Increasing Efficiency and Decision-Making Capability of Small, Socially Disadvantaged, and Minority Farmers

Progress report for ONE21-394

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2021: $29,957.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2023
Grant Recipient: University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Dr. Lila Karki, PhD
University of Maryland Eastern Shore
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Project Information

Project Objectives:

This project seeks to achieve the following objectives:

  1. To strengthen farmers’ technical and economic efficiency: The project will investigate the factors inhibiting small, socially disadvantaged, and minority (SSDM) farmers from allocating resource efficiently and making informed decisions. Through the interventions, the farmers’ capacity will be strengthened to maintain farm data digitally, analyze and interpret the results, and compare their farm performance with a frontier level of production. Moreover, the findings will guide them to develop a farm business plan that will help SSDM minimize factors causing inefficiency through hands-on training, an interactive online learning platform, and farm data recording and analysis. 
  2. To study the scope and market potentials of specialty crops: The project explores a course of action on how SSDM farmers can increase their household income from agriculture. Most SSDM farmers are devoid of enough knowledge of high risk-bearing and decision-making capacity to afford and scale up to mechanized farming. Hence, this project will conduct market surveys of specialty crops (fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants) in various counties of Maryland. The findings will furnish SSDM farmers with market price information, local demand, supply potentials, and niche markets to develop a marketing plan for specialty crops and their linkage with the potential markets. 
Introduction:

Small, socially disadvantaged, and minority (SSDM) farmers across Maryland have been at the crossroads of survival in their agricultural profession. The SSDM farmers have been daunted due to ever-increasing challenges while striving to make their living from the farm, a source of sustainable household income. Despite the significance of small-scale farms, the evidence suggests that they are declining in number. On the one hand, a significant portion of small-scale producers have been abandoning farms they have inherited and farms they owned. On the other hand, the next generation seems to be reluctant to jump into the agricultural profession. According to GICA (2011), the trend of abandoning farms in Maryland has been increasing for 40 years. Gardner (2002) revealed that the average Maryland farm operator is 54-years-old, –showing that new replacement farmers are needed to prevent the declining farming trend. With a decreasing agricultural land base, –farmland has become more expensive than before for those younger farmers aspiring to get into agriculture. The loss of farmland also dries up markets established to sell commodities to other farmers in the area. Therefore, local farm employment no longer exists. The economic sustainability of the SSDM farmers, who work hard to supply fresh produce to our kitchen tables, is in a vulnerable situation. The GICA (2011) stated that due to brokers’ influence, high transaction costs, and lack of direct access to market outlets, the farmers’ share of the retail food dollar has decreased, with farmers receiving only about $0.20 out of each food dollar spent by consumers. The willingness of the SSDM farmers to be successful in agriculture is greatly challenged by the lack of demand-driven knowledge and skills, no easy access to hands-on and experiential learning opportunities, lack of market information and market access, and lack of continuous outreach and education. Dill et al. (2012) mentioned that marketing and financing were among the high-ranking issues reported by beginning farmers in Maryland.

 Considering the problems stated above, this project seeks to perform the following activities: i) needs assessment, ii) hands-on training on the basics of production economics and farm management, iii) farm data recording and analysis, iv) specialty crop market surveys, v) production of educational materials, and vi) the development of a farm business plan.

The proposed activities directly support sustainable agriculture aspects to improve the productivity of specialty crops; reduce production costs; increase net farm income; enhance employment opportunities in rural communities; and enhance the quality of life for farmers, and the farm community.

It is expected that the knowledge, aspirations, skills, and attitudes of the SSDM farmers, participating individuals in the community, farmer groups/organizations, and community people will be strengthened. The increased knowledge will lead them to maintain and analyze farm records, make informed decisions, and prepare and execute data-driven production and marketing plans. Consequently, the target clientele will be able to increase their farm household income as a direct impact, and local employment and the well-being of the community as an indirect impact. 

Cooperators

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Research

Materials and methods:

The project plans to apply the following materials and methods to achieve the stated objectives. 

Objective 1: The following six activities will be carried out:

i) Selection of specialty crop SSDM farmers: Fifteen cooperating farmers will be recruited as working farmers (13 have already shared their commitment letters) in the project. The project will recruit two more farmers later to work in the project, as a few farmers attached to the community gardens have already shown their interest in participating.

ii) Conducting a need assessment: A brief situation analysis/needs assessment of the recruited farmers will be done to prepare a need hierarchy using the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) tool and SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound) technique. Simultaneously, in-person interaction will be adopted while assessing the needs of SSDM farmers as recommended by Dill et al. (2012).

iii) Providing support services: Support for a few production inputs (specialty crop seeds/seedlings, insect screen mesh, scale, fees for renting 3 acres of land as applicable; an acre each for 3 farmers based on the need to expand their specialty crop production) will be provided to cooperating farmers as a token for initiating/encouraging/promoting small-scale specialty crop farming. This kind of incentive will encourage them to let the farm use as a demonstration site in the community, a fresh supplier to the homes, a way of adopting healthy food habits, a means of creating spillover effect over to the adjacent community, and an initiative of developing a saving habit in the long run through fresh production from own garden and farm.

iv) Organizing hands-on training: Transferring technical and managerial knowledge by conducting hands-on trainings/workshops and personal counseling to fill the gap of knowledge and skills. Through this event, their knowledge and skills about the basics of production economics and farm management will be strengthened in the least cost production approach, farm planning and budgeting, farm revenue maximization, agricultural risk mitigation, farm data recording and analysis, and business planning and entrepreneurship development.

v) Introducing farm data recording and analysis: Input-output analysis is another essential component, next to hands-on training, to running a farm business successfully. One of the aspects lacking in SSDM farming has been data recording and analysis. Without having proper farm data, it is difficult to be successful at farming. Practically, farming is a business that often passes from generation to generation. To enable cooperating farmers to make informed decisions, they will be provided with tablets to execute a data recording and analysis activity as a pre-requisite to farm business planning. A digital data recording link will be provided to monitor the activity regularly while using an automated basic analysis (gross and net margin, factor productivity, sensitivity, and break-even) to mirror the situation of their farm activity.

vi) Preparing a data-based farm business plan: Cooperating farmers will be encouraged and supported in developing their short- medium- and long-term farm business plan using the analyzed results. Farmers will be able to predict their farm revenue by applying different scenarios, a supply function in the foreseeable future, and adjusting the plan accordingly. 

