Dr. Eric Jones has been awarded the ASPIRE-I grant for his research project, "The Archaeological Settlement Ecology of a Nineteenth Century Rural American Town". He's studying why Euro-American farmers settled in Fenner, Madison County, NY as well as their shift from subsistence to commercial farming during 1835-1875. Further, he's exploring the impact that this shift had on the social and economic life of the rural community. Originally, subsistence farming - when farmers grow enough food to feed their household - was the primary way of life in the mid-1800s. Then, there was a shift to commercial farming - when farmers intentionally produce surplus food to sell.
Dr. Jones's study aims to provide context for the current challenges that rural communities face. As he points out, the political focus in the media on rural communities is problematic because it tends not to explain historical social and economic factors that influence the current voting trends of those communities. In contrast, the research study will explore these factors by looking at social and economic challenges that caused the shift in farming as well as challenges that resulted from the shift.
Part of Dr. Jones's interest in this project comes from his background growing up on a family dairy farm in Fenner. His background adds an interesting dynamic to the community-based aspect of the study. As he notes in the project proposal, "I maintain connections to family and neighbors in the area, all of whom have been enthusiastic participants in the early stages of this work". Apart from knowing Dr. Jones personally, one reason they may be enthusiastic is because his work partially focuses on answering historical questions that the community members are asking about the town. In addition to the joy of uncovering the history of Fenner for residents, Dr. Jones also hopes his research results will provide insight to solutions to the present-day challenges that rural communities, like his hometown, face.