2024 NACDEP Spring Newsletter


NACDEP Newsletter                                                                                    Spring Edition

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2024 NACDEP Spring Newsletter

From The Editor

Colleagues:Greetings and welcome to the spring 2024 issue of the NACDEP newsletter. As usual we have articles in here that cover a wide range of topics, Among the special treats in this issue are a close look at a community re-vitalization program called “Village Vistas,” by Gwynn Stewart. Anyone interested in community development will enjoy this article and the great photos that accompany it. In another article, former NACDEP President Michael Darger asks the question, “how ready are business owners for transition?”  His highly data driven study seeks to provide some answers.  We have links to his work in the article. 
There’s a call for conference buddies and conference mentors you should look at.  Plus there’s a really cool video announcement about the conference you really must see.  NACDEP is hip!

We also have a poll for you to take.  One thing I can say after being editor for 13 years is that many of the people in this organization really take reader input very seriously because they are always publishing polls to get the views of readers, as well as others.

Like those members, I also value your input.  I am not currently running a poll, but I encourage you to initiate communication with me about the newsletter if you wish.  No need to be shy.  My cell is 330-466-7877 and my email is [email protected].  I enjoy it when a member gets in touch with me about the newsletter.  There are a lot of dimensions to discuss, and yes I have made changes over the years on the basis of reader feedback.  I have also helped members get their submission drafts into condition to make the maximum contribution possible to the newsletter.  It is an important part of what I do.

Just a reminder – this is our last newsletter issue before the conference in Houston.  The summer issue comes out in July.  Meanwhile I hope you are enjoying the spring!


Thomas W. Blaine, PhD
Associate Professor
Ohio State University Extension
NACDEP Newsletter Editor



NACDEP 2024 Conference Essentials

We look forward to welcoming you to Houston! Here are some essential details you should know about the conference.


  • Early Bird Registration ends on Friday, May 10, 2024, 11:59 PM EST.
  • Stay updated with the latest information about the 2024 conference on our Website
  • Don't forget to register for one of our exciting mobile workshops
  • Hotel rooms are filling up fast; book your reservation soon: make reservation

Off-Site Parking

  • Hotel guest only: Self-parking at Avenida North Garage ($73.00 overnight). Visit Downtown Houston Parking & Transportation (avenidahouston.com) for details
  • Daily commuters (subject to change) – 0-1 hours = $14; 1-2 hours = $22; 2-4 hours =
  • $28.00; 4 or more hours = $38 (bill cycle starts daily over at 2 am)

Getting to the Conference (*Our conference hotel does not provide shuttle services)

NACDEP’s Annual Silent Auction - NACDEP's annual silent auction during the conference supports our endowment and future scholarships. We welcome your donations of small, packable items that can fit in carry-on luggage. Popular items often represent the host city, state, or your home state and include small games, crafts, jewelry, or books by local authors. Please consider contributing to this worthy cause.

Creating a Buzz Around #NACDEP2024 Conference

Share your excitement for the NACDEP 2024 Conference through short videos! Use the hashtag #NACDEP2024 in your captions. Whether you're a seasoned professional or a first-time attendee, let us know what you're looking forward to on June 17-20, 2024, in Houston!

Check this short video for inspiration:




Doolarie Singh-Knights (West Virginia University) and Fred Schumann
(University of Guam) at a NET 2023 mobile workshop.
Photo Credit: Lisa Chase, University of Vermont.

National Agritourism Survey

We are excited to announce that the 2024 National Agritourism Survey is now collecting responses, and you are invited to participate! All agricultural operations that welcome visitors – whether for on-farm direct sales, educational programs, entertainment, recreation, special events, and more – are invited to complete the survey.  So, if you have a farmstand or on-farm market store, offer pick-your-own/u-pick, have an Airbnb or VRBO, offer hiking on farm trails, or other on-farm experiences, your insights are crucial.

By participating in this survey, you'll help us pinpoint the types of support farmers like you require – whether it's business assistance, developing networks, applying grants, or navigating zoning and liability issues. Our goal is to help build the resources you need, improve your access to critical information and opportunities, and shape policy decisions that impact your industry.

This survey is part of a collaborative project led by Penn State with the University of Vermont, Oklahoma State University, the University of Maine, and other partners across the country.  Your participation contributes to the broader advancement of agritourism nationwide and can benefit your operation via improvements in the educational, grant, and policy landscape.

We recognize that your time is valuable, which is why the survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Your insights are invaluable to us, and we sincerely appreciate your willingness to participate.

To take part in the survey, please visit: National Agritourism Support System Survey | Qualtrics Survey |

If you have questions about the survey, please contact Claudia Schmidt from Penn State Extension at [email protected].

