Posted: April 5, 2021

The year 2020 has been described as the most difficult that many Americans may experience in their lifetimes. Despite challenges and loss, colleagues and stakeholders across the region rose to the occasion, shifting to new modes of work and collaboration. Each of our partners worked tirelessly to lay the groundwork for a strong and more equitable recovery. We are honored to be part of such an inspiring network, and grateful for the many opportunities to work with our regional and national collaborators on projects that supported communities responding to the pandemic.

Report cover showing black-and-white photos of people in various contexts.Our 2020 Annual Report describes this work. Download the 3MB PDF here.

Our 2020 Accomplishments include:

A swift response to COVID-19:

  • A series of 10 research briefs provided science-based insights and perspectives on the effect of the pandemic, revealing bottlenecks in supply chains, changes in consumer preferences and food-sourcing strategies, and potential future disease-related hot-spots and weak points in the food system.
  • Seed-grant funding with partners at Penn State and Hamad Bin Khalifa University (Qatar) allowed us to examine how social media data may predict food shortages or insecurity under COVID-19.
  • A national research project developed insights into impacts, adaptations and innovations of U.S. local and regional food systems related to the pandemic.
  • A special themed issue of Choices magazine focuses on “Rural Development Implications One Year After COVID-19.”
  • Technical and planning support to partner organizations allowed them to host virtual events.

A national and regional outreach portfolio that bolstered our Extension partners’ ability to create community impacts:

  • Helped catalyze a three-fold increase in National Extension Tourism (NET) network membership, which allows for more efficient transfer of programs across states and regions.
  • Expanded community capacity to engage citizens around key topic areas of veterans, socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, housing, and workforce development, in partnership with the USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement and our sister RRDCs.
  • Facilitated new partnerships among 35 Extension and research faculty from nine states via our small-grant funding program.
  • Supported a new strategic value-chain planning program in partnership with Cornell University, which has resulted in a pilot program with onion growers in the muckland areas of New York State and NE-SARE funding to expand the training regionally.
  • Laid groundwork for development of regional research and practice affinity groups as a way for Northeast-based practitioners and scholars to connect on core programming and research topics across institutions in the region.

A robust research agenda that contributed to society’s understanding of economic development, rural vitality and resilience, innovation, food systems, and social networks:

  • Launched a new project aimed at developing research-based guidance for farmers looking to diversify their incomes through agritourism activities.
  • Supported University of New Hampshire Extension with a research fellowship resulting in a forthcoming book on the characteristics of resilient, rural communities.
  • Developed a new comprehensive measure of innovation that will help decision makers think in new ways about innovation and how they can support it.
  • Identified community characteristics associated with longevity. This new knowledge may help communities identify and implement changes to longer lifespans among their residents.
  • Revealed a relationship between high-risk jobs and opioid misuse issues.
  • Published 11 research articles in disciplinary and interdisciplinary high-impact journals, including Food Policy and Research Policy.
  • Shared Center research findings with countless stakeholders through presentations made at 26 online and in-person venues.

It is a pleasure to report on these many efforts in the 2020 Annual Report. I invite you to download the full report for a comprehensive look at the NERCRD’s 2020 activities and impacts, and to reach out if you have any questions or feedback.
 
Stephan Goetz
Director, NERCRD