Author: Ali Mitchell

“Northeast Agenda” is a call to action for Extension and Agricultural Experiment Stations

Northeast Agenda (Full Version)

Northeast Agenda (Executive Summary)

The Northeast Agenda is a collaboration between the Association of Northeast Extension Directors (NEED) and the Northeastern Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors (NERA). It identifies challenges and opportunities for the Northeast region’s Land-grant programs as they work together to ensure a regenerative, livable, and vibrant Northeast United States.

We invite you explore the Agenda (linked above) and to engage with us. The Northeast Agenda committee seeks participation, collaboration, and investment. Please contact us if you have questions or want to join in this work.

The Northeast Agenda is a living, evolving document identifying numerous challenges affecting our region and work. We hope it galvanizes our regional institutions, colleagues, and communities to create a prospectus of collaboration and investment opportunities.

Northeast Region has approximately 25 million acres of agricultural land (167,000 farms). From a national perspective, the Northeast accounts for approximately 4.3 percent of total U.S. crop cash receipts and 6.3 percent of total U.S. animal and animal product cash receipts. That translates to a contribution of more than $19 billion to the U.S. agricultural economy. Although the average farm size is only 133 acres (compared to the US average of 445 acres); the productivity of those farms is high. Northeast farms generate about 2.5 times as much income per acre than farms elsewhere in the United States. NE farmers use their resources efficiently.

The Northeast Agenda gives special attention to:

  • Innovative agriculture.
    • Urban agriculture and organic agriculture).
    • Specialty crops.
    • Agricultural technologies.
    • Controlled-environment agriculture.
    • Aquaculture.
  • Conventional production agriculture.
  • Cultivating the next generation of our agricultural workforce.

Climate-related stresses influence changes in inter- and intra-state demographics, the extent of urban sprawl, what can be successfully grown when and where, and the spread of pests. These food-system stressors are compounded by labor shortages, land costs, and numerous other business-related hurdles. These conditions call for developing and implementing new climate-smart technologies and/or repurposing existing technologies to new uses for climate-adaptive and climate- resilient farming.

NEED and NERA envision a Northeast that is looked to as the leading example of how climate adaptation and mitigation can be simultaneously and effectively achieved.

The Northeast Agenda gives special attention to:

  • Climate and extreme weather.
  • Water quantity and quality.
  • Coastal resilience.
  • Invasive pest migration and expansion.

The Northeast region is the most densely and diversely populated region in the United States and has the largest number of small and medium-sized farms. Those farms represent a broad, highly differentiated portfolio of crop and livestock activities and abundant assorted forestry activities areas that together provide both economic and recreational opportunities.

Extension and agricultural research must understand and respond to this high degree of diversity to help producers and communities strategically, responsibly, and resiliently align food and natural resource production systems. We also must work to ensure equitable access to these resources across all socioeconomic, demographic, and geographic aspects of the Northeast’s population.

Developing and delivering science-based solutions that meet the challenge will enable people in all Northeast communities to improve their health and well-being while securing environmental sustainability for future generations.

The Northeast Agenda gives special attention to:

  • Community Health/One Health.
  • Nutrition and physical activity.
  • Sustainable agriculture.
  • Biodiversity.
  • Food safety.
  • Recreation and tourism.

NEED supports three urban Extension projects; enhancing collaboration for communications, 4-H youth, and fighting food waste

The Association of Northeast Extension Directors (NEED) has awarded funding to three new interstate collaborative projects that support, advance, or promote Extension initiatives that directly target or build capacity for programs that reach urban audiences. Learn about the exciting projects below.

Any questions about these projects, or the other incredible work Extension is undertaking across the region, can be directed to NEED’s Executive Director Ali Mitchell at [email protected].

Northeast Extension Land Grant Brand Regional Voice (Urban)

Participating Land-grant Universities: Penn State University; Rutgers University; University of Massachusetts Amherst; University of Connecticut; West Virginia State University; Cornell University.

Extension has long been called the “best kept secret,” which reflects the limited visibility,
understanding, and recognition of resources available to residents. This project’s purpose is to create a campaign to enhance Extension’s visibility with an urban focus that is easily identifiable and translatable. We will create a communications toolkit that includes a set of guidelines for all users to follow, ensuring cohesive messaging. It will include suggested messages and stock images about Urban Extension programs available incorporating all departments.

The communications campaign will increase awareness and cohesiveness of messaging between
Extension offices and the target audience. With clear, eye-catching appeal, the marketing efforts will link
the Northeastern states together while allowing the user to connect with their local Extension programs.”