Submitted by Sarah Cornelisse Senior Extension Associate
Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education
Penn State University
Phone: 814.863.8645


Call for Conference Buddies and Conference Mentors

Submitted by Charissa Puryear
N.C. Cooperative Extension and Nicole Walker University of Florida Extension

We are issuing a call for Conference Buddies and Mentors to apply for the 2024 NACDEP Conference in Houston, TX. The Conference Buddy Program is designed to enhance the conference experience by pairing attendees with a designated "buddy" who serves as a supportive companion throughout the event. Whether you're a first-time attendee looking to navigate the conference landscape or a seasoned participant seeking to expand your network, the program offers an invaluable opportunity for meaningful connections and mutual support.

The “buddies” are conference first timers, NACDEP new members, or professionals who are new to community development and just want to connect with at least one other person in their field of expertise.  The “mentors” are experienced NACDEP members who have attended at least one conference in person. Mentors provide guidance, assistance, and camaraderie, helping attendees feel more at ease and engaged during sessions, networking events, and social gatherings. By fostering connections and fostering a sense of community, the NACDEP Conference Buddy Program enriches the conference experience and cultivates lasting relationships among participants.

To be a mentor, here are a few key items for success in the role:

  • Mentors should be willing to contact your match by phone, email, or Zoom in the week prior to the conference.

  • Plan to meet up at least twice during the conference. We suggest meeting during the First Timers Orientation on Monday. Additional times may be for meals or coffee based on your own conference schedules.

  • Fill out the application completely and especially consider what areas of expertise you are willing to share with others about-whether you are the mentor or the mentee! 

What the Conference Buddy Program is NOT:

  • A formal faculty or educator mentoring program
  • An obligation to stay in touch outside of the conference
  • A requirement for first-time attendees.

To apply to be a Mentor, scan the QR code below or click this link.


To apply to be a Buddy (1st timer or New(ish), scan the QR code below or click this link.


We look forward to seeing you in Houston!


Excellence in Extension Engagement Award

Submitted by Rebekka Dudensing
Texas A&M

The Joint Council of Extension Professionals (JCEP) is again hosting the national “Excellence in Extension Engagement Award”. The award is conducted by the Scholarly Activities committee and the application period opens in April in conjunction with the Public Issues Leadership Development conference. The winner will be an invited speaker at the Extension Leadership Conference in Savannah, Georgia in February 2025.

What is the Excellence in Extension Engagement Award?

This award recognizes high quality, evidence-based Extension work that has documented outstanding outcomes and impacts with clientele and strengthens the Extension profession. The selection committee considers individual or team applicants that documents an engagement program that is: local needs driven, grounded in scholarly practice, has adequate program evaluation, adoption beyond the initial audience, strengthens professionals within or across states, and shows innovation that brings something new to Extension professionals.

Full details and the application may be found at: www.jcep.org/awards . Note that applications are due May 31, 2024.

First place receives: $750 award, invited speaker at ELC, and ELC registration waived.

Honorable mention receives: $250 award and ELC registration waived.

Our 2024 Winner was Dr. Paul Hill, an Extension Professor & Program Director from Utah State University. His program was “The Remote Online Initiative” and a synopsis of his program can be viewed via the application link.


The Village Vistas - A Community Revitalization Effort in Rural Appalachia

By: Gwynn Stewart, MS, Assistant Professor, Community Development & Extension Educator
The Ohio State University

You hear it often is rural Appalachian communities, “someone should do something.” In the small villages of Noble County, Ohio, local conversations are happening to turn the “someone should” to “we will.”

One local Extension community development program was established to assist.

In 2023, the Village Vistas program was modeled after similar re-investment programs available in larger cities. The Village Vistas of Noble County Matching Grant Program provides funding to villages and businesses to enhance neighborhoods with high-quality, sustainable beautification projects visible from the public right-of-way. Reimbursement grant awards range from $500 - $5,000 with local match required from the applicant. The program reimburses with the grant amount awarded upon successful completion of the project and conformance with program standards, within one year of grant approval.

Noble County, Ohio, is designated “distressed” by the federal Appalachian Regional Commission. The community has been heavily impacted by the loss of coal and manufacturing jobs. It has high unemployment and poverty rates. To say there has been disinvestment over time is an understatement.

The downtowns of the various villages have not been proactively enhanced since the early 1990s. With funding from the CARES Act, Ohio State University Extension led downtown revitalization planning efforts for two villages. To provide stimulus for visible enhancements, the community development program developed Village Vistas. The Village Vistas program was developed following creation of two village downtown revitalization plans, but the whole county was eligible.

Extension partnered with local media, the Noble County Historical Society, Noble County Tourism Bureau/CVB, Mayors, Townships and the Noble County Chamber of Commerce to promote the program. Especially targeted for participation was the village of Caldwell, the County Seat. It also features a downtown historic district distinct enough to be on the National Register of Historic Places.

