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Research Team

The research team is a collaboration between researchers at Colorado State University, Ohio State University, and U. S. Department of Agriculture – Agriculture and Marketing Service.

USDA NIFA Grant Award # 2021-68006-34029​

The Lead Research TeamInstitutionContact Information
Jablonski, Becca B.R. (PD)Colorado State
Carolan, Michael (Co-PD)Colorado State
Plakias, Zoë (Co-PD)Western Washington University​​
Ashley Chaifetz (Co-PD)USDA
Kashyap, Pratyoosh (Project Manager)Colorado State
Hale, James (Research Scientist)Colorado State​
Xu, Lei (Graduate Student)The Ohio State
Spalding, Ashley (Agricultural Economist)USDA
O’Hara, Jeffrey (Agricultural Economist)USDA​

Lead Research Team

Becca Jablonski

Colorado State University

Associate Professor and Food Systems Extension Economist

Becca Jablonski is an Associate Professor and Food Systems Extension Economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at Colorado State University (CSU). Dr. Jablonski’s research and extension program is comprised of two primary components: 1) evaluating the farm and ranch profitability impacts of sales through non-commodity markets (e.g., local food markets, farm to school programs); and, 2) assessing the community economic impacts of food system policies, investments, and programs, including strategies focused on strengthening rural-urban linkages. As part of her position she co-leads CSU’s Food Systems Initiative and the CSU Food Systems Extension team. Dr. Jablonski holds a PhD from Cornell University. 

Michael Carolan

Colorado State University

Professor of Sociology and Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development

I am currently advising numerous federal and state entities, at the national and international levels, on topics related to the so-called rural-urban divide.  I am also Co-PI on two projects–one in Canada and another in Norway–looking at the impact on digital farming platforms on rural and farm/ranch livelihoods.  

Zoë Plakias

Western Washington University

Assistant Professor, College of Business & Economics

Zoë is an agricultural and food systems economist. She uses microeconomic theory and econometric methods to study: (1) the motivations of stakeholders and welfare implications in domestic supply chains aim to produce and distribute food in ways that are more fair, healthy or environmentally sustainable than conventional supply chains; (2) the role of market power in the agricultural supply chain in the context of farm organizations and farmer collective action; and (3) the interactions of farmers and food system stakeholders in farm organizations, cooperatives and social networks both within and outside markets, and their relationships to market outcomes. She also teaches undergraduate courses in Ohio State’s Agribusiness and Applied Economics (AAE) and Environment, Economy, Development, Sustainability (EEDS) majors, and conducts outreach to agricultural and food system stakeholders in Ohio and nationally. 

James Hale

Colorado State University

Research Scientist

James is a sociologist with expertise in food systems, sustainability, governance, and community development. He is currently working on 1) understanding the impacts of incentives and other community resources on farm-to-school procurement decision-making, 2) integrating the social dimensions of food systems into agent-based modelling, 3) using Social Network Analysis to study the impacts of regional food system engagement efforts, and 4) improving how social and cultural capitals are used in community development research and evaluation.  

Pratyoosh Kashyap

Colorado State University

PhD Candidate 

Pratyoosh Kashyap doing his PhD in Agricultural Economics and has a Master’s in Development Economics. He is currently working on understanding the socio-economic impacts of state incentives in the Farm to School Program, and issues in food safety in the US. He has previously worked on projects of agricultural extension in the US, and livestock value chains, livelihood development, and agricultural extension in India.  

Ashley Chaifetz

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service

Agricultural Marketing Specialist

Ashley Chaifetz designs and leads interdisciplinary multi-year research at the USDA focused on local and regional food systems, concentrating on direct-to-consumer marketing channels, farm to school, food safety, and, generally, the goods available to and demanded by diverse communities.

Lei Xu

The Ohio State University

PhD Student

Lei Xu is a Ph.D. Student in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics at The Ohio State University. Lei is currently doing research exploring the effects of SNAP benefits on food security in Appalachian Ohio. She is also working to understand the effects of Farm to School procurement subsidies on local produce prices by using apple markets. Lei has an extension project moving on with her advisor, to explore the potential impacts of local food reimbursement policies for Ohio. 

Jeffrey O’Hara

USDA Office of the Chief Economist

Senior Agricultural Economist

Jeff O’Hara is a Senior Agricultural Economist in the Office of Energy and Environmental Policy.  Prior to joining USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist in 2021, Jeff was an economist at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (2015-2021), the Union of Concerned Scientists (2010-2015), and the Chicago Climate Exchange (2007-2010).  Jeff received a PhD in economics from University of California, San Diego (2007) and BS in economics from The George Washington University (2000).

