NE1049: Community Health and Resilience

(Multistate Research Project)

Status: Inactive/Terminating

NE1049: Community Health and Resilience

Duration: 10/01/2012 to 09/30/2017

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

The NE-1029 group (Rural Change: Markets, Governance and Quality of Life) formally requests consideration for a revision/replacement as its five year term comes to a close. The group was organized more than four years ago prior to the establishment of the new NIFA focus areas. Although many of the projects conducted under the old priority areas carry over nicely into the new standards, it is clear to the group that it must reestablish itself in the context of the new priorities.

The new Science Roadmap identifies seven priority areas:

  1. Enhancing the sustainability, competitiveness, and profitability of U. S. food and agricultural systems.
  2. Adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change on food, feed, fiber and fuel systems in the U.S.
  3. Supporting energy security and the development of the bio-economy from renewable natural resources in the U.S.
  4. Playing a global leadership role to ensure a safe, secure and abundant food supply for the U.S. and the world.
  5. Improving human health, nutrition and wellness of the US population.
  6. Heightening environmental stewardship through the development of sustainable management practices.
  7. Strengthening individual, family and community development and resilience.

Historically, members of the group have focused on elements 1, 3, and 7. For example, ongoing projects in these areas include:

  • Local foods and sustainable small scale agriculture
  • Bio and renewable energy
  • Water and environmental issues pertaining to rural communities
  • Rural amenities and economic growth and development
  • Tourism, agricultural tourism and recreation
  • Agricultural labor force
  • Rural access to information technology
  • Human capital and regional labor markets

More generally, rural communities are comprised of the people, their businesses and farms, their organizations, and governance. The quality of rural life both affects and is affected by the movement of people into and out of rural communities, the evolution of agriculture and industry, local social organization, and public policy. In its 2011 annual meeting, the group identified two primary research areas around which it wishes to engage in the coming years: Local/Regional Foods; and Community Resilience and Natural/Human-Made Disasters.


Objective: To better understand the emerging opportunities and threats to the economic structure of non-metropolitan communities arising from the potential shifts in local and regional food systems. Issues to be considered include:

  • Thinking regionally
  • Nutrition
  • Food security, including the issue of food deserts
  • Tourism, including rural amenities and agriculture tourism
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Systemic changes, including Internet use,


a. Market size and location of communities on the rural-urban continuum -- Demand for locally-produced food is fundamentally related to the size of the local customer base. Hence, the distance from local farms to significant markets is important to understanding the workings of local and regional food systems. An overarching research topic for this objective centers on assessing the importance of proximity to unique urban markets to the sustained viability of local food systems (including direct markets and emerging supply chains for Farm to Chef and Farm to School). As researchers of rural economies we can contribute to the understanding of the spatial dimensions of local/regional foods.This would complement other work on market drives and financial viability by exploring the place-based characteristics which may support or deter the success of local food system investments.

b. Determinants of producers' participation in local foods markets -- Understanding the motivations of producers selling foods locally is essential in gauging the ultimate extent to which demand for food can be met by local producers. A related issue centers on the role of policies (such as burgeoning "buy local" campaigns) in facilitating participation of farmers in local food systems.

c. Determinants of consumer demand for local foods -- Understanding the motivations of consumers at farmers' markets and other venues at which local foods are traded represents an important component of assessing the size of local and regional food markets, as well as their ultimate impact on local economies. It is also important information in gauging the potential positive impacts of increased availability of local foods on nutritional outcomes and the distribution of those outcomes across different types of consumers (e.g., rich versus poor, different ethnic groups, etc.)

d. Economic impact assessment of local and regional food systems -- Locally purchased foods tend to substitute for food that is "imported" from other locales and sold at local grocery stores and other retail outlets. Moreover, support of the local economy is often one of the key promotional messages of buy local campaigns. An important research activity therefore is to assess the overall economic impact of growth in local food markets on the local economy in light of attendant reduction in other retail food activity.

There is some belief that there is a connection between market access, public health goals and the structure of food systems. To extend the spatial analyses we develop, other assessment tools (mapping of public health indicators, exploring relationships between public health outcomes and food system structure) could be useful to public policy makers. There is an emerging literature on food deserts, and how poor access to good foods may affect dietary choices, and our project could complement more public health-oriented assessments by exploring the economic development and place-based demand and supply characteristics may support or constrain availability of more healthful foods (fresh produce).