Seed funding of $30,000 was provided through Ohio State Extension Community Development program and was matched with $89,201 of additional applicant funding for a total investment of $120,351 in nine sites including a new brewery, a park, a school, a new veterans park in advance of the visit of the Vietnam Veterans Wall and several downtown businesses for painting and new signage. There were $12,000 more in requests than there was available funding in the initial program round.

The program was evaluated based on interest to participate as well as applicants’ willingness to provide matching funding for project work. When owners are willing to provide private or public funding against the Community Development funding, there is strength to support both the need and worth of the program. In addition, CD staff evaluated final projects before reimbursement. In addition, for the initial year, the funding was entirely earmarked for projects within one month of announcement. This also demonstrated both need and worth of the program.

In addition, anecdotal evidence of the program’s success is found in business owner’s statements such as, “There was just too much improvement needed to the façade of our building for us to tackle it alone – Fresh Start Floors owner,” or “Thank you, we couldn’t have done it without you” – Belle Valley Park nonprofit leaders. “We had planned on painting the front porch for three years but every time we had the money raised it had to be used for repairs on other Historical Society assets. Because we have a limited budget I feel without the vista grant we would have not been able to paint and fix the safety issues and have the museum ready for our 2024 anniversary celebration,” Jeff Minosky, Noble Historical Society.

“The upfront cost of this renovation would have made it impossible to do prior to the brewery opening, and I want to again send my sincere thanks for the opportunity to earn this grant money and help play a small part in the restoration and revitalization of the town we are so proud to be a part of - Flying Pig Brewing Company.”

Additional anecdotal comments from the public from social media related to the Caldwell Veterans tribute park are additional reinforcement of the program’s community value,

“What a beautiful tribute!!; Love this!

"Looks great; Love this !! Awesome job to all of you"

;Thanks to everyone for your work on this project; Great Job team! Caldwell is so blessed with people who care about each other and the importance of remembering and celebrating one another and this great country we are privileged to live in. 

; "We are very blessed. I do not want to live anywhere else.”

Social comments from citizens on the Belle Valley Park, “blood, sweat and tears went in that park I love how it has grown and how beautiful it is; Great Job everyone! Thanks to all!”

Due to its initial success, the program will be continued in 2024 through Ohio State University Extension Community Development program funding with local matching funds required. To learn more about Village Vistas, contact the OSU Extension office at 740-305-3177 or [email protected].

2023 Projects completed to date (applicants have a full year to complete and three small business projects are still in process toward completion):

New Caldwell Veterans Park

Caldwell Veterans Park Planning Group volunteers,
Mayor Misty Wells and Village Council members.

Caldwell High School Landscaping Enhancements

Noble Historical Society Jail Museum Entrance Gets a Facelift

Carl’s Shoes New Signage

Caldwell Business Façade – Before Vistas

Caldwell Business Façade – After Vistas

Belle Valley Park Enhancements - Before

Belle Valley Park Enhancements – After

Belle Valley project volunteers at work

The “coming soon” Flying Pig Brewery got a new garage door to allow 
for exterior seating in warmer weather.

The front of the brewery site “Before” Villages Vistas


DEI Committee Launches DEI in Conversations and Summer Book Reading 

Submitted by Lisa Hinz
University of Minnesota Extension

In response to member requests for more chances to learn and talk about equity, diversity, and inclusion in Extension, the DEI committee is pleased to announce its members are leading two new opportunities: DEI in CD conversations and a Summer Book Reading.

DEI in CD conversations are bi-monthly with the second one coming up on Friday, April 26. at 1 p.m. EDT, 12 pm CDT, 11 am MDT, and 10 am PDT.  These 30-45-minute gatherings are designed for members to drop in to join a conversation focused on a quote, short video, and/or question that's thought-provoking and engaging. It is hosted by Lisa Hinz (MN) and Amber Twitty (OH).

The summer book read will feature Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen, by Dan Heath. To be hosted by Holli Arp (MN) and Himar Hernandez (IA), details are being finalized for the multi-day conversations, likely over mid-day. 

All members are welcome!

Lisa Hinz, DEI committee co-lead along with Jose Valtierra and Amber Twitty  


How Ready are Business owners for Transition

Submitted by Michael Darger
University of Minnesota Extension

I’m looking forward to biking around Houston’s 3rd Ward during the mobile workshop on June 20th. Now, imagine if you are biking around your community in 10 years and some important businesses have disappeared? Change is happening all the time but what if you could influence it so that locally owned businesses continue to contribute to the fabric of local life? This is what we had in mind when we conducted the Minnesota Business Succession and Transition survey in 2023. Are owners preparing for their future transitions? What are their attitudes and aspirations? How do they intend to transfer leadership and ownership or are they going to shut down?