Ashley Spalding

USDA Economic Research Service

Research Agricultural Economist

Ashley earned her PhD in agricultural and Resource Economics from UC Davis in 2021. Her graduate research focused on the effect of information on consumer and producer behavior. This included information about both credence attributes—specifically transitional organic and local production—and food-safety incidents. She subsequently joined ERS, where she works on local and regional food systems.  

Advisory Team



Amy R Gilroy 

Oregon Department of Agriculture 

Becca Boone 

Colorado Department of Education 

Cheryl Bilinski 

Cornell University 

Colleen Matts 

Michigan State University 

Erica Goodman 

American Farmland Trust 

Erin Opgenorth 

Colorado Department of Education 

Jessica Wright 

Nourish Colorado 

Karen Spangler 

National Farm to School Network 

Lauren Gwin 

Oregon State University 

McKenna Pullen 

Colorado Department of Education 

Melina Barker 

Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network 

Michelle Markesteyn 

Oregon State University 

Mikaela Ruiz-Ramon 

American Farmland Trust 

Rick Sherman 

Oregon Department of Education 

Stephanie Hsu 

American Farmland Trust 

Tricia Kovacs 


Wendy Peters Moschetti 

Nourish Colorado 

Research Team

USDA NIFA Grant Award # 2017-67023-26246 ​

  • Alessandro Bonanno: Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University, studies consumers food demand, food manufacturers and retailers strategies, food systems, food policy, and how they relate to “health” outcomes (fruits and vegetables consumption, obesity, etc.).
  • Becca Jablonski: Assistant Professor and Food Systems Extension Economist, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University, focuses on evaluating rural economic development initiatives and policies, with an emphasis on identifying strategies to improve agribusiness performance and enhance regional food systems.
  • Dawn Thilmany McFadden: Professor and Agribusiness Extension Economist, Colorado State University, specializes in analyzing markets, consumer behavior and economic development related to local, organic and other value-added food market segments. She has led national projects and organizations focused on expanding the community of practice doing research and outreach on new food marketing channel and supply chain alternatives.
  • Marco Costanigro: Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University, is an expert in econometric methods who studies food policy, with emphasis on consumer behavior, food labeling, and the economics of information in food markets.
  • Melissa Pflugh Prescott: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University, focuses on school nutrition and wellness program research, with an emphasis on food waste reduction, food systems education and wellness policies.
  • Allie Bauman: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University, focuses on regional issues in food and agriculture, community economic development, modeling of spatial markets and the role of water and agriculture in an environment of scarcity.
  • Becky Cleary: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University, studies local and regional food systems, with a focus on food policy relating to issues of food access and healthy diets.
  • Dr. Nicole Garneau: is a taste scientist and keynote speaker who brings flavor science to the table. Her formal training in genetics and microbiology led her to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science where she serves as the Curator of Human Health and directs the Genetics of Taste Lab ( In addition to her day job, she is the founder of three companies related to her work studying taste and her interest in food and beverage science. In this capacity, Dr. Garneau serves as keynote speaker and consultant to breweries, wineries, distilleries, food companies, and restaurants, in addition to her scholarly work.
  • Sachintha Mendis: Research Assistant, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University, studies food systems and food policy with an emphasis on consumer behavior, food demand, and consumer health outcomes.
  • Abby Long: Research Assistant, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University, studies regional food systems with an emphasis on determining how food policy impacts mid-size farm viability and rural community well-being.
  • Camila Monroe: works with genetics of taste research at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. She holds degrees in Communication and Chemistry, and is currently pursuing a Chemical and Biological Engineering degree at Colorado State University. Camila is a native of Brazil, but a Coloradan at heart.
  • Siwen Zhou: Research Assistant, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University, studies rural economic development with a focus on analyzing markets, consumer behavior and food policy with a focus on health outcomes.

Advisory Committee:

  • Brian Roe: Van Buren Professor, Dept. Of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics, The Ohio State University
  • Wendy Peters Moschetti: Director of Food Systems, LiveWell Colorado; Colorado Core Partner, National Farm to School Network
  • Kim Niewolny: Associate Professor Community Education and Development, Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education, VirginiaTech
  • Katherine Ralston Senior Agricultural Economist, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service