborative knowledge-sharing networks in the Northeast and beyond. Learn more about the projects that have been funded to date below, and follow links to resources that came out of those projects.

2019-2020 Funded Projects

Best Practices in Bike/Pedestrian Trail Data Collection and Monitoring

  • Laura Brown, University of Connecticut (PI)
  • Charles Tracy, University of Connecticut (Co-PI)
  • Sohyun Park, University of Connecticut (Co-PI)
  • Sungmin Lee, University of Connecticut (Co-PI)
  • Ryan Faulkner, University of Connecticut (Co-PI)
  • Anita Morzillo, University of Connecticut (Co-PI)
  • Shannon Rogers, University of New Hampshire (Co-PI)
  • Charlie French, University of New Hampshire (Co-PI)
  • Emma Tutein, University of New Hampshire (Co-PI)
  • Greg Lindsey, University of Minnesota (Co-PI)
  • Lisa Chase, University of Vermont (Co-PI)

Abstract: Communities across the country are capitalizing on trails to stimulate the local economy, improve community connectivity, engagement, and quality of life. Many trail corridors are also becoming hotspots for investment and communities want to understand how to best capitalize on these amenities. This proposal builds on learning from the NERCRD Grant Downtowns and Trails Program Assessment and will involve 1) sharing and documenting best practices in data collection and monitoring in Northeast states 2) providing a colloquium style forum for integrating learning from academics and practitioners 3) establishing a peer network of colleagues interested in ongoing collaboration.
UPDATE: This project produced four info-sheets sharing what their team learned about trail data collection and monitoring. Get them here

Main Street Revitalization: Exploring New Initiatives for Cooperative Extension in Strengthening the Economy, Bringing Vibrancy and Expanding Leadership in Rural Communities.

  • Molly Donovan, University of New Hampshire (PI)
  • Casey Porter, University of New Hampshire (Co-PI)
  • Suzanne Cagle, University of New Hampshire(Co-PI)
  • Charlie French, University of New Hampshire (Co-PI)
  • Julien Kouame, University of New Hampshire (Co-PI)
  • Kristen Grant, University of Maine (Co-PI)
  • Adam Hodges, West Virginia State University (Co-PI)
  • Christopher Zeto, West Virginia State University (Co-PI)
  • Jennifer Bunner, West Virginia State University (Co-PI)

Abstract: Main street is a center of community and commerce. Some communities lack capacity for a revitalization process needed for greater investment, business development and vibrancy. This proposal seeks to explore the role of Cooperative Extension in main street revitalization training. University of New Hampshire has developed Main Street Academy as a new approach to building capacity for revitalization. This proposal uses a train the trainer approach to share the work of Main Street Academy in West Virginia to explore the factors in replicating this program in the northeast region. Final products include a written report, conference presentation and webinar.

Marketing Hometown America

  • Peter Wulfhorst, Penn State Extension (PI)
  • Michael Dougherty, West Virginia University Extension (PI)
  • Tanya Lamo, Penn State Extension (Co-PI)
  • Neal Fogle, Penn State Extension (Co-PI)
  • John Turack, Penn State Extension (Co-PI)
  • Linda Falcone, Penn State Extension (Co-PI)
  • Doug Arbogast, West Virginia University Extension (Co-PI)
  • Daniel Eades, West Virginia University Extension (Co-PI)
  • Penny Whitman, University of New Hampshire Extension (Co-PI)

Abstract: Marketing Hometown America is an educational program that has been implemented successfully in several midwestern states. The program helps guide rural communities through the decision-making process on how to market themselves to potential new residents, thus empowering communities to create a vision to grow. The team will use the NERCRD funding to conduct a train-the-trainer event to be delivered by University of Nebraska Extension to Extension faculty and educators from Penn State, West Virginia and New Hampshire. The training event will take place in Centre County, Pennsylvania, in early 2020. In turn, each Extension team participating will deliver the curriculum in pilot communities in their respective states, using both NERCRD funding and funding from additional community partners.

Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities

(Discontinued due to complications presented by the COVID-19 pandemic)

  • Carla Snyder, Penn State Extension (PI)
  • Tanya Lamo, Penn State Extension (Co-PI)
  • Glori Hyman, University of Maryland (Co-PI)
  • Temitope Fajingbesi, University of Maryland (Co-PI)
  • Andy Hayes, Michigan State University (Co-PI)
  • Diane Loganbach, Michigan State University (Co-PI)
  • Jason Weigle, University of Nebraska (Co-PI)

Abstract: Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities is a community development initiative that focuses on entrepreneurial education and brings together entrepreneurs, economic development professionals, and leaders to strengthen entrepreneurial networks for the purpose of small to medium enterprises (SME) economic growth and community revitalization. The main educational event is a two-day conference located in a community poised for growth. It exemplifies research-based topics while showcasing successes of similar communities to empower leaders to grow their businesses and in turn their communities. It has proven success in 10 Michigan communities and five midwestern states. We intend to bring this initiative to Pennsylvania to extend its Northeast reach.