The project will apply purposive sampling in order to select at least two more specialty farmers who were not able to submit a letter of commitment. Once we have 15 cooperating farmers, the project will group them according to their specialty crop commodity and work accordingly. A farm tour/visit will be organized to give them exposure to a model farm/agri-business/specialty farm to pursue the scope and opportunities for developing and operating a specialty crop farm sustainably. Since the project will work with a limited number of specialty crop farmers, community gardens, and/or other types of small production systems, it will apply a case study approach to measure the outcomes of the interventions based on the commodity (fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants). A before versus after evaluation approach will be used to measure the impact of the Objective 1 interventions on cooperating farmers participating in the project. A pre- and post-training Likert scale survey instrument will be used to assess the change in knowledge, aspiration, skill, and attitude of the participants as a result of hands-on training, a farm visit, and personal counseling. The findings of the project will be prepared and presented both in quantitative and qualitative formats. 

Objective 2: The following six activities will be implemented under this objective.

i) Identification of specialty crop counties: Using the USDA specialty crops classification, counties will be identified based on the intensity of specialty crops grown (fruits, vegetables, and medicinal/herbal plants). The area under cultivation and types of specialty crops will be the two major criteria for identifying the counties.

ii) Identifying specialty crop markets: Markets will be identified across the state irrespective of their volume of transactions and the nature of the operation (full-time, part-time, and seasonal) as the project intends to explore the scope and opportunity of such markets in the counties. Such markets could possibly be niche, farmers, fresh, contract, cooperatives, mobile, ethnic, direct, school feeding, and others (grocers/retailers).

iii) Develop a market survey: A semi-structured questionnaire with open- and close-ended questions will be designed and tested before introducing it to the specialty markets. The questions will be about price, volume of sales/demand, the supply situation, margin (possibly the experience), supply sources, most sold specialty crops (fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants), and their prospects from the marketers’ perspective.

iv) Conduct market surveys: The survey will be introduced to specialty crop markets selected randomly in various counties in Maryland. However, the number of responding markets will depend on the number of identified specialty markets (N) and the markets willing to participate (n) to fill out the survey. Zealously, the project will survey as many markets as possible to infer representative conclusions.

v) Analyze market information and compare with available secondary information: The data collected from market surveys will be analyzed applying the most suitable statistical tools (descriptive statistics), correlation (intra and inter-market price relationship), and t-or chi-square tests (comparing the means of market price and secondary data). In addition, the project will apply inferential statistics to investigate the factors influencing such markets to exist, operate, and be sustained in the local community.

vi) Application of market information: The most immediate use of analyzed market information is to enable the cooperating farmers to develop a strategic marketing plan based on their farm production plan. The market study will help them review the production plan (stated in Objective 1) and revise and adjust the production plan using the available price information of specialty crops in various markets following the SMART technique. Thus, cooperating farmers as producers and suppliers will be able to predict the foreseeable future of selected specialty crops, marketing scenarios, and cash flows.

Based on analyzed market information (Objective 2) and the analyzed farm data (Objective 1), the project will organize a workshop focusing on the economic potential of specialty crops to delineate the scope, opportunities, and prospects. The cooperating farmers will work as resource personnel of the study at the workshop/training. Thus, the project will give cooperating farmers an insight into farm business planning, marketing strategies, personnel management, and passing the profitable farm operation to the next generation.

Participants at the Project Orientation, Farmers' Needs Assessment, and Project Planning Workshop in Parkville, MD on 02/11/2022
Research results and discussion:

 Please refer to the attached file below for the relevant Tables, Pictures, Figures, and Footnotes.

neSARE_GRANT_Annual_Report_2022-Final

Project description:

The goal of this project is to enhance the technical and economic efficiency of small, socially disadvantaged, and minority (SSDM) farmers through learning of making informed decisions, developing a farm business plan, adopting economically sustainable practices, and optimizing farm revenue. 

1. Project goal           

The goal of this project is to enhance the technical and economic efficiency of small, socially disadvantaged, and minority (SSDM) farmers through learning how to make informed decisions, develop an evidence-based farm business plan, and adopt economically sustainable practices to optimize farm revenue. 

2. Background

Smallholder, socially disadvantaged, and minority (SSDM) farmers across the U.S. have been at the crossroads of survival in their agricultural profession, and those of Maryland are no exception. The SSDM farmers have been daunted by ever-increasing challenges as they strive to make a living from farming - a sustainable source of household income. Despite the importance of small-scale farms in the U.S., evidence suggests they are declining in number. A significant portion of small-scale producers have been abandoning farms they have inherited or owned, or both. According to GICA (2011), the trend of abandoning inherited and owned farms has been increasing over the past 40 years. Moreover, the farms are owned and managed by elderly farmers. The 2017 Census of Agriculture (NASS, 2022) shows that the average age of the principal operator of farm in the U.S. is 57.5 years. In Maryland, farms are also largely managed by elderly people (2012 USDA Ag Census cited by umd.edu, 2021), with the principal farm operator averaging 57 years of age. The next generation (iGeneration or Generation Z) seems to be reluctant to jump into agricultural professions due to a lack of competitive or lucrative returns. Moreover, farmland has become increasingly expensive for potential younger farmers wishing to enter the agricultural field or expand their operations. Thus, the economic sustainability of SSDM farmers, who work hard to bring fresh produce to the kitchen tables, is in a vulnerable situation.

