Completed Projects

Projects by topic:


Northeast Digital Equity Summit

The Northeast Digital Equity Summit was held September 19, 2023, and provided an opportunity for land-grant University educators and researchers across the Northeast region and beyond to learn from one another and expand capacity for digital equity programming. Follow the link below to access recordings, presentation files, and other resources.

Funding Agency: USDA NIFA via NERCRD core funding

Accompanying Institution(s): Penn State Extension, University of Maryland Extension, Cornell Cooperative Extension, NERCRD

Start Date: September 2023   End Date: September 2023

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The AgriCluster Resilience and Expansion Project

Beginning in 2020, NERCRD invested in this project with the approval of its Board of Directors. The AgriCluster Retention and Expansion (ACRE) Program is a strategic planning program for farmer-led marketing and environmental projects by the Thomas A. Lyson Center for Civic Agriculture and Food Systems, which is affiliated with Cornell University. ACRE provides training in strategic business planning tools and processes that engage all stakeholders in a value chain to work collectively in carving out and defending a market niche.

The framework was piloted in 2021 with a group of New York onion growers, who explored collaborative promotion and marketing. The pilot phase ended in June 2022. Team members report that their work with the onion growers was highly influential in developing the ACRE curriculum and process.

The initial NERCRD seed funding of roughly $23,000 leveraged an additional $144,000 in a three-year grant from the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NESARE) professional development program to further this project. This support is allowing the team to build out the infrastructure for the ACRE Program, including:

  • An 18-unit self-paced Moodle course on eXtension Campus on launching an ACRE Project.
  • An ACRE Facilitator’s toolkit complete with instructions, worksheets, and a case study to illustrate the ACRE process.
  • An ACRE community of practice to expand the use of the ACRE approach to agriculture development professionals in the Northeast and elsewhere.

As of February 2024, 28 service providers (including nonprofit and Cooperative Extension staff) completed the online course, and joined the ACRE Facilitator community of practice, which meets monthly. Another 127 enrolled, putting the program well on its way toward having trained ACRE Facilitators in all Northeast states and Washington, D.C. Participants thus far are largely from the Northeast, but also include individuals from the Southeast and the Midwest, and from as far away as France and the Republic of Ireland.

For more information, contact Duncan Hilchey at

Funding Agency: NERCRD, via its core funding from USDA NIFA; subsequent funding from NE-SARE

Principal Investigator: Duncan Hilchey, Thomas A. Lyson Center for Civic Agriculture and Food Systems

Start Date: January 2020   End Date: June 2022

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USDA AMS Local and Regional Food Systems COVID-19 Rapid Response

NERCRD partnered with the University of Kentucky and Colorado State University on a one-year Cooperative Agreement with the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service to research the impacts, adaptations and innovations of COVID-19 on U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems nationally. This highly engaged, real-time project focuses on capturing rapid responses of initial and ongoing COVID-19-related changes in the food system and is designed to support timely innovation by collecting and disseminating easily digestible ideas, best practices, and readily adoptable approaches to COVID-19 adaptation. During the project’s first year (2020-2021), team members publish emergent findings on the project website each month, including sector impact assessment reports for each segment of the LRFS documenting initial challenges of the pandemic on markets and populations and innovation briefs highlighting promising adaptations to new challenges. In addition, the project hosted a monthly webinar series for researchers and practitioners, providing the latest updates and analysis from the field.

Funding Agency: USDA Agricultural Marketing Service

Accompanying Institution(s): University of Kentucky, Colorado State University, University of Maine, NERCRD

Start Date: August 2020   End Date: December 2021

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Linking Health Care Reform and Economic Development in the Agriculture Sector

Researchers and Extension professionals engaged with this project explored how health insurance decisions affect farm and ranch families. Activities included interviewing farmers, hosting webinars, analyzing policy impacts, and developing tools for professionals who work with farm families.