Objective: To identify and analyze policies and strategies contributing to the viability and resiliency of communities in responding to economic and policy changes and to natural and human-made shocks.

  • Natural disasters - floods, hurricanes, tornados, etc.
  • Human-made "disasters" - economic, terrorism, poor pest policies, etc.
  • Resiliency in this context is more than emergency management. Long-term perspective is critical, not the short-term FEMA-type view such as a focus on rebuilding in damaged areas. Our focus is on long-run sustainability and ability of communities to respond to changes and to grow.


a. Social capital - the ability of a community to sustain and rebuild after natural and/or man-made disasters hinges on the social capital within the community. Notions of trust, networks and ease of cooperation to address problems are fundamental to community resiliency and sustainability. How one can measure social capital upon which to build a solid research foundation and inform public policy will be a central thrust of the proposed work.

b. Public infrastructure and finance - Rural infrastructure is composed of both public and private capital/infrastructure. Private infrastructure includes the physical stock of capital such as farm structures, manufacturing facilities, and commercial buildings as well as private residences such as housing. Public capital includes physical structures that are vital to the functioning of the local community including schools, roads and bridges, police and fire stations, and other public buildings. The ability of rural communities to reinvest in these public infrastructures is vital to the sustainability and resilience of rural communities.

c. Regional and multi-community cooperation - an important dimension of social capital and rural economic growth and development hinges on the community to look to neighboring communities for learning, support and resources. Movement towards regional cooperation will help build community resiliency and sustainability. Research on best practices will help inform local communities how to best move forward.

d. Regional economic clusters, diversity, and structure

e. Human capital - the resilience of a community depends critically on the human capital available, which includes not only the education and health of individuals in the community but also leadership and entrepreneurial skills. For rural areas, the regional labor market also impacts the sustainability and resilience of the community.

f. Population loss, aging population, migration, home ownership - certain challenges like aging population are foreseeable, but communities need the capacity to respond.

g. Environment, climate change, water issues, rural natural amenities

h. State and local public finance

A number of additional topics of interest have been identified:

  • What does home ownership mean to community resilience?
  • What about the aging population in rural or declining urban areas mean? E.g. Michigan's shrinking city population. What is the social impact?
  • What does infrastructure really mean? What types of infrastructure are we addressing here?
  • Economic clusters versus economic diversification?
  • Historically rural communities have cooperated in development and administration of landfills.

Our stakeholders are federal, state, and local government policymakers, community leaders, members of the academic community, and the citizenry. Most in the NE1029 research group have Extension appointments and are directly responsible for taking the research findings supported via this proposal to the citizenry. Current and future research, for example, is being used in testimony before state legislatures and on-going evaluation of federal rural development programs. Currently, for another example, a researcher is working on developing a web-based set of local government fiscal health indicators that will serve smaller governments throughout Michigan in the coming years.

Researchers within the group have the expertise and are conducting research in the each of the proposal's focus areas and are poised to extend this work. For example, members have and continue to work on issues such as disaster resilience (Iowa-floods, Michigan-natural disaster resilience, Pennsylvania-infectious disease); sustainability of communities and local governments in periods of crises (Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin); rural change and migration (Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin); and local/regional foods and agri-tourism (Colorado, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin).

This project requires an integration of social sciences. Feasibility depends on the degree of innovativeness and the quantity and quality of scientific method applied to each topic. Because the problems are common across states, we enjoy efficiencies and returns to scale by collaborating. We can cover multifaceted issues by parsing the facets and specializing, then meeting to organize the whole. Although many challenges are the same, states are also different. This interstate variation helps to statistically identify relationships between dependent and explanatory variables. Thus, interstate collaboration provides more suitable cross-section time series databases. Multi-state collaboration also lends valuable support to innovation, which is by definition the application of an existing invention to a new purpose. By interacting in a multi-state group we achieve intellectual synergies.

We hope to build on our knowledge base, better utilize our resources through the synergies of collaboration, help create more efficient rural policy, and help improve the sustainability and vitality of rural communities.