In a chain effect, the loss of small farms, and thus the farm-land, dries up markets for the sale of commodities, which adversely affects local employment. According to the GICA (2011), farmers’ share of the retail food dollar has been steadily decreasing due to influence of the brokers, high transaction costs, and a lack of direct access to market outlets. Farmers received only about $0.20 of each food dollar spent by consumers compared to $0.41 in 1950 and $0.31 in 1980. The willingness of the SSDM farmers to contend in agriculture is greatly challenged by deficiencies in demand-driven knowledge and skills, access to hands-on and experiential learning opportunities, market information (product pricing, supply, and demand), market access, and a lack of continuous outreach and education. A needs assessment survey of beginning farmers in Maryland conducted by the University of Maryland Extension in 2012, revealed that access to land, marketing and financing were the high-ranking issues reported by the beginning farmers (Dill et al., 2012). This evidence alone may not reflect the reality and the needs of SSDM farmers in the present context, as there is a limited availability of such documentation on these farmers.

Considering the challenges and problems stated above, this study proposed to conduct the following evidence-based approaches to support and enhance the technical and economic efficiency of small, socially disadvantaged, and minority (SSDM) farmers of Maryland to optimize their farm revenues:

i) Needs assessment to reveal the hierarchy of needs,

ii) Hands-on training on basics of farm economics and management,

iii) Farm data recording and analysis,

iv) Data-driven production plan,

v) Specialty crop market survey,

vi) Market survey analysis and comparison with secondary sources,

vii) Develop a marketing plan,

viii)  Support services to the selected specialty crops farms, and

ix) Establish connections between producers and consumers.

3. Methodological approach

The project team at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), with financial support from the Northeast SARE, conducted an exploratory case study to investigate the situation and scope of urban agriculture. The research team, in collaboration with other UMES researchers and local farmers, identified 14 SSDM farmers from five counties of Maryland: Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore, Somerset, and Wicomico. These farmers were engaged in urban agriculture, community gardening, and herbal farming. A project initiation meeting was held in Baltimore (Picture 1), at which a semi-structured baseline survey was administered for the purpose of problem identification and needs analysis, as well as to collect farmers’ background information, farming experiences, size and scale of farming, and reasons for farming. The instrument consisted of a five-point Likert scale, open- and close-ended, multiple-choice questions, and demographic information. In addition, the researchers conducted an in-person interactive workshop, an online survey, email and telephone communications, and farm-field visits. Findings from the baseline survey were used by the researchers to provide support services, as well as conduct farm management, data recording, crop diversity, rainwater harvesting, compost making, and marketing initiatives to enhance participant farmers’ capacities to sustain farming.

In October 2022, a specialty crop diversity survey and a market survey were implemented in October 2022 to study the crops grown in the farmers’ fields and the availability of specialty crops and their prices in the local market. At the end of the project, a post-evaluation survey was administered to assess the impact of the project as well as the perception of participating farmers about the outcomes. The post-evaluation survey assessed the project’s usefulness on various aspects of agricultural production such as reducing cost of production, maximizing farm revenue, mitigating agricultural risk, developing entrepreneurship, farm planning and budgeting, and managing resources.

4. Analytical approach

The data collected through the quantitative survey was examined using Excel and SPSS software. Because the study was exploratory in nature, at that stage, the research team primarily focused on descriptive analysis. At every step of the project, wherever appropriate, the research team strictly followed the ethical guidelines for the voluntary participation of the respondents, and to protect their privacy and confidentiality. The results are presented below.

5. Results

5.1 Farmers’ background characteristics

Fourteen farmers from five counties were conveniently identified (Table 1) for the project. A large majority of them were from Baltimore (nearly 43%) and Somerset counties (36%). The farmers belonged to a diverse group of ethnic minorities: Hispanic/Latino (7%), White/Caucasian (7%), Non-Hispanic/Latino (7%), African American (15%), and Asian (64%). Thirty-six percent of them were women. Their ages ranged from 26 to over 60 years. 

Table 1: Background characteristics of farmers (n=14).

 

Characteristics

Percent

Gender

 

   Female

35.7

   Male

64.3

Age group

 

   26-34

14.3

   35-44

35.7

   45-50

7.1

   51-59

35.7

   Over 60

7.1

County of residence

 

   Anne Arundel

14.3

   Baltimore

42.8

   Somerset

35.7

   Wicomico

7.1

Race/ethnicity

 

   Black or African American

14.3

   Hispanic or Latino

7.1

   White

7.1

   Asian

64.3

   Non-Hispanic Latino

7.1

5.2 Farmer types and farming experiences

According to Table 2, nearly 86% of the farmers reported that they were seasonal farmers and only 14% reported that they were part-time farmers. Among the 14 farmers, 50% had more than 10 years of experience in farming, followed by 36% with 1-5 years of farming experience. Nearly 86% of them reported that they farmed in backyard kitchen gardens, and the remaining 14% reported they farmed in community gardens. Over 71% reported that they do not keep any farm records. The average farm size was only 1.20 acres, with a median size of 0.38 acres. The farms ranged from 0.06 acres to a high of 11 acres (only one farm).

5.3 Reasons for farming

Table 3 revealed that for nearly 79%, their primary reasons for farming were (a) outdoor and physical activity, and (b) to produce for family consumption. Fifty-seven percent reported that their primary reason was for supplemental household income, which was followed by passing time (50%), educational benefit of learning about farming (14.3%), and for tax benefits (7%).

5.4 Farm enterprises

A large majority (93%) of the farmers reported that they cultivated vegetables (Table 4). Nearly 36% of them reported fruit farming, followed by 14% raising poultry, and 7% raising animals and ducks.