Multi-State Food Recovery Mini Summit: Learning, Sharing, Planning

Participating Land-grant Universities: University of Rhode Island; Rutgers University

This project focuses on fighting food loss and waste in the region. The Summit will allow the participating institutions (Rutgers, University of Rhode Island, possibly others) to share ideas, experience examples of successes in action, jointly develop pilot implementation plans for program replication/modification, plan for larger multi-state AFRI grant submission in 2024.

Northeast States Urban 4-H Teen Council (NESU 4-H TC)

Participating Land-grant Universities: University of Connecticut, University of Connecticut; University of the District of Columbia; University of Massachusetts Amherst; Rutgers; Cornell; West Virginia State University

This project will empower the first ever 4-H Teen Council by and for northeast youth from urban and/or underserved populations. This collaborative effort aims to empower the Teen Council members to make a positive impact in their communities and inspire others to get involved in the 4-H program.

Congratulations Jiff Martin, winner of the 2023 Northeast ECOP Excellence in Extension Award

The Association of Northeast Extension Directors (NEED) is proud to share that Jiff Martin, Sustainable Food Systems Extension Educator at the University of Connecticut (bio), has been awarded the 2023 Northeast Region Excellence in Extension Award by the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy.

Read more “Congratulations Jiff Martin, winner of the 2023 Northeast ECOP Excellence in Extension Award”

4-H Volunteers – Critical to the success of Northeast positive youth development programs

Members of the Northeast Region Volunteerism Group (NERV) conducted a research study this to assess the impact of 4-H youth development volunteer effort in the Northeast Region (as defined by Cooperative Extension). States that participated in this study include Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine.

The specific goals of this research included:

  • (To obtain data on 4-H volunteer impact on the following audiences:
    • 4-H youth participants
    • the community in which the volunteer serves
    • the organization for which the volunteer serves (local, extension and university)
    • the volunteer (individual)
  • (2) To obtain volunteer service information.

The overall purpose was to demonstrate the service and impact of adult volunteers on the 4-H program and inform stakeholders of said impact through reports, infographics and other materials that may be used to educate, recruit new volunteers or access financial support. (See survey flyer)

NEED is excited to share the results of the survey, produced by the NERV team!

Questions about NERV or the results of this survey may be directed to Allison Smith (University of Vermont) at [email protected].

UMaine, UVM earn $6.5M USDA grant for Youth Innovators Empowering Agriculture Across America (YEA) program

The University of Maine (UMaine) Extension will work with the University of Vermont (UVM) Extension to “increase the number of youth studying food and agriculture, increase the capacity of communities to promote food and agriculture, and increase the capacity of the Cooperative Extension System, through the 4-H youth development program, to better connect with youth and parents from immigrant, refugee and asylum-seeking communities.” The two states will work together to host a teen youth council that will help guide the work. UVM intends to work with AALV, an organization that helps new Americans in Vermont gain independence in new communities while also supporting Vermont’s migrant farmworker population.

Funding for this work is provided from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Learn about the USDA NIFA funding and other awarded programs at

Read a full press story on the work here:

Excerpted from the story:

The new program, called “Oh Yea! 4-H Grows True Leaders,” will provide experiential learning, practical knowledge and life skill development to hundreds of young Mainers over the next five years. The funding will increase involvement from traditionally underrepresented communities in the Maine food system. UMaine Extension 4-H will partner with community organizations such as Mano en Manoin Milbridge and the Somali Bantu Community Association in Lewiston.

The Maine True Leaders program is an innovative approach to nurturing future advocates of food production and healthy living in Maine. It focuses on migrant, immigrant and refugee families, promoting evidence-based indicators important for families learning to navigate a new country. The program’s key indicators include openness to challenge and discovery, hopeful purpose, positive emotions, resource maximization and cultural membership. The goal of the program is to prepare youth from underrepresented communities for careers in the Maine food system and help them understand the role of food in their daily lives. 

“This project is a meaningful example of Extension’s ongoing work to meet the state’s ever-changing needs,” said Hannah Carter, associate provost of online and continuing education and dean of UMaine Extension. “An important factor in solving our ongoing workforce challenges is to embrace and support the growing number of people who want to build a life here. At Extension, one way we can do that is through the lens of Maine’s food system, which plays an important role in a strong economy and thriving population.”