Related, Current and Previous Work

The team of researchers associated with it and its predecessors, NE 1029, NE-1011, and NE-162, are uniquely positioned to study the spatial issues related to local and regional foods systems and community resilience and natural/human-made disasters. Past work on spatial economic issues by these researchers include areas as diverse as regional labor markets (Davis and Weber 2003; Goetz, Han, Findeis, and Brasier 2010; Morris, Goodridge and Manalo 2010;Renkow 2003, 2007), rural industrial restructuring (Olfert and Partridge 2010; Barkley and Henry 2005), rural impacts of investment in broadband technologies (Stenberg, et al 2009), rural governance (Skidmore and Scorsone 2009; Skidmore et al 2009), rural poverty (Partridge and Rickman 2008; Deller 2010), and fiscal impact analysis (Johnson, Otto, and Deller 2006). Researchers associated with this project have been at the forefront of economic and impact modeling (Johnson, Otto, and Deller 2006; Swenson and Otto 2000; Partridge, Rickman, and Li 2009; Irwin, Isserman, Kilkenny, and Partridge 2010; Monchuk, Brewin, and Partridge 2009; Goetz, Partridge, Deller, and Flemming; Hansen and Kalambokidis 2010).

Two important forms of cross-state cooperation are evident in this research. First, a large share of the research here was conducted collaboratively across states. Second, research methods and approaches have been developed in one state were subsequently employed by researchers in other states. For example Johnson, Otto, and Dellers widely read 2006 book on community policy analysis modeling.

Local and regional foods systems: by its very definition, a local foods system is a place-based concept: Farmers markets and other venues wherein local foods are bought and sold typically require that suppliers come from within some maximum distance. Hence, analyses of the economics of local foods systems must directly account for the location of participating producers and consumers.

A relocalization of food industries is one new economic development opportunity that has captured the attention of ag-dependent, rural and even urban areas (Thilmany McFadden 2010, 2011). Local food movements have grown to include direct markets, farm-to-school, chef distribution and regional food hubs, all which may represent higher returns to local food producers and new food marketing enterprises that create jobs (Feenstra, et al, 2010; Gunter, et al, 2011). As a result, USDA and state Departments of Agriculture are establishing more programs to support and leverage the interest in local foods and nurture value-added businesses and local food enterprises. Work on consumer motivations has found that the desire to support the local economy is a primary driver of many local food consumers (Onozaka et al, 2011; Nurse et al, 2012) yet there are few studies showing that relocalization does increase economic activity in communities, and those that exist, do not always show large impacts (Gunter et al, 2011). In the livestock sector, there are even greater challenges, because of the need for processing capacity for meats, but there may be a connection between participation in local foods markets and participation in agritourism (Sullins et al, 2010; Nabhan et al 2011).

While small and medium scale agriculture has generally been dismissed as a viable rural economic development strategy (Henry 1986; Barkley and Wilson 1992), there has been resurgence in interest in small and medium scale agriculture as component of rural development policies over the past few years (King, et al. 2010). Farmers markets represent the most important and certainly the most visible venue at which local food purchase. Other notable venues for exchange of local foods include designated sections of retail grocery stores, community supported agriculture (CSAs), farm stands and pick-your-own facilities, and local restaurants.

The past several years have seen a marked increase in the importance of farmers markets as places for consumers to purchase locally-grown food products and as a venue for farmers to sell fruits, vegetables, meat, and poultry. Nationally, the number of farmers markets increased by over 16% in the last year alone, according to recent USDA figures (USDA 2011).

In a comprehensive review of local foods systems, Martinez et al. (2010) note that there appears to be growing market potential in this sub-sector. The growing volume of food sold locally at farmers markets reflects an increased willingness of farmers to tailor their production and marketing practices to supplying local customers (Renkow and Georgiade 2011). Characterizing the types of farmers supplying those markets is critical information for assessing the extent to which recent growth of local food systems will continue into the future, as well as what impacts on local economies might follow from that growth.