The list of vegetables, fruits, specialty crops, ethnic/minority and herbal medicinal plants reported by farmers are provided in Appendix 1 through 5, respectively. The top five most grown vegetable crops were tomato, spinach, beans, eggplant, and chili (Appendix 1). Apple, pear, and fig were among the fruit crops reported. Poultry, ducks, and peacocks comprised the reported birds being farmed. We found it interesting that one farmer was cultivating a total of 16 vegetable crops.

5.5 Crop diversity

The crop diversity survey administered to the participating farmers (n=16) in 2022, shows that they reported growing 50 different specialty and ethnic crops (vegetables, fruits, medicinal plants, pulses, and cereals) in their fields (Table 5). Of these, 33 were vegetable crops, 10 were fruit crops, 5 were medicinal plants, 3 were pulses and 2 were cereals, as reported by the farmers[1] (Appendix 6 provides a detailed list of crops). Chili, cucumber, pumpkin, and tomato were cultivated by almost all farmers (93.8%). These vegetable crops were followed by eggplant (87.5%), and okra, beans, spinach, and bitter gourd, each grown by 81.3% of the farmers. Among the fruit crops, banana was reported by 43.8% of the farmers followed by peach and apple (25%) (for crop diversity list refer to Appendix 6).

Nearly 44% of the farmers reported 10-19 crops, followed by 37.5% of them reporting 20-29 crops and 12.5% reporting 30 or more crops (Table 6). On average, a farmer reported growing 20 different crops, with a minimum of 7 and a maximum of 43 crops (Figure 1).

5.6 Needs assessment survey

A semi-structured needs assessment survey was administered to 14 farmers from five counties (including Baltimore City) in Maryland. The purpose was to conduct a situation analysis to assess and prioritize farmers’ needs. The instrument consisted of various topics such as problems experienced by farmers, timing of training, learning modules, education materials and resources measured using a five-point Likert scale. The results are discussed below.

5.6.1 Problems experienced by farmers

Table 7 shows the distribution of responses of farmers about the types of problems they had experienced and their importance, ranging from extremely important (weighted 5) to not at all important (weighted 1). Based on the responses, an average index[2] was estimated, which shows the rank or the hierarchy of each problem. The higher the average index, the more important the problem.

Table 7: Problems experienced by farmers (%) in farming (n=14).

Problems

Extremely

important

Very

important

Moderately

important

Slightly

important

Not at all important

Index

value

1. Cannot afford farm machinery

78.6

7.1

0

14.3

0

4.5

2. Lack of capital

78.6

7.1

0

7.1

7.1

4.4

3. Lack of access to land

71.4

14.3

0

14.3

0

4.4

4. Not enough land

64.3

21.4

7.1

7.1

0

4.4

5. Lack of access to credit

71.4

14.1

0

7.1

7.1

4.4

6. Lack of access to internet

71.4

14.3

0

7.1

7.1

4.4

7. Lack of production knowledge and skills

14.3

64.3

14.3

7.1

0

3.9

8. Lack of access to market and sales outlets

21.4

50.0

14.3

14.3

0

3.9

9. Not enough farm management skills

14.3

50.0

28.6

7.1

0

3.7

10. Lack of information to start farming

7.1

78.6

0

7.1

7.1

3.7

11. Lack of access to a farm mentor

14.3

64.3

0

21.4

0

3.7

12. Lack of knowledge about basics of farm economics

0

64.3

28.6

7.1

0

3.6

13. Lack of direct access to markets

14.3

28.6

42.9

14.3

0

3.4

14. Lack of agricultural knowledge and skills

14.3

28.6

35.7

21.4

0

3.4

15. Lack of farm records

21.7

28.6

14.3

35.7

0

3.4

16. Lack of farm business planning

0

35.7

57.1

7.1

0

3.3

17. Lack of farm data analytical skills

7.1

42.9

21.4

21.4

7.1

3.2

18. Lack of access to relevant educational materials

0

35.7

14.3

50.0

0

2.9

19. Lack of produce processing facility

0

14.3

42.9

42.9

0

2.7

20. Lack of family labor to support farming

14.3

14.1

7.1

50.0

14.3

2.6

21. Shortage of labor in the market

0

14.3

21.4

64.3

0

2.5

Of the 21 problems identified, farmers grouped them in a hierarchy of 12 clusters based on index values. The average indices show that – inability to afford farm machinery and equipment was at top with a score of 4.5, followed by a lack of capital (4.4), lack of access to land (4.4), lack of access to credit (4.4), lack of access to internet (4.4), and not enough land (4.4). This was followed by the lack of direct access to markets and sales outlets (3.9), and production knowledge and skills (3.9). At the bottom were shortage of labor in the market (2.5), lack of family labor to support farming (2.6), lack of products processing facility (2.7), lack of access to educational materials (2.9), and lack of data analytical skills (3.2). This descending index value indicates their priority/preference ranking. Both the preference ranking and problem hierarchy showed the importance of the problems in a similar direction.

5.6.2 Learning modules and educational materials for minority and beginning farmers

Reducing the knowledge gap for small-scale, minority, and beginning farmers is of paramount importance for sustaining farming. Thus, we also assessed the importance of various learning modules and educational materials through the needs assessment survey. Of the listed 13 learning modules and educational materials listed, farmers ranked them in eight categories (Table 8). The descending index value, which is the preference ranking, is as follows: digital learning video (4.3); comprehensive training manual (4.2); one-to-one consultation, peer-to-peer interaction, and hands-on training (3.7); extension publications (factsheet, flyer, brochure, pamphlet, and newsletter (3.6)), webinar, interactive meeting, workshop, and training (3.5); and YouTube video (3.5). These learning modules and materials were followed by farm visit/tour, field days, and one-to-one counseling with an index of 3.4; virtual presentations/learning (3.1); and the least useful learning module, a radio, and a TV program (2.7). 

Table 8: Farmers’ report of useful learning modules/materials to increase knowledge and skills (n=14).