2017-2018 Funded Projects

Developing a Coordinated Community Risk Management Approach to Health and Health Insurance among Farm Enterprises

  • Virginia Brown, University of Maryland Extension (PI)
  • Maria Pippidis, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension (Co-PI)
  • Shoshannah Inwood, The Ohio State University (Co-PI)

Abstract: Farming is dangerous. Having health insurance serves as an important risk management tool protecting farmers against unforeseen costs associated with injury and illness. The goal of this project is to enable individuals and partnerships to take the lead in focusing on farming viability through a coordinated community risk management approach to health and health insurance for the farming enterprise. This community development approach will build on two previously successful initiatives, the Vermont Summit on Health, Agriculture and Rural Economic Development and the Smart Choice-Smart Use Health Insurance curriculum. Success will be documented through short-term program outcomes and NERCRD Impact Indicators.
UPDATE 2/12/2020: This project has spawned several new initiatives and impacts. See a partial list here.

Downtowns and Trails Program Assessment

  • Shannon Rogers, University of New Hampshire (PI)
  • Molly Donovan, University of New Hampshire (Co-PI)
  • Charlie French, University of New Hampshire (Co-PI)
  • Casey Hancock, University of New Hampshire (Co-PI)
  • Laura Brown, University of Connecticut (Co-PI)
  • Lisa Chase, University of Vermont (Co-PI)
  • Rebecca Sero, Washington State University (Co-PI)
  • Collaborator: Jayoung Koo, Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky, (CEDIK) University of Kentucky

Abstract: Communities in New England often seek support for downtown economic development engagement and planning from Extension Educators. Communities are also beginning to question how their natural assets can be better integrated into improvements in quality of life and downtown vibrancy. Trail infrastructure can be an important natural asset. We are proposing the creation of a knowledge sharing network in New England so that Extension organizations can better understand and leverage existing knowledge, resources, and programs to help communities connect downtown economic development and local trails. This network will result in a guide to be used throughout New England and beyond.
UPDATE 6/5/19: This group produced an infobrief and several blog posts about their findings. These resources are available here:

Farm Fresh Food Boxes: A Marketing Innovation Linking Farmers to Rural Retailers, That Benefits Local Economies

  • Jane Kolodinsky, University of Vermont (PI)
  • Lisa Chase, University of Vermont (Co-PI)
  • Marilyn Sitaker, The Evergreen State College (Co-PI)
  • Julia Van Soelen, University of California, Davis (Co-PI)
  • Diane Smith, Washington State University (Co-PI)
  • Hans Estrin, University of Vermont (Co-PI)
  • Weiwei Wang, University of Vermont (Co-PI)
  • Lauren Greco, University of Vermont (Co-PI)
  • Mary Peabody, University of Vermont (Co-PI)
  • Christa Alexander, Jericho Settlers Farm, VT (Co-PI)
  • Teresa Snow, Salvation Farms, VT (Co-PI)
  • Mike Trackim, Jolley Mobile, VT (Co-PI)

Abstract: Farm Fresh Food Boxes is a multi-state collaboration between extension and research that tests an innovative entrepreneurial model in which farmers and rural retailers partner to offer pre-ordered boxes of fresh local produce to local consumers. In addition to the metrics we are already collecting for outcome evaluation of the study, we propose to include Extension “action” and “impact” indicators that support a “but for” explanation of observed outcomes.
UPDATE 9/13/2019: This group produced an infographic and report describing their findings.

2015-2016 Funded Projects

Sharing Scholarship and Innovations in the First Impressions Program

  • Doug Arbogast (West Virginia University)
  • Laura Brown (University of Connecticut)
  • Lisa Chase (University of Vermont)
  • Daniel Eades (West Virginia University)
  • Robin Frost (West Virginia University)
  • C. Andrew Northrop (Michigan State University)
  • Geoffrey Sewake (University of New Hampshire)

Abstract: Have you ever wondered what people think about your community? How individuals present themselves has a powerful effect on future opinions. As the old saying goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” For first time visitors, the way a community presents itself is of equal importance. The look and feel of the community experienced by a visitor will most likely influence how long they stay, if they will return, and whether or not they will speak about the community positively or negatively. The West Virginia University (WVU) Extension Service views the Community First Impressions Program as an important tool in the community development process. To date more than 60 communities have participated. 

Update 6/11/2021: This project has resulted in the adoption of First Impression programming in several states and resources for those who want to learn more about the program. Learn more here

Train-the-Trainer: Futures Workshops and Emergency Economic Impact Analysis

  • Florence Becot (University of Vermont)
  • Laura Brown (University of Connecticut)
  • Daniel Eades (West Virginia University)
  • Jane Kolodinsky (University of Vermont)
  • Neil Linscheid (University of Minnesota)
  • Geoffrey Sewake (University of New Hampshire)
  • Bill Shuffstall (Penn State)
  • Elizabeth Templin (University of Minnesota)
  • Brigid Tuck (University of Minnesota)
  • Walt Whitmer (Penn State)

Abstract: Communities often need economic data for decision-making. Communities looking to attract or retain a business may want information on how that business/industry affects their local economy. Communities facing the sudden loss of a key employer may find information on the ripple effects of the loss helpful in decision-making and in seeking additional assistance.

University of Minnesota Extension has developed two successful programs to address these needs.

  • Futures Workshop: Go in-depth exploring how industries in your economy interact and the implications for other industries and households.
  • Emergency Economic Impact Analysis: Explore how a sudden economic change will affect your economy, industries, and households.