The growth in the importance of local foods systems also reflects increased attentiveness by consumers to various environmental, economic and food quality issues. It is unclear, however, which of these factors are the most important drivers of consumer participation in these markets. Neither does there exist clear evidence as to whether these drivers vary spatially in a systematic way e.g., by position on the rural-urban continuum. Gaining that insight requires knowledge of the characteristics and motivations of individuals choosing to shop at farmers markets. A number of studies at both the national and local scales have explored consumer preferences for locally produced food. These provide mixed evidence on the importance of education, income and other demographic variables as a determinant of demand for local foods (Zepeda and Li 2006; Brooker and Eastwood 1989). Findings are more consistent regarding the importance of environmental and food quality characteristics of local foods (Keeling-Bond, Thilmany, and Bond 2009; Jekanowski, Williams and Schiek 2000; Zepeda and Li 2006) as well as the importance of consumers desire to support their local economies (Keeling Bond, Thilmany, and Bond 2009; Renkow and Georgiade 2011).

Relatively little, however, has been published to date regarding the relative prices of food sold at farmers markets and other local foods venues vis-à-vis prices for comparable items at supermarkets and other retail foods stores. There has also been little research to date on how the movement to civic and small and medium scale agriculture in general and in particular, small and medium scale agriculture supplying local markets impacts local economies and communities.

In a review of the literature examining the impact of farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSAs), Brown and Miller (2008) found that most studies examined the impacts of participation by individual farmers in descriptive manners, such as improvements in diets/nutrition or with simple economic multiplier analysis. Early related work on the related issue of contributions to community economic growth and development of alternative agriculture found that alternative agriculture may be viable in select rural areas (Barkley and Wilson 1992). They also found, however, that total employment generation potential is too small and diffused to provide significant rural development impacts. In other words, the markets may be thick enough for some individual businesses but too thin to have a larger impact on the rural community. Finally, over the past several years fledgling literature on the net benefits of local foods systems has begun to emerge (Otto and Varner 2005; Gunter and Thilmany 2011; Deller 2012; OHara 2011), but there clearly exists a need for additional research to support better policy and educational outreach/Extension programming (Martinez et al, 2010; King et al. 2010).

Community resilience and natural/human-made disasters: rural communities have long faced prolonged periods of relative stability only to be shocked by a natural or human-made disaster. This can come in the form of oil spill (e.g., BP spill along the Gulf Coast) and natural disasters such as tornados (e.g., June 2011 in Alabama or May 2011 in Joplin, Missouri), flooding (e.g., August 2011 in Vermont following Hurricane Irene) and droughts (e.g., Texas 2010-2011). The disasters can also take a more traditional economic form such as the Great Recession, a major employer leaving the community or changes in policy that apportion impacts differently across rural communities.
What is not fully understood from a research or policy perspective is the factors that affect the ability of one rural community to absorb the shock of the disaster and rebuild and another to wither and become a shadow of its former self. A long-term perspective is critical, not a short-term emergency management response such as a FEMA-type. Of more importance is the long-term sustainability and ability of communities to respond to changes and to grow and develop.

Through studying the community economic development process the importance of wealth creation, broadly defined, has gained wide acceptance as an important element in understanding the economic growth and development process (Pender, Marré and Reeder 2011). The idea here is that the wealth of the community is composed of both the tangible and intangible assets at the disposal of the community. The Floras (Flora and Flora 1993, 2008; Flora 1998) talk of these assets in the terms of seven community capitals including built, financial, political, social, human, cultural and natural capitals (Flora and Gillespie 2009). Built capital includes machinery, equipment and buildings along with public infrastructure such as roads and water treatment systems. Financial capital is access to credit, loans and debt that is necessary to finance private and public investments. Political capital refers to the ability of the community to influence laws and regulations that determine what is or is not legal as well as access to resources from higher levels of government. Social capital includes density of acquaintance, collective identity, trust and reciprocity. Human capital includes education, skills and experiences of individuals and the ability of people to use those resources. Cultural capital speaks to the way people think of the world and how they fit into and contribute to that world and from an anthropologic perspective their traditions and language. Natural capital speaks to the environment and natural resources. Each of these capitals represents important pieces of the community economic development puzzle.

Fannin, Barreca and Detre (2011) have used this framework to explore how the natural disasters associated with hurricanes have affected the fiscal health of local governments in several Gulf Coast states and Chen and Weber (2011) explore how community capitals have helped rural communities in the Pacific Northwest adapt to changes in Federal forestry policies. Their results suggest that community assets or capital matter in how communities are able to respond and adjust to both natural and human-made disasters. But this line of work points to four research issues that need to be addressed: (1) while we can conceptualize the notions of community assets or capital can we quantify them for rigorous analysis; (2) how do these quantified notions of community assets or capitals affect the community economic growth and development process with an eye toward community resilience from disasters, whether they be natural or human-made; (3) which type(s) of community capitals influence the community economic growth and development processes the most, and (4) how can policies be crafted to positively influence the key forms of community capital?