Learning modules/materials

Extremely

useful

Very

useful

Moderately

useful

Slightly

useful

Not at all useful

Index

value

1. Digital learning video

42.9

50.0

0

7.1

0

4.3

2. Comprehensive training manual on business management of agricultural enterprise

35.7

57.1

0

7.1

0

4.2

3. Peer-to-peer interaction

28.6

42.9

0

28.6

0

3.7

4. One-to-one consultation

28.6

42.9

0

28.6

0

3.7

5. Hands on training

7.1

71.4

7.1

14.3

0

3.7

6. Extension publications (Fact sheet, flyer, brochure, pamphlet, newsletters)

7.1

57.1

21.4

14.3

0

3.6

7. Webinar, interactive meeting,

Workshop and training

14.3

50.0

7.1

28.6

0

3.5

8. YouTube or Video

7.1

57.1

14.3

21.4

0

3.5

9. Farm visit/tour

14.3

50.0

0

35.7

0

3.4

10. Field days

14.3

35.7

28.6

21.4

0

3.4

11. One-one counseling

7.1

57.1

0

35.7

0

3.4

12. Virtual presentations

0

42.9

21.4

35.7

0

3.1

13. Radio and TV program

7.1

21.4

7.1

64.3

0

2.7

 5.6.3 Learning resources of minority and beginning farmers

Based on importance, farmers ranked the seven learning resources that were necessary to update, build, and strengthen their knowledge gap (Table 9). The estimated index value[3] shows that partnership with the local farmers' markets, local food chain, and the community garden was at the top with an average score of 4.0. Subsequently, farmers’ organizations e.g., farmers’ groups, commodity groups, farmers’ association and educational events such as interactive workshops and meetings, hands-on training, farmers’ conferences (3.9); in-person training and education e.g., consultation and counseling (3.8); incubator farms (3.9); digital training materials, for instance video (3.5); and virtual training such as farmers’ school (3.4) were ranked in descending order based on their index values.

Table 9: Farmers’ report of the importance of resources (n=14).

Resources

Extremely

important

Very

important

Moderately

important

Slightly

important

Not at all important

Index

value

1. Local partnerships (farmers’ market, local food, community garden)

42.9

21.4

28.6

7.1

0

4.0

2. Farmers’ organizations (farmer’s association/cooperatives)

14.3

71.4

7.1

7.1

0

3.9

3. Educational events (workshop, training, meeting, conference)

7.1

78.6

7.1

7.1

0

3.9

4. Training and education (in-person)

14.3

57.1

21.4

7.1

0

3.8

5. Incubator farmers

7.1

71.4

7.1

7.1

0

3.8

6. Digital training materials

7.1

50.0

28.6

14.3

0

3.5

7. Virtual training

7.1

50.0

21.4

21.4

0

3.4

 5.6.4 Timing of training

Half of the participating farmers indicated a preference for multi-session weekend workshops, compared with 36% reporting the multi-session weekday workshops (Table 10). Likewise, 29% of them favored a one-day weekend workshop over a one-day weekday workshop (14.3%). The results imply that farmers prefer weekend training programs to weekday training programs. Moreover, participants preferred shorter but multiple weekend sessions to a single day-long event.

5.7 Hands-on training on basics of farm economics and management

Based on the findings of the needs assessment survey, the team organized hands-on trainings on the basics of farm economics and farm management. The trainings focused on lowering production costs by introducing the least-cost techniques such as proper allocation of scarce resources, efficient use of limited resources, application of farmyard manure, compost making, and rainwater harvesting for irrigation. 

5.8 Farm data recording and analysis

Farm data recording and analysis involved designing the data recording format, educating the project participants about the need and importance of data and maintaining data on crop biodiversity, inputs used, output produced, household consumption, and sales. 

5.9 Data-driven production plan

The project facilitated the participating farmers to revise their conservative backyard production plans using the production, consumption and sales data. Most of the participating farmers started to consume fresh produce at home, and sell of surplus production (marketable surplus) to supplement household income.

5.10 Specialty crop market assessment survey

5.10.1 Markets assessment

A specialty crop market assessment survey was conducted in seven locations - six locations in Maryland and one location in Pennsylvania (Table 11). The survey mainly focused on farmers’ markets.  A total of 41 vendors (farmers selling their products) were surveyed. In some locations, individual farmers sold their fresh produce at the farm gate, from the truck, and from a booth independently. However, the farmers market in Baltimore City consisted of several vendors and commodities other than fruits and vegetables. Of the total, just over three-quarters of the vendors were in Baltimore City followed by 10% in Princess Anne, and 5% in Fruitland. Almost all (95%) of the vendors were in Maryland and only 2.5% were in Pennsylvania.

Eighty-seven percent of the markets were in operation for over 10 years (Figure 2). Slightly over 5% of them were in operation for 6-10 years, and nearly 8% of them were in operation for 1-5 years.

Virtually 94.9% of the respondents reported that the main reason for operating a market was to supplement household income (Table 12). Similarly, 71.7% of them reported making a profit and 66.3% said that the market was a family tradition. Among other reasons, nearly 60% of them mentioned that the market was operated to pass the time, followed by 10% for tax benefits, and around 8% for promoting specialty crops.

All respondents reported they had their own production for the market. Twenty-seven percent of them reported that the produce was supplied from retail stores (Table 13). Only 19.5% and 14.6% of the respondents respectively reported that the produce was supplied by the contact farmers as well as by the general farmers.

5.10.2 Problems experienced by vendors

Seventy percent of vendors ranked a lack of access to credit (index 4.6) as an extremely important problem they face in operating a specialty crop market (Table 14). This was confirmed by 25% of respondents who rated it as very important. The other four major problems followed - a lack of capital (index 4.2), not enough market management skills (index 4.2), a lack of market data analytical skills (index 4.1) and a lack of family labor to support this market (index 4.1). The distribution of other problems with the index value are provided below.

 Table 14: Problems faced by vendors/farmers (%) while operating specialty crop markets (n=40).

