Center Research

As a regional research hub, the Northeast Center leads or supports several funded projects, in addition to administering occasional small-grants programs.

Current Center-Led Projects

The Role of Innovation in Rural Firm Emergence and Vitality 
Innovation lies at the heart of most entrepreneurial activity, and yet its role in supporting the growth and survival of new and existing rural firms remains poorly understood, largely because suitable data have been lacking. A newly available dataset shows that innovative activity, broadly defined, is far more prevalent in rural areas than commonly believed; this dataset for the first time also allows in-depth research to examine the roles of different types of innovation in rural firm success. By combining this nationally representative, novel establishment-level data set with detailed Census micro data we can test hypotheses about the emergence and viability of rural entrepreneurship that could not be examined previously. In addition, by linking the establishment survey with founders' information in the Census Survey of Business Owners and the Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs the research will provide unique insights on female and minority entrepreneurship. This project began in May 2018, and is funded by USDA-NIFA for three years. 

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 shares knowledge through in-person grant writing workshops, as well as 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. Now in Phase II, the program is being re-offered in states identified by the USDA as highest priority.

AMS Local Food Resource Mapping Project (USDA AMS and NIFA)
This complex project is well under way with a team of collaborators having planned and implemented focus groups in six states (NC, KY, MI, AR, AL, AZ). The team is also in the process of sub-contracting with MarketMaker to supply the essential mapping functions of the project for now and for the future.

Current Projects with Partners

Strengthening Economic Resilience in Appalachian Communities
The economies of many counties and sub-regions in the Appalachian Region have historically depended on a few dominant industries, such as mining or manufacturing. In recent years, Appalachian coal production—particularly in the Central Appalachian coal basin—has plummeted. Coal companies have gone bankrupt, resulting in job losses with devastating effects on families, communities, counties, and states. Using state-of-the-art research methods, focus groups, and community-level surveys, this project with Downstream Strategies LLC and the Appalachian Regional Commission investigates best practices, strategies, and policies that local leaders can use to enhance the future economic prospects of coal-impacted communities throughout the Appalachian Region. 

Regional Economic Development as a New Theoretical Framework
This project led by Indiana University seeks to build models and analytical tools that will enable policy makers and practitioners to craft development strategies and policies tailored to a region’s characteristics and capacities. The research team will expand theory about regional economic development to include more comprehensive data and a diverse array of academic disciplines, and will build a complex computational model that integrates data science and regional economic science. In addition to drawing on traditional socioeconomic information and methods, it will make use of data from unconventional sources such as social media, mouse clicks and data extracted from websites via web-scraping tools. 

Linking Health Care Reform and Economic Development in the Agriculture Sector (VT)
Researchers and Extension professionals are exploring how health insurance decisions affect farm and ranch families. Activities include interviewing farmers, hosting webinars, analyzing policy impacts, and developing tools for professionals who work with farm families. 

eXtension Community of Practice: Local, Regional, and Community Food Systems
The Northeast Center collaborated with faculty and educators across the nation in the development of an eXtension Community of Practice (CoP) in the area of local and regional food systems development. It shares models, findings, best practices, challenges, conceptual frameworks and data. It is increasing awareness about regional food systems, and is enhancing the ability for Extension personnel to contribute to their development.

Impacts of Multifunctional Operations on Long-Term Sustainability and Prosperity of Small and Medium Sized Farms and Rural Communities
The Northeast Center brought together partners including University of Vermont and the USDA Economic Research Service for an AFRI Foundational Grant. The purpose of this project is to study small and medium-sized farms involved in multifunctional operations in the U.S., with an emphasis on the New England region. Multifunctional farm operations are hypothesized to enhance the long term sustainability and prosperity both of farmers and their rural communities.

Center-funded Projects

In 2017, the Center issued an RFP for "Impacts of successful Extension and outreach programs." Information about the three funded projects is available here

In 2016, the Center announced an award program to support data access and research in rural business innovation and economic development. Researchers from the three funded projects will present their findings at the 2017 What Works in Rural Innovation conference. This program was supported by a grant from the USDA Economic Research Service.

In 2015, the Center issued an RFP for "Regional Collaboration of Successful CRD Extension Programs Planning Grant." Two proposals were selected to receive funding:

Completed Projects

Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast (EFSNE)
This USDA-Funded Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) project, which ran from 2011 to 2018, studied whether greater reliance on regionally produced foods could improve food access and affordability for disadvantaged communities, while also benefiting farmers and others in the food supply chain. The project brought together researchers, educators, entrepreneurs, and community leaders from a twelve-state region in the Northeast to shed new light on how the food system can better serve all Americans. Resources from this project are available here. 

National Agricultural and Rural Development Policy Center (NARDeP)
The National Agricultural & Rural Development Policy Center is organized by the Regional Rural Development Centers to provide information about the increasingly contentious and complex agricultural and rural development U.S. policy issues. Current signature areas are energy and the environment, food systems development, and self-employment and entrepreneurship.

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

Assessing the Supplier Role of Selected Fresh Produce Value Chains in the United States (USDA ARS)
This project embedded economies of scale concepts into experimental models to identify the optimal locations for distribution facilities such that small and mid-sized farms can access retail, institutional, and commercial markets. Project team members refined the model and disaggregated annual production data to accomplish project goals. 

Bringing Research and Communities Together to Advance a Regional Food Systems Project (USDA/NIFA)
In addition to organizing a highly successful national end-of-project conference for the EFSNE project in 2015, this grant allowed team members to organize community events aimed at extending the project’s scholarship into five of the project communities.

Demographic Dimensions of Diversity
(Relevant for Extension Educators) This section lists basic demographic variables related to diversity that are relevant for Extension educators, discusses why the variables are important, and provides links to data sources for the different variables at different levels of geographic detail. Data are available at the state, county and sub-county levels, such as the Census tract level. Most of the data are also available at different points in time, allowing basic trends to be identified.

Electronic commerce, commonly known as e-commerce, is a type of industry where buying and selling of product or service is conducted over electronic systems such as the Internet and other computer networks.

This page was last updated July 11, 2018.