Consider for example, the economic growth literature which has a long and rich theoretical and empirical tradition. There is extensive work by Levine and Renelt (1992), Pack (1994), Sala-i-Martin (1997), Schultz (1999), Durlauf and Quah (1999), Durlauf (2000), Brock and Durlauf (2001), Brock, Durluaf and West (2007), Deller and Lledo (2007) and Deller, Lledo and Marcouiller (2008) who convincingly argue that theory predicts that everything matters and there are multiple ways to measure those factors. Within the rural wealth creation or community capitals framework, the theory suggests that each form of wealth or capital is important. The challenge is to identify which capitals are the most important within different contextual settings. The second element here centers on measurement. Consider one of the community wealth or capitals, social capital, which is considered by many (e.g., Shaffer, Deller and Marcouiller 2004, 2006; Rupasingha, Goetz, and Freshwater 2006; Kangayi, Olfert and Partridge 2009) to be fundamental to resilient and viable communities. Social capital describes the quality of connections between individuals and how well they are leveraged to achieve success within the regioncreating a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts.

In his 1995 article Bowling Alone: Americas Declining Social Capital, which helped popularize the term social capital, Putnam (1995, p67) defines social capital as features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit. Staatz (1998, p2) builds on the idea that social capital facilitates social cohesion, claiming that it acts to increase the liquidity of social interaction, much like an expansion of the money supply. Schmid and Robinson (1995, p66) view social capital as a productive asset, like money in the bank, [social capital] makes assets more productive and saves costsbesides being valuable in itself, as does Woolcock (2001, p67) the basic idea of social capitalis that ones family, friends and associates constitute an important asset, one that can be called upon in a crisis, enjoyed for its own sake and/or leveraged for material gain. Woolcock (2001, p69) further clarifies: where human capital resides in individuals, social capital resides in relationships.

Fukuyama (2001, p7) argues that social capital is an instantiated informal norm that promotes cooperation between two or more individuals [and gives way to] trust, networks, civil society and the like. Pretty and Ward (2001, p210) write that social capital captures the idea that social bonds and social norms are an important part of the basis for sustainable livelihoods. Adler and Kwon (2002, p17) define it as [t]he goodwill that is engendered by the fabric of social relations and that can be mobilized to facilitate action. Similarly, Rupasingha et al. (2006, p84) talk about social capital as an intermediate good that contributes to more efficient means of production by investing in relationships that reduce transactions costs, we can reduce the friction in productive activities. Paldam (2000) suggests that there are three families of social capital concepts that hinge on: (1) trust, (2) ease of cooperation, and (3) networks. Higher levels of trust allow for ease of volunteer cooperation and expanded networks greats a larger pool of individual to cooperate with. Social capital is the glue that ties the three families together.

Clearly, there is consensus about the general notion of social capital, but its definition is nebulous. This diverse understanding of social capital has prompted criticism that social capital [has] become all things to all people, and hence nothing to anyone (Woolcock 2001, p69). Further, Durlauf (2002, p1) claims the concept itself [is] too vague to permit analysis whose clarity and precision matches the standards of the [economics] field. Furthermore, among a number of definitions tangle the causes and effects of social capital as a collective trait, giving rise to much circular reasoning (Portes 2000, p4). Despite these limitations of the definition of social capital, the concept is applied to a variety of social and economic phenomenon. The challenge to helping inform policy is (1) can social capital (or other forms of community wealths/capitals, be quantified, (2) does the role of social capital (or again, other forms of community wealths/capitals) in community resilience vary across different contexts, and (3) can those roles be disentangled sufficiently to inform policy?


  1. Develop a better understanding of the emerging opportunities and threats to the economic structure of non-metropolitan communities arising from the potential shifts in local and regional food systems.
  2. Identify and analyze policies and strategies contributing to the viability and resiliency of communities in responding to economic and policy changes as well as natural and human-made shocks.