Items

Extremely

important

Very

important

Moderately

important

Slightly

important

Not at all important

Index

value

Lack of access to credit

70.0

25.0

0

0

5.0

4.6

Lack of capital

57.5

30.0

0

2.5

10.0

4.2

Not enough market management skills

52.5

30.0

2.5

12.5

2.5

4.2

Lack of market data analytical skills

30.0

50.0

20.0

0

0

4.1

Lack of family labor to support this market

22.5

65.0

10.0

0

2.5

4.1

Short supply of specialty and ethnic crop

13.3

66.7

13.3

0

6.7

3.8

Cannot afford establishing agri-market

25.0

30.0

40.0

2.5

2.5

3.7

Lack of information to start agri-marketing

32.5

22.5

30.0

12.5

2.5

3.7

Shortage of labor in the market

22.5

35.0

30.0

10.5

2.5

3.7

Lack of direct access to producers

20.0

35.0

30.0

12.5

12.5

3.6

Lack of agri-business planning

7.5

50.0

30.0

10.0

2.5

3.5

Lack of access to relevant market-related educational materials

2.5

27.5

65.0

2.5

2.5

3.3

Vendors/farmers were asked to list major problems based on their experience to improve the specialty crop market (Table 15). Slightly over 63% of them reported expensive inputs, followed by expensive parking (43.9%) and expensive rental space (41.5%) as the top three problems farmers wanted to improve upon in the specialty crop market. Other problems were labor shortage (36.6%) and expensive labor (34.1%). Regarding the scope of specialty and ethnic crop markets, 95% of the participants reported that they were growing. Only 3% each reported that they were either stagnant or steady (Figure 3).

[1] *Soybean and mandre cowpea are counted as both vegetable and pulse crops. **Buckwheat is counted as both vegetable and cereal crops. Thus, the total number of crops is counted as 50.

[2] Items measured in a 5-point Likert scale - extremely important/useful weighted 5 to not at all important/useful weighted 1. The priority index was calculated as: [(n*5) +(n*4) +(n*3) +(n*2) +(n*1)/N]. n is the number of responses in each column and N is the total number of samples (here participant farmers).

[3] Importance of learning resources measured as - extremely important (5) to the least important (1).

5.10.3 Local market prices for specialty crops

The project assessed the availability of specialty crops (fruits and vegetables) and their prices in the local markets. Price information was gathered from 41 farmers (vendors) who were engaged in different local markets at various locations. Information about the availability of specialty and ethnic crops (vegetables, fruits, and medicinal herbs) collected through the market survey are presented in Appendix 7.

Administering a market survey was a bit complex when it came to collecting prices of available produce in a standard format. This is because of different units used by the vendors to sell the same product. Thus, we have presented the prices in whatever units and standards the products were sold in the market, such as price per bunch, per quart, per pound, per box, per pot, per pint, per basket, and per piece. For example, as common commodity, tomatoes, were sold per quart, per pound, per box, per pot, and per pint. These per unit prices will be useful to the producers, sellers as well as the customers. 

 Please refer to the attached file for the relevant Tables, Pictures, Figures, Footnotes and details of the report.

neSARE_GRANT_Annual_Report_2022-Final

6. Learning outcomes

The following are the project outcomes achieved.

  1. Improved technical and economic efficiency of participating farmers. The project investigated the factors inhibiting small, socially disadvantaged and minority farmers from allocating limited resources efficiently and making informed decisions (refer to project outcomes – knowledge and skills, production, consumption, sales, and household income).
  2. Enhanced farmers’ capacity to record farm data and monitor farm performance (refer to project outcomes – marketing, consumption, and household income).
  3. Developed farmers’ capacity to prepare a farm business plan (refer to project outcomes – water harvesting tanks, compost making, cropping intensity, and marketing initiatives).
  4. Studied the scope and market potentials of specialty and ethnic vegetables (refer to project outcomes – market price, cropping intensity, and niche marketing).

7. Impact and outcomes of the project intervention

A post project evaluation survey was administered to 22 participating farmers to assess the impact of the project interventions. The following indicators were used to measure the impact of the project.

7.1 Delivery of production inputs and services

7.2 Change in knowledge and skills

            7.2.1 Usefulness of peer-to-peer interactions and networking

            7.2.2 Usefulness of training and specialists to producers

7.3 Change in behavior and action

7.4 Building entrepreneurial capability

7.5 Technology adoption

7.6 Increase production and productivity

7.7 Increase intake of fresh vegetable consumption

7.8 Mitigating production, marketing, and financial risks

            7.8.1 Market mechanism initiated

            7.8.2 Marketing network initiated

7.8.3 Niche marketing promoted at the street festival

7.8.4 Project contribution to agricultural risk mitigation

7.8.5 Marketing of ethnic vegetables 

7.8.6 Crop biodiversity increase

7.9 Reducing production cost

            7.9.1 Rainwater harvesting

            7.9.2 Making compost

            7.9.3 Lowering the production cost

7.10 Networking peer-to-peer and peer-to-specialists

7.11 Training and peer-to specialist interactions/counseling/consultation

7.12 Increasing farm revenue

7.13 Developing data-based farm planning and budgeting

7.14 Connecting producers and consumers with the market

7.15 Making sustainable use of limited and scarce resources.

The results of the survey are described under the subsequent headings below.

7.1 Delivery of production inputs and services

The project distributed various production inputs and materials to the participating farmers (Picture 3). These inputs were distributed as per the needs assessment survey. Table 16 shows farmers’ responses in receiving various production inputs (token supports) from the project. Nearly 91% of them received farm-yard manure and fertilizers and slightly over 86% of them stated that they received crop seeds/seedlings, garden soil and hand tillers. Similarly, 68.2% responded that they received garden tools, and 45.5% received water harvesting tanks. Nearly one-third (31.8%) of them received plant feed (growth enhancers). Hedge shears (big and small), wheelbarrows, and weed cutters/mowers were distributed to a limited number of farmers. However, the farmers have made a consensus to share the tools or equipment as a group resource so that all of the farmers can use them when needed.

