My research is stakeholder driven. I form research questions by analyzing stakeholder reports, reading popular press articles, and talking with actors across the supply chain. Spending my graduate studies at two land grant institutions has ingrained in me a desire to untangle complex problems across the agri-food value chain and share what I learn with those that can benefit most from the information.
I was first introduced to Michigan State University Extension through the hop industry, where I gave a presentation on current craft beer trends at the Great Lakes Hop & Barley Conference. More than three years later, I continue to work with the hop industry, focusing on the viability of localized hop markets. Most notably, in a survey to Michigan breweries, we sought to identify the factors that constrain the development of local hop markets. Once identified, we then explored opportunities for value-added marketing to identify avenues for hop farmers to build long-term relationships with local breweries. One opportunity was through marketing terroir. In a trans-disciplinary project combining chemical analyses, blind taste tests, and an economic experiment, we studied the extent of hop terroir. To date, I have had the opportunity to disseminate our findings across a variety of Extension platforms, including:
- Pennsylvania State University Extension Craft Beverage Research Network Webinar Series
- The American Hop Convention Annual Meeting
- The Master Brewers Association of the Americas Annual Conference
- The Master Brewers Podcast
- The Michigan Agricultural Credit Conference
- The Michigan Great Beer State Conference & Trade Show
- American Society of Brewing Chemists Brewing Summit (forthcoming)
Outside of the work in the beer industry, I have also written for the Michigan Christmas Tree Association, engaged in research projects on horticulture retail marketing, and have ongoing work with U.S. egg producers. There is a natural linkage between my research interests and the Extension mission, and with my long-term research goals, the natural linkage will only strengthen.
With work on food and beverage supply systems, consumer choice, and food policy, my research is of relevance to industry groups, policymakers, and the general public. During my graduate studies, I have had ample opportunities to engage with stakeholder groups, write for different target audiences, and engage with the news media.
After publishing a paper on sustainable beer, I had conversations with different industry groups and brewers about what the topic means and how they could best market the practice. My engagement with various beer industry groups, including the Brewers Association, the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, and the American Brewing Society of Chemists, has led to project collaborations, industry conference presentations, and engagement with beer writers.
More recently, I have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Vincenzina Caputo on a project assessing the conversion to cage-free egg production in the United States. The objectives of the project span the entire supply chain, including qualitative interviews with producers and quantitative surveys with consumers, retailers, and producers. The project remains ongoing, but primary outputs will include industry reports for the Food Industry Association and United Egg Producers.
Understanding that different audiences require different communication tools is crucial to developing a successful outreach agenda. Throughout graduate school, I have shared information through different mediums, which has allowed me to practice this skill. Outside of traditional academic journals, I have written for Choices as well as a beer industry peer-reviewed journal, Technical Quarterly. Whereas a traditional academic publication will be highly technical and dense, Choices removes jargon, presents academic research in broad strokes, and emphasizes the policy implications of the study in an easily digestible format. Industry journals, on the other hand, can be technical in a different way. The academic jargon is replaced with industry-centric jargon. My outreach also includes a summary of climate change in the U.S. beer industry for 360info as well as an op-ed on supply chain disruptions, regulatory restrictions, and resiliency. Each piece requires a different writing style, and it all revolves around knowing who the target audience is.
Lastly, I enjoy engaging with the news media. Whether through interviews with journalists to help with a story, interactions on Twitter, or podcast appearances on a selected topic or theme, I find this portion of the job experience rewarding. As with any type of engagement, it is important to know that there are risks to public outreach and exercise caution when needed.
Disseminating my research to various audiences and engaging with stakeholders has been and will remain a focal point of my research agenda. An introduction to industry collaborations, exposure to different writing styles, and engagement with the news media have allowed me to develop my outreach skills, and I feel well-prepared to scale up my efforts to develop a national platform.
During my time as a graduate student, I have served as the Chair of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) Graduate Student Section (GSS). The GSS is a division of AAEA that is run by graduate students, for graduate students. General responsibilities of the role include the planning of the annual track sessions and graduate student competitions. During my tenure, I was also part of initiatives to:
- Increase graduate student representation in the association
- Raise awareness of inequalities
- Develop platforms for graduate students to share research
- Establish a policy-based competition
In 2021, Carlos Fontanilla-Diaz and I led an initiative to create new leadership roles for graduate students in AAEA. The proposal encouraged other AAEA sections to incorporate a graduate student representative onto their leadership team. These students serve as a liaison between the GSS and the section they are representing. We received broad support for the proposal, and to date, ten sections have a graduate student representative.
To raise awareness of inequalities in the profession, we have partnered with the Committee on the Opportunities and Status of Blacks in Agricultural Economics (COSBAE) and the Committee for Women in Agricultural Economics (CWAE) on track session presentations at the AAEA Annual Meeting. These sessions have addressed DEI and mental health. Panelists from historically underrepresented and marginalized populations have discussed overcoming institutional barriers and channeling energy to make a positive impact in the community. We hope that these discussions encourage change as the graduate students attending these sessions form relationships with one another, grow into faculty members, and gain an active voice in the profession.
Throughout the 2021-2022 academic year, Megan Hughes and I spearheaded the foundation of the Graduate Student Webinar Series, giving graduate students a platform to share their research, receive feedback from peers, and gain experience presenting to a (virtual) audience. Over ten webinars, we heard from more than 20 graduate student speakers representing universities across the globe.
Lastly, given the policy implications of applied economics work, I was part of a team that co-founded the Graduate Student Policy Communications Competition. In brief, the competition provides students with an opportunity to gain experience in written and verbal policy communication as well as feedback that they can use as output for their future job market applications. The inaugural competition was held in 2021. Searching to improve the participant experience and solidify the longevity of the competition, I also led initiatives to bring in the Council on Food, Agricultural, & Resource Economics (C-FARE) as a co-sponsor and secure long-term funding for the competition from the AAEA Trust.