A primary motivation of this project is to continue and redirect the work performed under Regional Research Project NE-1029, reestablishing the multi-state research effort in the context of the new science road map while continuing to build on the many past and current outreach and multi-state activities. While the project has two, arguably broad, objectives, the research questions and methods for each overlap and complement the other. For example, on-going research on rural business and entrepreneurship activities at Colorado State, Maine, Wisconsin, the Economic Research Service, USDA (ERS), and the Rural Development Centers (RDCs) has implications for in the development and vitality of local and regional food markets (marketing channel, etc) and community resilience (economic vitality). For another example, ongoing research at North Carolina State, Oklahoma State, the University of New Hampshire, ERS, and the RDCs on rural broadband investment has implications for both objectives. Through multistate collaboration on these interrelated objectives, we can develop further synergies arising from the cross-cutting objectives and methods of the project. More specifically the objectives and approach taken in the project are: Objective 1: Local/Regional Foods Our objective here is to develop a better understanding of the emerging opportunities and threats to the economic structure of non-metropolitan communities arising from the potential shifts in local and regional food systems. The objective would essentially cover four issues: Market size and location of communities on the rural-urban continuum Demand for locally-produced food is fundamentally related to the size of the local customer base. Hence, the distance from local farms to significant markets is important to understanding the workings of local and regional food systems. An overarching research topic for this objective centers on assessing the importance of proximity to unique urban markets to the sustained viability of local food systems. As researchers of rural economies we can contribute to the understanding of the spatial dimensions of local/regional foods. Research under this objective will focus on interrelated areas of (1) regional supply-demand balances for food, with particular attention to differences between more remote and less remote (peri-urban) rural communities; (2) impacts of local branding campaigns; (3) institutional sources of demand for local foods; and (4) comparative analyses of the relative prices at local foods venues (e.g., farmers' markets) versus retail food stores (e.g., supermarkets), as well as the volatility of those relative prices, both intraseasonally and over multiple growing seasons. Determinants of producers' participation in local foods markets Understanding the motivations of producers selling foods locally is essential in gauging the ultimate extent to which demand for food can be met by local producers. A related issue centers on the role of policies (such as burgeoning buy local campaigns) in facilitating participation of farmers in local food systems. Research in pursuit of this objective will require analyses assessing (1) which producers are actually participating in local foods systems; (2) their costs of production compared with producers supplying a broader geographic area; and (3) the effectiveness of local, state and federal policies and programs aimed at promoting local food markets. Determinants of consumer demand for local foods Understanding the motivations of consumers at farmers markets and other venues at which local foods are traded represents an important component of assessing the size of local and regional food markets, as well as their ultimate impact on local economies. It is also important information in gauging the potential positive impacts of increased availability of local foods on nutritional outcomes and the distribution of those outcomes across different types of consumers (e.g., rich versus poor, different ethnic groups, etc.) Research under this objective will require consumer demand studies to illuminate the relative importance of food quality, food safety, relative prices, and other social variables (e.g., support to local farmers) determinants of demand for local foods. A particular point of emphasis of this research will be to ascertain the premium that consumers are willing to pay for higher-priced local foods, as well as the contribution of various factors to that premium. Economic impact assessment of local and regional food systems Proponents of local foods systems frequently refer to the positive impacts on local economies. It is important to recognize, however, that locally purchased foods tend to substitute for food that is imported from other locales and sold at local grocery stores and other retail outlets. An important research activity therefore is to assess the overall economic impact of growth in local food markets on the local economy in light of attendant reduction in other retail food activity. Input-output models and econometric analyses will be developed for these purposes. Objective 2: Community Resilience and Natural/Human-made Disasters Our objective here is to identify and analyze policies and strategies contributing to the viability and