7.2 Change in knowledge and skills

The project assessed whether the participating farmers gained any knowledge and skills from this project. All the project participants (100%) reported that they gained knowledge on exploring marketing opportunities (Table 17), and nearly 96% of them indicated that they gained knowledge in reducing production costs, peer-to-peer networking, and networking with service providing institutions. This was followed by farm revenue maximization (86.4%), entrepreneurial skills development (81.8%), and farm management practices (72.7%). Knowledge gains were also reported for production risk mitigation (59.1%), resource management (63.6%), the importance of data recording (63.6%), and data-based farm planning (68.2%).

7.3 Change in behavior and action

Of the total 22 participating farmers, all of them reported that their participation in the project was very useful in bringing positive changes in behavior/action pertinent to sustain urban gardening (Figure 4). One example of behavior change was the adoption of a rainwater harvesting technique in a farmer’s garden. 

7.4 Building entrepreneurial skills

Ninety-six percent of the project farmers described that the support was extremely useful (50%), very useful (41%) or moderately useful for enhancing knowledge and skills pertinent to entrepreneurship development (Figure 5).

7.5 Technology adoption

The following technologies were supported and promoted in project farmers’ fields. 

 7.5.1 Promotion of two-tier system of vegetable production

Promotion of a two-tier vegetable production system using local resources. Farmers grow leafy vegetables on the ground and creepers on the first level (open roof) to maximize the use of limited space.

7.5.2 Rainwater harvesting (refer to 7.9.1)

7.5.3 Making compost of garden/home/lawn byproducts (refer to 7.9.2)

7.5.4 Application of locally available materials (wooden/rope/wire net/fence: tendrils and trellis) (refer to 7.5.1, Picture 6, 12a-12d, 7.15)

7.5.5 Container gardening

7.6 Production and productivity increased

Increasing the production efficiency of small and minority farmers was one of the objectives of this project. Nearly 32% of the participating farmers in the post evaluation survey (n=21) reported that their involvement in the project was extremely useful, followed by 55% very useful, and 14% moderately useful to increase farm production of the selected specialty and ethnic vegetables (Figure 6).

7.7 Increased consumption of fresh vegetables

The project was expected to increase the consumption of fresh produce at home (farm-to-fork). With the production of diversified specialty and ethnic crops in the home garden, the farmers reported that their involvement in the project was extremely useful (50%), followed by very useful (41%) and moderately useful (9%) in increasing their intake of various types of fresh produce (Figure 7) at each meal at home.

Fifteen participating farmers reported a 25% (equivalent to $10,500.00) and 5 farmers reported 15% (equivalent to $2,000.00) increase in consumption of fresh produce at home during the project period. The increased intake was due to increased production in the backyard garden. All the farmers reported that their participation in the project activities was useful in increasing their intake of fresh produce at home as a result of the project interventions (Figure 9).

7.8 Mitigating production, marketing, and financial risks.

All of the farmers responded that the project was useful for strengthening their production, marketing, and financial risk management capacity (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Agricultural risk mitigation (%), (n=22).

7.8.1 Market mechanism initiated

The project facilitated the farmers in exploring available local markets and market-related information, such as entry requirements, operating hours, and locations. Simultaneously, the project encouraged them to take advantage of any of the following marketing outlets to maximize sales.

  1. Niche marketing of ethnic vegetables
  2. Direct marketing of products
    1. Selling directly to retail store
    2. Setting up a roadside market
    3. Entering farmers’ markets
    4. Inviting consumers to visit the farm and harvest their own purchases (like U-pick)
    5. Advertising to initiate community-supported greens production
    6. Selling at the farm gate
    7. Connection to the seasonal markets
    8. Collecting products and selling from a combined stall
  3. Connecting local to festivals
  4. Peer-to-peer networking
  5. Peer-expert networking
  6. Labeling of products
  7. Disseminating product information

Linking farmers with various market outlets to sell their produce was another goal of this project. Farmers described that their participation as extremely useful (46%), very useful (50%) and moderately useful (5%) in linking them to various market outlets (Figure 9). 

Progress in marketing initiatives confirmed that farmers were able to sell their produce at the local festivals, the farm gate, farm to family, and farm to contact consumers. The amount of direct sales reported by participant farmers during the summer of 2022 was $1,700.00. The products sold were mainly vegetables such as mustard greens, tomatoes, amaranths, green beans, cucumber, dill, pumpkin, pumpkin tendrils, bitter gourd, red hot chili, squash, and long chili (Picture 10).

7.8.2 Marketing network initiated

As mentioned earlier, farmers were linked to various market outlets such as local community markets, festivals and customers. As a result, farmers were able to sell their produce at the local festivals, the farm gate, farm to family, and farm to contact consumers. The total amount of sales through direct marketing reported by the participating farmers during this summer (2022) was $1,700.00. 

7.8.3 Niche marketing promoted at the street festival

Marketing of some specialty and ethnic vegetables at the street festival was eye opening to hundreds of minority families (Asian, African, and Latino). The stall served as a perfect Extension stall while informing potential consumers as the source of fresh produce in the community, types of specialty vegetables and family marketing opportunities. As per the anecdotal assessment, the market demand of such vegetables seemed to be huge. However, meeting at least a small fraction of such a demand is both a major challenge and an opportunity for the producers.

7.8.4 Project contribution to agricultural risk mitigation

Crop diversification was one of the most important strategies for reducing farm risks. All the farmers reported that their participation in the project was extremely useful (48%), followed by very useful (52%) in minimizing the risk in farming, which helps to lower risks in agricultural production (Figure 9).