University of Maine Extension’s Kathy Savoie wins the 2023 NEED Exceptional Local Educator Award

Professor Kathleen (Kathy) Savoie has been awarded the Association of Northeast Extension Directors’ 2023 Exceptional Local Educator Award for her work “Building Agricultural Literacy through an Immersive Culinary Art Experience”.

Read more “University of Maine Extension’s Kathy Savoie wins the 2023 NEED Exceptional Local Educator Award”

2023 Multistate Urban Extension Award program is LIVE! Proposals due August 15, 2023

NEED is excited to announce available funding for exceptional multistate urban Extension projects. Proposals are due to NEED Executive Director, Ali Mitchell, over email as a single PDF by 5pm ET on August 15, 2023. EMAIL: [email protected]


The Association of Northeastern Extension Directors (NEED) announces an opportunity to obtain funds for interstate collaborations that support, advance or promote Extension initiatives that directly target or build capacity for programs that reach urban audiences. Proposals must involve participation by Extension personnel from a minimum of two states in the Northeast Region.

A range of activities can be supported including, but not limited to:

  • Training and Demonstration – Sharing successful approaches or models that will allow states to adopt, modify or expand extension programs for urban audiences.
  • Professional Development – Enhancing the capacity of staff to deliver programs to urban audiences.
  • Program Development – Creating/piloting new programs to reach urban audiences.
  • Communication and Connection – Enhancing communication, technology, or urban Extension networks.

Examples of allowable expenses include:

  • Travel and meeting costs.
  • Materials and supplies.
  • Contracts for service with external facilitators, consultants, or experts.

Note: All expenditures must be consistent with policies of the institution of the proposed leader and team members.

How much support is offered?

Applicants may apply for a maximum of $4,000 to be spent within one year of approval of the proposal.     

Required Contents of Submission

All proposals must be submitted as a single PDF and include the following:

  • Name/title of proposed initiative
  • Name, title, and contact information of proposal leader
  • List of additional team members (including name, title, and home institution)
  • Narrative (maximum of 4,000 characters, including spaces) that addresses:
    • Purpose of proposed activities.
    • Methods – how proposed activities will be designed, conducted, implemented, and delivered.
    • Goals – what will happen as a result of the proposed activities.
  • Budget with a timetable and a description for all expenditures.

Proposal Submission

Proposals must be submitted to Ali Mitchell, NEED Executive Director, at [email protected] no later than 5pm ET August 15, 2023. Proposals may be submitted by any group/team of northeast extension employees with endorsement from their Extension Directors.

Proposal Review and Criteria for Funding

A first round of proposal review will be conducted by a select committee of the NEED Chair, NEED Executive Director, and Northeast NUEL Network Chair. The Northeast Extension Directors (NEED) will then conduct a final evaluation and award funds based on the potential proposed projects have to effectively support, advance, promote or build capacity for Extension programs that reach urban audiences. Proposals that meet the following criteria will be prioritized:

  • Proposed goals and activities are clear and of high quality.
  • There is a commitment of additional funds or in-kind resources from Extension directors and/or administrators of participating states or external partners.
  • Team members have significant experience, expertise, or a record of achievement in the areas related to the proposed activities.
  • The proposal includes a plan that demonstrates, documents, or promotes ways the project will increase the impact of Extension programs delivered to urban audiences.


Within one year of receiving the award, recipients will submit a brief report (based on a template that will be provided) on how the funds were spent and on the degree of success in achieving identified goals. Recipients may be asked to present or share results through other venues as appropriate.


Contact: William Miller, NEED Chair

Email: [email protected]

NEED hosts successful Northeast Extension DEIJ Workshop

In June 2022, the Association of Northeast Extension Directors (NEED) set advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in Extension as its year-long regional priority. NEED’s goal was to ultimately increase Northeast Extension expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion; build regional capacity; provide individual professional development; cultivate culturally competent leaders; and improve community-based programs.

Read more “NEED hosts successful Northeast Extension DEIJ Workshop”

NEED develops joint 2023 Farm Bill priorities with Northeast Secretaries of Agriculture

The Association of Northeast Extension Directors (NEED) worked with the Northeast Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NEASDA), a subsection of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), to develop the following recommendations and considerations for the 2023 Farm Bill. These were created with the hope that the 2023 Farm Bill will strengthen the federal government’s commitment to food system viability and climate resilience, agricultural workforce development, and market access across farm size.

Read more “NEED develops joint 2023 Farm Bill priorities with Northeast Secretaries of Agriculture”