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Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development - 2010


The Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development will continue to work in the area of community capacity building, and extend knowledge acquired in these efforts to colleagues and collaborators within the region. <P>

We will focus on three key subject matter areas: entrepreneurship and job creation, including within the green economy; local and regional foods production systems, including their relationships to childhood obesity, food safety and capacity to feed the region and world; and land use and balanced use of natural resources, an area that addresses trade-offs between alternative forms of energy use and development, among other issues.<P>
The project focuses on regional issues that also have a national impact. A key objective this year is to build and leverage the capacity of the Northeast land grant university system in the area of rural and community development. <P>
Over the upcoming year we will continue to identify, create and disseminate resource materials related to entrepreneurship and job creation as part of our outreach thrust. With public interest in local and regional foods continuing to mushroom, we will redouble our efforts by applying economic, social network and value chain analysis to small and medium-sized farms and their distribution systems in the region. <P>
This research promises to provide important knowledge about how to sustain and grow the infrastructure required to expand the regional food system in the Northeast US.<P>
In the topic area of land use and balanced use of natural resources, water and climate change are key emerging issues in the Northeast. We will continue our recently-initiated collaboration with various partners on an ARC-funded project designed to place economic values on water supplies in the Appalachian Region and to assess costs and benefits of alternative water use strategies. <P>
One outcome of this effort will be an index of water quality and quantity in each of the 420 ARC counties (stretching into southern NY State). As a result of the NERCRD project we expect to see greater awareness among key stakeholders and decision-makers of the increasing challenges, solutions and science that relate to the forces and opportunities shaping the sustainability and profitability of agricultural and local food systems in the Northeast US. We also expect a better understanding and greater awareness among decision-makers of the importance of self-employment and entrepreneurship within their communities. We anticipate that public officials, consumers and agricultural industry representatives will be able to locate and employ sound, science-based research and education in their decision-making. <P>
Agriculture will remain vital and grow measurably in its importance and contributions to communities in the Northeast US and important indicators such as obesity rates will show improvement. In addition, we expect to find more self-employed workers as a percent of all workers, and more business creation; higher returns to self-employment; greater job creation as a result of higher self-employment; and improved rural economic viability and quality of life overall.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: The Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development conducts and facilitates integrated research and extension activities to enhance the social and economic well-being of rural people and their communities in the Northeast US. The project will focus on three key regional issue areas that also have a national impact: entrepreneurship and job creation; local and regional foods production systems; and land use and balanced use of natural resources. As rural areas throughout the Northeast continue to lose jobs and residents, those remaining behind often desperately seek new sources of income and employment growth. The most recent (October 2009) statistics reveal very high unemployment rates across rural counties in the region. Only a handful of counties have rates below five percent and these are largely home to a land grant university. Homegrown entrepreneurship promises to be one key to sustaining rural economies (Goetz 2008; Henderson and Weiler 2010). Even more important will be programs and activities directed at future entrepreneurs, that is, today's young entrepreneurs. A number of our research efforts in this area shed light on the underlying county-level employment and migration dynamics, and the insights gained from this research can produce policy recommendations that have the potential to moderate drastic population loss patterns in the future. We will continue to actively identify, create and disseminate related resource materials over the upcoming year as part of our outreach thrust. In the rapidly expanding area of local and regional food, we will carry out research and analysis that promises to provide important knowledge about how to sustain and grow the infrastructure required to expand the food system in the Northeast US. Through strategic partnerships of experts in the region we are poised to generate the science-based resources and other training materials that our stakeholders require to make balanced and informed decisions about the many opportunities associated with local and regional food systems. We will continue to collaborate with various partners on an ARC-funded water quality project that will measure economic values of water supplies in the Appalachian Region as well as costs and benefits of alternative water use strategies. Over the next year The Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development will continue to serve in its primary capacity of convening experts and educators in the region with the specific goals of improving flows and exchanges of information; enhancing the capacity of the land grant system to engage effectively the pressing problems facing communities while eliminating duplication of effort and programs and; of increasing importance, forming teams around critical emerging issues to develop grant proposals that will lead to increased flows of resources into the region. One particularly important new dissemination tool we will use is that of webinars.


APPROACH: The following general procedures will be used to carry out the project: (1) conduct, promote and extend through outreach both think tank-level and peer-reviewed studies of agricultural development, entrepreneurship, land use and community vitality, including work that addresses farm industry clusters and regional food systems development; (2) organize and sponsor multi-disciplinary and multi-state educational efforts in the areas of community development impact assessment, entrepreneurship, balanced land use and vibrant and sustainable communities; as part of this, the Center will continue to expand its website as a tool for furthering the mission of the land grant system in the Northeast in community development; and (3) continue to fulfill its other multiple networking responsibilities through strategic partnerships, conference calls, maintenance of listservs, conference participation, publications and by identifying leading edge programs that can be shared across the states so as to reduce duplication of effort. In addition, we will document and track progress on our own capacity building efforts and impacts at the Center, with the goal of sharing insights and lessons learned in the form of a logic model with our collaborators in the region. We will continue to be active partners in the national Foundations of Practice training series and also continue our engagement with the Stronger Economies Together curriculum that is being revised jointly by the four Regional Rural Development Centers. Also, we will seek to bring collaborators from around the region together to form teams that will submit proposals to the various RFPs to be issued by USDA-NIFA. In order to enhance the coordination, communication, and visibility of community resource and economic development extension and research efforts across the Northeast we will solicit names of state contacts from each of the NERA and NEED directors. Related to this point, at the national level, we will continue to be represented at the NACDEP national conference.

Goetz, Scott
Pennsylvania State University
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