Capacity Building and Facilitation

NERCRD serves as a regional hub for our Land-Grant University (LGU) partners, linking research and Extension faculty across state lines. By facilitating collaborative networks and partnerships, we enhance the capacity of the LGU system, so that its people can work more effectively to foster regional prosperity and rural development.

Recent Publications

International Workshop on Agritourism 2022 Conference Proceedings

The International Workshop on Agritourism (IWA) 2022 Conference Proceedings is intended to increase access to the scholarship that was shared during the three-day conference, which was hosted by University of Vermont Extension in Burlington, Vermont, USA, on August 30 – September 1, 2022. It contains 27 peer-reviewed papers. NERCRD staff provided editorial, project management, and graphic design support to this effort.

Authors: Edited by Lisa Chase, Chadley Hollas, Xinyi Qian, and Claire Whitehouse

Publication: Published jointly by the National Extension Tourism Network and the Global Agritourism Network, with support from the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development   Date Published: July 13, 2023

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Investing in Rural Recovery: Comprehensive Summary of National Rural Development Stakeholder Listening Sessions

This report summarizes results from the an initiative carried out by the Regional Rural Development Centers in 2021 and 2022 to identify investments needed to fill the gaps between rural communities’ assets and opportunities. These facilitated dialogues included four sessions conducted at the regional level focusing on issues of regional importance, and four national sessions on topics of widespread importance.

Authors: Jason Entsminger, John Green, Rachel Welborn, Renee Wiatt, Z. Bednarikova, Rianna Gayle, and Yuxuan Pan

Publication: Published by the Regional Rural Development Centers   Date Published: February 27, 2023


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The NET Effect: Members of the National Extension Tourism Network Help Raise the Bar in Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation

This 57-page publication is available here as a Flipping Book or here as a PDF (6.8MB). It contains eight case studies that explore innovative Cooperative Extension and Sea Grant work in sustainable tourism and outdoor recreation. It features work being done in Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia.

The magazine is an outcome of a partnership of the National Extension Tourism (NET) design team, the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development (NERCRD), and the New Technologies for Ag Extension (NTAE) grant program.

Authors: Heather Martin, Rose Hayden-Smith, and Kristen Devlin

Publication: Published by the Extension Foundation   Date Published: January 22, 2023

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Linking research and practice: The role of Extension on agritourism development in the U.S.

Agritourism is a critical farm diversification strategy for farmers to enhance income and profit potential with benefits related to rural community development, increased awareness of sustainability practices, and local heritage preservation. For rural community and economic development professionals, agritourism has become an important strategy to develop local tourism, grow small businesses, and enhance regional economic diversification. We propose that the agritourism ecosystem would arguably benefit from more robust Extension programming and network development. A discussion of two state case studies, Vermont and California, provides an overview of the critical elements necessary to build a statewide agritourism program. The role of Extension in rural development and tourism underscores the opportunity to utilize agritourism as a broader development strategy. Finally, we make recommendations for growing the role of Extension in agritourism. More robust training and education for Extension professionals, stronger connections to state tourism departments, and more robust advocacy with university and state-level decision makers on the value of agritourism investments are all highlighted as crucial next steps.

Authors: Claudia Schmidt, Lisa Chase, Carla Barbieri, Ellie Rilla, Doolarie Singh Knights, Dawn Thilmany, Stacy Tomas, Lori Dickes, Sarah Cornelisse, R. David Lamie, Rachael Callahan, Holly George, and Penny Leff

Publication: Applied Economics Teaching Resources   Date Published: July 1, 2022

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Extension and Tourism: Previous Efforts, Current Trends, and the Future

This study highlights the results of a national survey of Extension land-grant and sea grant professionals designed to better understand their involvement in state/regional tourism programming and their perceptions of tourism related opportunities and challenges. This study demonstrates the breadth and importance of Extension’s tourism programing and continued challenges including limited investment and commitment by state institutions and the larger CES for core tourism program offerings. Investments in tourism programing are recommended as a way for Extension to maintain its relevancy, and better engage and address the community and economic development needs of traditional and emerging audiences.