Funding Agency: USDA NIFA

Principal Investigator: Shoshanah Inwood, University of Vermont/The Ohio State University

Accompanying Institution(s): Regional Rural Development Centers, University of Maryland Extension, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

Start Date: January 2015   End Date: January 2019

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AMS Grant Writing Workshops and Technical Assistance (AMSTA)

Launched in 2014, this project funded by USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and National Institutes of Food and Agriculture shared knowledge through in-person grant writing workshops and additional tools and materials provided through the AMSTA website. In Phase I, 137 state trainings focusing on effective grant-writing practices, with an emphasis on USDA’s Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Programs, were were held in all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, reaching more than 3,000 participants. In Phase II, the program was re-offered in states identified by the USDA as highest priority, providing technical assistance to individuals and businesses who had been awarded an AMS grant and were carrying out their funded projects.

Funding Agency: USDA Agricultural Marketing Service; USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Principal Investigator: Stephan Goetz, NERCRD

Accompanying Institution(s): Western Rural Development Center, Southern Rural Development Center, and North Central Rural Development Center, and Penn State

Start Date: January 2014   End Date: December 2018

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Northeast Impact Indicators Learning Circle (2015-2016)

Extension Educators in all program areas are frequently asked to document the impacts of their programming in order to justify ongoing financial support. Community and Economic Development (CED) Extension professionals lack unified methods by which to measure their impacts and a consistent set of indicators. This problem is compounded in the Northeast by the small population of CED Extension staff in the region, and their lack of resources available to support the development of their own impact reporting methods.

In 2010, twelve North Central states successfully attempted to collect CED impact data and report it in a way that was verified by stakeholders to be an accurate reflection of their programs’ impacts. Using the North Central region’s process as a basis for going forward, the Northeast Center launched a Learning Circle whereby Northeast Extension staff could learn from the North Central staff. Under the leadership of Special Projects Advisor George Morse, the group explored practical ways in which they can collect credible data to evaluate the impact of Northeast CED programs. The Learning Circle team, which engaged 19 individuals, applied what they learned to analyze five Northeast Extension programs. They distilled their learnings from this year-long effort into a 40-page booklet which is freely available on the Northeast Center website. The booklet, titled The Impact Indicators Tips Booklet, provides practical and credible methods for using the “but for” rule to document CED programming impacts.

For more information about the Learning Circle, see the 2015 and 2016 Annual Reports.

Members of the Learning Circle:
Laura Brown, University of Connecticut Extension
Kristen Devlin, NERCRD
Charlie French, University of New Hampshire Extension
Stephan Goetz, NERCRD
Jane Haskell, University of Maine Extension
James McConnon, University of Maine
George Morse, NERCRD and University of Maine
Heidi Mouillesseaux-Kunzman, Cornell University
Allison Nichols, West Virginia University
Mary Peabody, University of Vermont
Walt Whitmer, Penn State Extension
Master Learners:
Tim Borich, Iowa State University
Scott Chazdon, University of Minnesota Extension
Mary Leuci, University of Missouri
Scott Loveridge, NCRCRD
Rachel Welborn, SRDC
Guests of Learning Circle:
Don Albrecht, WRDC
Paul Lachapelle, Montana State University
Rebecca Sero, Washington State University Extension

Funding Agency: USDA NIFA via NERCRD's core funding

Principal Investigator: George Morse, NERCRD and University of Maine

Accompanying Institution(s): See above

Start Date: January 2015   End Date: December 2016

Enhancing the Viability of Underserved Small Farms and Rural Communities Using Insights from Emerging Network Science

The NERCRD brought together partners including Delaware State University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Tennessee State University for a competitive USDA capacity building grant. This project will provide the opportunity to expand networks for small farmers in Tennessee, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. This project team has produced a substantial training manual for Extension Educators who wish to conduct their own network analyses of farmer groups. One of the project team members, Andy Wetherill (DSU), used the framework laid out in the manual to help convene the First State African American Farmers Association, which in turn has spawned multiple impacts of its own.

Funding Agency: USDA NIFA

Principal Investigator: Fisseha Tegegne, Tennessee State University

Accompanying Institution(s): NERCRD and Penn State, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Delaware State University.

Start Date: December 2011   End Date: December 2016