We found out a lot! They’re Minnesota businesses yet they are likely very similar to those in your state. And with people ranging from 33 to 90, it wasn’t just the “silver tsunami” folks who responded. Here’s a few tidbits for your edification:

  • Experts agree a written succession/transition plan is perhaps the leading indicator of an owner’s readiness. Our survey results (N=268), found owners felt that written succession and transition plans are important (43%) or somewhat important (38%). However, how many had worked on a written plan in the last three years? Only 19%.

  • There is interesting information for economic developers. When asked to rank the most important factors in their planning (1st, 2nd, 3rd), owners ranked two items at the top: maximizing my personal financial situation ranked at a 1.6 average with business financial success almost the same at a 1.7 ranking. However, when asked to rate the same list of factors, three items rated higher than owner wealth. On a 6-point scale, these were the highest rated factors: business financial success (mean 5.2), retaining good jobs (5.1), business longevity (5.0), and maximizing my personal financial situation (4.7).

  • Business retention and expansion especially important to rural areas and owners seem to understand this. Rural business owners (mean of 4.9) were statistically significantly more concerned with the importance of keeping the business in the community than suburban/ urban owners (mean of 4.3).

  • Owners were much more aware of six traditional transfer routes than three transfer routes for selling to their employees. What’s more, they’re more likely to liquidate the business, than consider selling to their employees.

There is a ton more, but this is a newsletter. We intend these data to inform community economic developers and business advisors on how to encourage owners to transfer their businesses to others. And part of that is making plans for their own future post business. I’ll be presenting these results in Houston but please check them out yourself at https://sites.google.com/umn.edu/businesssuccessiontransition/home and contact me to discuss or share your ideas. We have descriptive statistics, articles, dashboards, the raw data, and more for you to delve into. Here you go: https://mn.gov/deed/newscenter/publications/trends/march-2024/transition.jsp


New Publication From National Extension Tourism Network Highlights Opportunities for Extension In Outdoor Recreation Economies

Submitted by National Extension Tourism (NET) Outdoor Recreation Working Group

Outdoor Recreation is a growing sector of the U.S. economy and building the recreation economy in the U.S. has been identified as one of the USDA's top priorities[1]. Recreation economies are intertwined with multiple community domains, and therefore pose an opportunity for the Cooperative Extension System, which is uniquely positioned to assist communities with managing and leveraging their outdoor recreation assets to achieve multiple goals. 

A new fact sheet published by the National Extension Tourism Network (NET) explores these opportunities and makes the case for greater investments to help communities manage the challenges and opportunities that outdoor recreation presents.

The factsheet is available on the NET website and was developed by members of the NET Outdoor Recreation Working Group, including  Xinyi Qian, University of Minnesota Tourism Center; Ann Savage, North Carolina State University; Gwynn Stewart, The Ohio State University Extension; Aaron Wilcher, University of California Cooperative Extension; and, Kristen Devlin, Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. It draws on an earlier version written by Doug Arbogast, West Virginia University, and Jake Powell, Utah State University.


The UC Cooperative Extension's Community Development Lab Steps Up To Serve California Communities

By Alec Dompka
University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE)

UC Cooperative Extension advisors and faculty academics have formed a new team to address the triple bottom line (people, profit, planet) goals of UCCE: the Community Economic Development Lab (CEDLab). With this new team we hope to expand UCCE’s work in economic development, increase the understanding of how our work in other fields affects economic development and broaden the scope of community and economic development to more fully encompass what makes a healthy thriving community. Our team is made of staff, advisors and statewide faculty specialists from a broad range of disciplines, such as food systems, farm labor, business development, and agritourism. 

The CEDLab formation is the result of a transformational state budget increase, propelling years of community economic development capacity building. Consequently, UCCE has been able to rapidly expand our personnel of statewide and county based experts in economic development. CEDLab members have enthusiastically driven this new programming forward showing that inside and outside of UCCE there is a desire for innovative community and economic development thinking. From the early aughts, we have found advisors eager to connect about their work and find places for partnerships.  With appointments from some of the most rural areas of California to its urban centers, the CEDLab intends to make UCCE even more relevant and helpful to the changing needs of Californians and contribute to our peers in the national Extension systems. As a new formation we welcome input and guidance from Extensions peers with similar programs.

Much like extension as a whole, the CEDLab draws its strength from the variety of subject area’s its members represent. With this broad subject area base CEDLab will work with academics across the UCCE system to better understand and document how projects are serving community economic development. CEDLab is taking a modern community economic development approach to community prosperity as the links between community control, resident well being and economic success become apparent. So far team members have collaborated on projects using innovative methods such as the Community Capitals Framework and assets based economic analysis and will continue to demonstrate the link between a thriving community and a thriving economy. 

Want to reach out to CED Lab members to learn more? Talk to Cristina Murillo Barrick or Alec Dompka in Houston or reach out to Alec over email ([email protected]