Responsive programming, listening, and research led K-State Research and Extension’s Rural Grocery Initiative (RGI) to discover an extensive need for more technical professionals able to assist rural grocery owners in business transition. Applying for and receiving a North Central Regional Rural Development (NCRCRD) small grant allowed RGI to quicken their response to this need because it supported the curriculum development of their new online microcredential program, Rural Grocery Transition Specialist.
In 2021, when an RGI survey revealed that many Kansas rural grocery owners were ready to retire but didn’t have transition plans in place for their business, RGI launched programming to support successful rural grocery business transitions. However, this new programming revealed an extensive need for more technical assistance from skilled professionals that were familiar with the specific complexities of rural grocery store ownership.
Once they understood the need, RGI moved quickly to develop the Rural Grocery Transition Specialist program. Curriculum development for the new course began in the fall of 2022 and was ready to pilot late-spring of 2023 to a select number of Extension Professionals in the North Central Region. By fall 2023, RGI launched the course and opened registration for its first offering of the 13-week, online course which begins January 2024.
To accomplish this schedule, RGI applied for and was awarded a small grant from NCRCRD. “Without this grant, we would have struggled to accomplish as much as we did in such a short period of time,” related Rial Carver, RGI Program Leader and principal investigator for the small grant.
According to Carver, the grant not only supported the project development costs but also allowed them to hire Project Lead, Carly Whorton, who moved project development forward while allowing the rest of the RGI team – Rial Carver, Hannah Jenkins, RGI Program Administrator, and Erica Blair, RGI Program Manager – to keep up with other RGI tasks.
The outcome is a course that will train extension professionals, economic developers, and other rural stakeholders in business transition planning fundamentals so that they may promote long‐term economic resilience in their communities. The course includes seven self-paced online modules covering key topics for supporting rural grocers through business transition. Each module consists of between five and ten video lessons led by subject matter experts from across the country. “Because the course material is location neutral, the certification is applicable to rural areas across the country, not just Kansas,” explained Whorton.
Upon completion students earn a microcredential through K-State Global Campus and become a Rural Grocery Specialist who can participate in RGI’s national Specialist Network. The national network provides a way for communities and/or grocery store owners to link to specialists in their area as well as for RGI to help the certified specialists keep up to date on new developments in the field.
To learn more about the Rural Grocery Transition Specialist program or to register for one of the three course sessions scheduled in 2024, visit https://www.ruralgrocery.org/specialist/.
About NCRCRD Grants
NCRCRD small grants are competitive, seed grants, that support the preliminary work necessary to develop extension programs, curricula, or the initial research for a larger project, as well as organizing regional conferences or presenting results of emerging rural issues. NOTE: The next deadline to submit a proposal is January 15, 2024. Read more at https://ncrcrd.ag.purdue.edu/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/NCRCRD-2023-Small-Grants-RFP.pdf
NCRCRD offers multiple types of grants each year to enhance the ability of the North Central region’s thirty-four land-grant institutions to contribute to the success of the NCR’s rural communities. In addition to Small Grants for Rural Development Research and/or Extension Projects, NCRCRD also offers the Collaboration and Implementation Grant, the NCR 1994 Land Grant Innovation Grant, funding for Thematic Working Groups, and year-long fellow opportunities. Learn more at https://ncrcrd.ag.purdue.edu/funding-opportunities/grants-and-fellowships/