resiliency of communities in responding to economic and policy changes as well as natural and human-made shocks. Our focus is on long-run socio-economic sustainability and ability of communities to respond to changes and to grow. The challenges that communities have faced, and will continue to face, have come from natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and tornados. Communities also face what might be called human-made disasters. While the term disaster may overstate some instances, all have some component of human caused transformation. Although this covers the well known topics of the changing public revenue streams, industrial restructuring, major recessions, and environmental challenges, it may can also include the more exotic such as terrorism. Though some team members focus will naturally fall on the short-term FEMA-type view on rebuilding in damaged areas as the needs arise as it did in the case of Katrina or the closing of an automobile parts plant, resiliencyin the project's context is much, much more. The projects overarching focus for this objective is not on emergency management, but on the long-term perspective. Our focus is on the long-run sustainability of a community as well as its ability to respond changes as the inevitable happens as well as a communitys ability to grow. In our long-run community sustainability focus we take a community capitals or community assets framework approach. There are, however, primarily two methodological challenges with the approach. First, the comprehensiveness of the capitals or community assets can drive the research agenda in several different directions at the same time. Second, many of these capitals are fairly straightforward to describe from a theoretical perspective but extremely difficult to quantify. The proposed research will address these two difficulties in several ways. First, members of the research team will focus on individual elements of the capitals. For example, researchers in Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin will focus on the notions of public capitals that take the form of public services such as protective services and transportation infrastructure while researchers in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will build on social capital and researchers in Minnesota and Oregon will focus on notions of human capital and regional labor markets. By individual members of the research team focusing attention on individual community capitals through a coordinated effort synergies will be built. Second, over the past five years there has been an explosion of secondary data sources that have been made available on the web. These range from the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute placement of a significant volume of population health data that can be used as proxies for human capital to the National Center for Chartable Statistics which compiles detailed data on non-profits from tax returns which have been used to build measures of social capital. Data on regional labor market flows can supplement other measures of human capital. These data sources provide a rich opportunity to apply rigorous research methods to build proxy measures of a range of community capitals. On-going research by Penn State, Kentucky, Tennessee, Wisconsin, ERS, and other project members use a range of this type of data to build an array of social capital measures. From a methodological perspective this follows the extensive work that has been undertaken exploring the relationship of natural capital (i.e., natural and human-built amenities) and rural economic growth and development as well as the role of the creative class, one interpretation of human capital, in rural economic growth. Research at Oregon State, LSU, and ERS will examine wealth creation and federal, state, and local rural development programs. Types of wealth include physical, financial, natural, human, intellectual, social, cultural and political capital. In the framework of this research wealth interacts to influence livelihood and investment decisions of local actors in rural places, taking the local context into account; the outcomes that may result from such decisions; and the feedback from these decisions and outcomes to changing asset stocks over time. Part of the research effort tries to address why and how wealth creation efforts can and should be measured. The projects basic research design proceeds along two steps. First, a family of empirical metrics employing secondary data will be constructed using various statistical techniques including principal components and clustering analysis, both aspatial as well as spatial clustering, among other methods. Building these metrics will help us refine our thinking about the different theoretical types of community capitals, assets or wealths. Second, building on previous work of the research team, a family of rural economic growth, development and performance models will be constructed and estimated. Through an iterative process our metrics of community capitals will be refined and our understanding of how these capitals, or assets, help rural community resilience. These insights can then be used to help inform policy decisions at the national, state and local levels.

