Rural Issues

Developing innovative strategies that enable communities to establish economic and social systems for prosperity and revitalization while conserving and enriching the surrounding ecosystem.

Specialty crops to boost rural economies

Developing new specialty crops like grapes is one way of growing and revitalizing rural areas of Alabama. Elina Coneva, an associate professor in Auburn University’s Department of Horticulture, dreams of making the grape a profitable specialty crop for Alabama farmers. The only thing stopping her and her team of Extension agents is the threat of Pierce’s Disease.

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Improving access to healthy food

It sounds like the storyline of a summer feel-good flick: A typical kid grows up in the suburbs of Detroit, finishes high school and enlists in the Navy. As a member of the hospital corps, she spends a few years serving critical-care patients in the nation’s top military hospital, where she develops a passion for human health and a keen understanding of the role diet plays in it. When she’s assigned to a duty station in the Spanish countryside, another passion emerges—this time, for rural places. Back in the U.S., after 13 years of military service and three academic degrees, the Detroit kid is on the faculty at an agricultural college in the Deep South.

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Ensuring the safety of locally produced foods

Animal sciences assistant professor Christy Bratcher and a multidisciplinary team of scientists from Auburn and Tuskegee universities are working on a multi-year, $4.8 million grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to help ensure the safety of locally produced foods. The project’s title—“A systems approach to identifying and filling gaps in and between knowledge and practice in production and distribution of local and regional foods for a more secure food supply chain”—may be a mouthful, but it’s the study in a nutshell.

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