Authors: Doug Arbogast, Daniel Eades, Stephan J. Goetz, and Yuxuan Pan

Publication: Journal of Extension   Date Published: May 9, 2022

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Current NERCRD Projects

Caregiving in the Northeast US

In 2023, NERCRD partnered with the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development (NCRCRD) to deploy a survey in the Northeast region focused on the caregiving experiences of households in the Northeast U.S. The survey received 4,480 responses from all 13 states in the region, and sheds light on how caregiving intersects with community and economic development in the Northeast region. 

Survey Products:

The caregiving survey, titled “Caregiving Across the Life Course,” is part of the NCRCRD’s recently launched NCR-Stat, a North Central regional dataset being developed as a venue and incentive for interdisciplinary collaboration. The caregiving survey was developed by researchers from NCRCRD, The Ohio State University, the National Farm Medicine Center, Penn State, AARP, University of Minnesota, Purdue University, University of Rhode Island, and South Dakota State University to better understand how caregiving intersects with community and economic development.

Funding Agency: USDA NIFA via NERCRD's core funding

Accompanying Institution(s): NCRCRD, The Ohio State University, Purdue University, Penn State, AARP, University of Minnesota, University of Rhode Island, South Dakota State University

Start Date: October 2023   End Date: Ongoing


National Extension Outdoor Recreation Working Group

NERCRD is supporting a new initiative emerging from its collaboration with the National Extension Tourism Network, in response to the recently announced USDA Interagency Memorandum of Understanding on Supporting the Nation’s Outdoor Recreation Economy (MOU). The MOU states that building the U.S. recreation economy is one of the USDA’s top priorities and calls on the RRDCs to implement the MOU. To that end, NERCRD and NET co-hosted an outdoor recreation national networking meeting in November 2022 that resulted in the creation of the National Extension Outdoor Recreation Working Group (NEORWG).

A primary objective of this group is to convene a community of Extension professionals to engage with the goals of the MOU (PDF).

More recently, NERCRD organized and hosted three NEORWG steering committee meetings and has supported this steering committee as they establish a vision and mission for the NEORWG.

As of October 11, this group is planning to work in their respective regions to develop regional pilot projects that will leverage the MOU. Each regional group will work with their respective RRDC to develop a funding proposal based on the pilot project.

Funding Agency: NERCRD's staff support of this effort is funded by the NERCRD core grant from USDA NIFA.

Principal Investigator: NEORWG Co-chairs: Doug Arbogast, West Virginia University and Jake Powell, Utah State University

Start Date: November 2022   End Date: Ongoing

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Creating an Effective Support System For Small And Medium-Sized Farm Operators To Succeed In Agritourism

Agritourism activity has the potential not only to keep small- and medium-sized farms in business but also to provide important local economic development spillover effects. While agritourism is not profitable or even appropriate in all communities, various stakeholders report that key barriers currently prevent farmers who would like to provide agritourism services from doing so. These barriers represent opportunity costs and include not only lack of information among producers, consumers, supporting organizations and policy makers, but also regulatory gaps across the states. Drawing on extensive stakeholder input, guidance and collaboration, the goal of this four-year project led by NERCRD Faculty Affiliate Claudia Schmidt (Penn State) is to develop and disseminate practical information that will allow small- and medium-sized farmers and rural communities to benefit from the growing consumer interest in agritourism activities. Supporting objectives include understanding the roles and educational needs of various organizations in supporting agritourism; improving understanding of factors that contribute to growth in agritourism across U.S. counties; and delivering peer-reviewed educational materials to farmers as well as supporting organizations and policy makers.

Collaborators on the project included: 

  • Claudia Schmidt, Penn State and NERCRD, PI
  • Lisa Chase, University of Vermont
  • Jason Entsminger, University of Maine
  • Stephan J. Goetz and Zheng Tian, Penn State and NERCRD
  • Sarah Cornelisse, Jackie Schweichler, and Suzanna Windon, Penn State
  • Stacy Tomas, Oklahoma State University

Below is a list of impacts and outputs from this project, which will be updated regularly as the research is ongoing. For a complete report on the work of this project, visit the USDA NIFA reporting portal

Selected Impacts:

  • Through a number of publications and presentations made by the project team, researchers, agritourism support organizations, and non-technical audiences have increased their understanding of the status of agritourism in the U.S. and how it can be supported.
    • For example, the researchers found that agritourism and direct farm sales complement one another when they occur within the same community. These findings could help farmers and the local organizations that support them plan strategically for farm resilience and growth, and were shared widely via a peer-reviewed publication, a Penn State News release, and  presentations.
    • The researchers also found that availability and adoption of high-speed broadband appears to boost the number of farms offering agritourism activities. These findings bolster the argument for expanding broadband availability in support of farm operators who want to benefit from the growing consumer interest in on-farm experiences. This research was published in the Journal of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, and were shared widely via a Penn State News release and presentations. 

Selected Outputs

Funding Agency: USDA NIFA

Principal Investigator: Claudia Schmidt, Penn State

Accompanying Institution(s): University of Vermont, Oklahoma State University, University of Maine

Start Date: July 2020   End Date: June 2024

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National Extension Tourism Network

NERCRD and the National Extension Tourism Network (NET) have a longstanding partnership, with NERCRD providing substantial staff support to the network since 2018. This page provides a brief historical outline of the ways in which NERCRD and NET have partnered over the years. More information about NET is available on the NET website:

2018-2019: Conference-planning and national survey support

In 2018, NERCRD began providing conference-planning support to NET ahead of its 2019 national conference, which took place in Astoria, OR.

2020-2021: Webinar series launch and strategic planning support

Building on the momentum of the 2019 conference, NET and NERCRD co-launched the NET webinar series in February 2020, which was designed to provide programmatic examples from both the Sea Grant and Land Grant networks to a wide audience.

In March 2020, NERCRD and the other RRDCs sponsored a strategic planning retreat for NET’s leadership, and NERCRD Director Stephan Goetz attended. The facilitated retreat resulted in NET’s first strategic plan (pictured at right).

2021: The beginning of a tremendous period of growth

2021 marked the beginning of a period of tremendous growth for the NETwork. In addition to the successful planning and delivery of the 2021 National Conference that took place in Savannah, GA, NET and the RRDCs carried out a national survey process from 2017 to 2019 to catalog the tourism and recreation programming being conducted by U.S. Extension professionals, resulting in a report, pictured at left and available here. The NET Design Team and NERCRD also partnered on a New Technologies for Agricultural Extension accelerator project, which ran for 18 months (through February 2023) and resulted in numerous outputs, including:

The NET Effect is a 57-page publication that contains eight case studies exploring innovative Cooperative Extension and Sea Grant work in sustainable tourism and outdoor recreation. It features work being done in Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia.

NET logo and marketing materials: With design services provided by the Extension Foundation, NET developed a new logo and display materials to accompany a marketing campaign that included tabling at several national conferences. 

To increase access to the impactful work presented at NET’s 2021 Conference, NET and NERCRD leveraged the NTAE project resources to develop NET’s first conference proceedings. Learn more here.

2023 to present: Ongoing conference and communications support

With the NTAE project concluding in February 2023, NERCRD began winding down the level of support it had been providing in order to allow the NETwork to pursue more sustainable long-term organizational stability. However, NERCRD continued to provide conference-planning support through the 2023 NET Conference, which took place in Milwaukee, WI, and where NERCRD’s contributions to the NETwork were recognized with an award. NERCRD also continues to provide communications support to the network by co-chairing the NET communications committee, hosting the NETwork listserv, and managing the NET website.

Funding Agency: NERCRD's support of this effort is funded by its grant from USDA NIFA. The NTAE project was funded by USDA NIFA through a partnership with Oklahoma State University and the Extension Foundation.

Principal Investigator: Current NET Chair: Xinyi Qian, University of Minnesota Extension

Start Date: June 2018   End Date: Ongoing

NERCRD Small-Grants Program

In 2015, NERCRD launched a 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, and has engaged 53 people in 12 states, resulting in new collaborative knowledge-sharing networks in the Northeast and beyond. Follow the link below to learn more.

Funding Agency: USDA NIFA via NERCRD's core funding

Principal Investigator: Varies

Start Date: September 2015   End Date: November 2021

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