Measurement of Progress and Results


  • Journal articles, extension publications, popular press articles, edited books, and book chapters. These publications will communicate research results and synthesize findings across themes and states.
  • Integrated analyses of cross-cutting issues such as the interrelationships between community capitals or assets and residential choice, labor markets, businesses and economic growth.
  • Expansion of multifunctional approach from rural European to U.S. context.
  • Development of methodology for empirically analyzing different types of community capitals.
  • Employment-occupation profiles and regional models for use in local regional industry targeting and economic cluster development efforts.
  • Research-based recommendations for rural development policies based on entrepreneurship, industrial clustering, local foods, value-added, nontraditional agricultural businesses, regional labor markets, and community capitals.
  • Research-based recommendations for rural development policies related to local foods, workforce development, and labor market issues.
  • Timely information for policymakers to use in developing policy to deal with changes occurring in rural communities with an eye toward sustainable recovery from natural and human-made disasters.

Outcomes or Projected Impacts

  • Increased knowledge of the forces impacting rural communities in terms of labor markets, industry, governance, and quality of life.
  • Improved understanding among community leaders and citizens of the dynamics of labor markets and businesses and their impact on rural communities.
  • More informed discourse on the role and organizational structure of government and the public sectors investment in community capitals for economic resiliency, growth and development.
  • Better understanding of the causes of local fiscal stress and the implications of tax and expenditure limitations on rural communities.
  • Improved understanding of local foods systems as a potential engine of community economic growth, with particular emphasis on where communities position on the rural-urban continuum.
  • Stronger synergies between participating rural development scholars via collaborative research and outreach activities.
  • Economic and workforce development policies that account for recent economic structural and labor market changes and that may reduce rural poverty and improve economic outcomes for rural families.
  • Development of better measures of the range of community capitals.
  • Better use of public resources.


(1):ganize the technical committee, develop and share specific research methodologies across states, identify data sources, and conduct preliminary analyses. At the first year technical meeting we will discuss and compare research methodologies for each objective and develop a framework for understanding local food markets and community capitals.

(2):Conduct analyses for each objective, with particular focus on producing results that are comparable across the participating states. Build stronger synergies across rural development scholars. Conduct outreach activities including input from stakeholders on objectives and results. Produce profiles and measures of state/local local foods and community capitals in participating states.

(5):nthesize results across states and across objectives, complete comparative analyses, and identify policy implications and next steps. Continue outreach activities.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Outreach Plan

The project will engage in outreach to the scientific community, the policy community and local citizens and decision makers. Project investigators will present the research results and seek professional input into their research at professional meetings of the American Agricultural Economics Association, Food Distribution Research Society, National Value Added Conference as well as several of the multi-disciplinary regional science associations (Southern Regional Science Association, Western Regional Science Association, North American Meetings of the Regional Science Association International), and through associated multi-disciplinary professional journals.

Outreach to the policy community will be facilitated by close affiliation of various project members with the four Rural Development Centers (Northeast, North Central, Southern, and Western), Rural Policy Research Institute, the Rural Poverty Research Center, the Farm Foundation, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City's Center for the Study of Rural America.

Project investigators have strong links to the Cooperative Extension System through the state and local offices of the university Extension Services. Several of the topics among the objectives are in high demand for Webinars by state and national interest groups (community and urban planners, food system stakeholders, industry groups), so Extension personnel on this project will partner with such organizations to deliver (and record for future viewing) presentations on emerging research. Several team members are also beginning to use eXtension, social media and other innovative formats to disseminate key findings, in hopes of driving readers to full studies where more detailed information is available. Technical committee members will also share information in local forums coordinated by their county and regional Extension partners. Results will be summarized in publications like extension bulletins, policy briefs, and mass media to increase awareness and understanding of the forces impacting change in rural communities.

Project members with both research and extension appointments often do not distinguish between them because it is common that there is a feedback loop between research and extension. Faculty often use research to feed into outreach and extension and to feed to policy makers. Research projects are often summarized in policy briefs that are distributed electronically and/or mailed to extension audiences and policy makers. Another outreach method is to use the university's media bureaus to publicize research findings. If it lands in the newspaper it often has more policy impact than just sending a policy brief to policy makers. Some of these are picked up by national media.

Additionally, many members with extension appointments work closely with economic development organizations across their state. This can include helping with strategic planning efforts, performing feasibility studies on potential new community services, or simply providing data on current trends or hot topics. Meetings with these groups typically provide opportunities to share the latest research findings on community development efforts - notably the ones emphasized under this project. The face-to-face interaction that is vital to extension remains a very effective way to conduct outreach on rural community and economic development.

It is also common for a question from a presentation, extension field faculty or a policy maker to generate a research project. For example, in Missouri questions on county budgets led to an interactive spreadsheet for counties and outreach presentations on county budgets and the data are now being used to develop professional papers. While in some areas of extension formal curricula are developed, this may be less common in this area because issues are state-specific and change rapidly.


The project will be organized and governed in the standard way by a Technical Committee. Each participating state or agency will have an official representative appointed by the Experiment Station Director and an administrative advisor will be designated by the Experiment Station Directors. The Technical Committee will meet at least once per year, usually in the winter or early spring. The committee will evaluate work plans to ensure adherence to the project outline and accomplishment of projected outcomes.

A chair and secretary will be elected annually by the Technical Committee. The secretary also serves as the chair-elect. The chair, in consultation with the administrative advisor, calls and presides over the meeting of the Technical Committee. The chair is responsible for preparing the annual report of the project. The secretary records and distributes the minutes and performs other duties as assigned by the Technical Committee.

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