7.8.5 Marketing of ethnic vegetables 

The project farmers practiced both crop diversity and crop intensity while cultivating ethnic vegetables. Both practices minimize insect infestation and spread out production, financial, and marketing risks spread over to cultivated crops. The potential demand of ethnic vegetables was proved by the amount of vegetables sold at the street festival in Towson, Maryland, and through other marketing outlets. Project farmers cultivated several ethnic and specialty vegetables and flowers in the same field during the same period (refer to pictures 12a-12d below).

7.8.6 Crop biodiversity increased

The crop diversity survey administered to the participating farmers (n=16) shows that 50 different specialty and ethnic crops (vegetables, fruits, medicinal plants, pulses, and cereals) are grown in their fields[1] (Figure 10). Of the total crops, 33 were vegetables, 10 were fruits, 5 were medicinal plants, 3 were pulses, and 2 were cereals (refer to Appendix 6 for detailed list). Specifically, chili, cucumber, pumpkin, and tomato were cultivated by most of the farmers (93.8%), followed by eggplant (87.5%) and okra, beans, spinach, and bitter gourd each 81.3%. Among fruits, banana was reported by 43.8% of the farmers, followed by peach and apple (25%). On average, a farmer reported growing 20 different crops, with a minimum of 7 and a maximum of 43. Nearly 44% of the farmers reported 10-19 crops, followed by 38% of them reporting 20-29 crops, 13% of them reporting 30 or more crops, and 6% reporting fewer than 10 crops (Figure 11).

7.9 Ways and means of reducing production cost

7.9.1 Rainwater harvesting

To meet the challenge of water scarcity, the project promoted water harvesting technology by distributing rainwater harvesting tanks to the farmers. Of the total 22 participating farmers, nearly half (46%) of them reported receiving a water harvesting tank (Table 16). Our experience suggests that the project could not meet the demand for water harvesting tanks due to budget deficit. Each urban gardener requested at least two tanks to lower the production cost by reducing the water bills.

7.9.2 Compost making in the garden

Making compost was also promoted to the farmers. It is expected that the production of compost in the garden by project farmers will increase soil productivity, conserve moisture, and lower production costs. The project intends to find ways to improve this traditional way of making compost.

 7.9.3 Project contribution to lowering the production cost

Lowering the cost of production to enhance economic efficiency was one of the goals of this project. In total, 96% (Figure 12) of the farmers that their participation in the project helped them reduce the cost of production. Seventy-three percent of them said their participation was extremely useful, and 23% said their participation was very useful in lowering the cost of production.

7.10 Peer-to-peer networking

Peer-to-peer (P2P) interaction was one of the preferred learning modules, as reported by the participating farmers in the needs assessment survey. Of the 13 modules listed, they ranked P2P learning as the third most useful module for improving their knowledge on farming effectively. The P2P interaction was either extremely useful, very useful, or moderately useful in enhancing knowledge and skills about agricultural production for all the participating farmers, which was confirmed by an index value of 4.3 (Table 18).

Table 18: Usefulness of peer-to-peer interaction to enhance knowledge and skills (%), (n=22).

Items

Extremely useful

Very useful

Moderately useful

Slightly useful

Not at all useful

Index value

    Knowledge

40.9

50.0

9.1

0

0

4.3

    Skills

36.4

54.5

9.1

0

0

4.3

7.11 Training and peer-to-specialist networking

The participating farmers described the usefulness of training sessions and peer-to-peer interactions to enhance their knowledge and skills about agricultural production (Table 19). Almost all farmers reported that training events were either extremely useful, very useful, or moderately useful to enhance knowledge and skills about agricultural production, processing, and marketing. This was confirmed by the index values of 4.5 and 4.3, for knowledge and skills respectively.

 Table 19: Usefulness of trainings to enhance knowledge and skills (%), (n=22).

Items

Extremely useful

Very useful

Moderately useful

Slightly useful

Not at all useful

Index value

    Knowledge

54.5

40.9

4.5

0

0

4.5

    Skills

36.4

54.5

9.1

0

0

4.3

The results discussed earlier provide strong evidence that both the training sessions and peer-to-peer interactions were useful to enhance knowledge and skills of smallholder minority farmers in Maryland.

7.12 Increasing farm revenue

Sixty-four percent of the farmers reported that the support for production inputs was extremely useful for increasing farm revenue followed by very useful (27%) and moderately useful (4.5%).

Figure 13: Farm revenue maximization (%), (n=22).

Farmers initiated marketing of ethnic vegetables in various forms of market outlets as mentioned under sub-sections 7.8.1 and 7.8.2. Total direct sales of $1,700.00 were reported by five farmers. Simultaneously, 15 project farmers reported a 25% increase in fresh consumption, equivalent to $10,500.00, and 5 farmers reported a 15% increase in fresh consumption, equivalent to $2,000.00, during the project period. Thus, indirect economic benefit from the vegetable sales was equivalent to $12,500. In total, the project increased the farmers’ household incomes through vegetable production by about $14,200.00.

In the post evaluation survey, 50% of the farmers reported that their participation in the project was extremely useful, followed by 41% very useful, and 9% moderately useful in increasing household income (Figure 14).

7.13 Data driven farm planning, and budgeting

Participating farmers stated that the support they received to acquaint them with farm planning and budgeting process and methodology was extremely useful (36%) followed by very useful (59%). Project farmers outlined their production and marketing plan based on the generated data about production, consumption, and marketing.

Figure 15: Farm planning and budgeting (%), (n=22).

7.14 Connecting producers and consumers with the markets

The project facilitated the establishment of link between producers (suppliers) and consumers (buyers) to work together to increase production and supply of fresh produce, increase fresh intake, initiate dialogue to revise production, supply schedule, and expected quantity to the markets/consumers. As a result of the project initiation and intervention, some of them were connected to potential markets, thereby revising their production plan to sustain fresh produce production in the urban gardens. The revised plan will help them to harvest more, consume more, and supply more to the market.

7.15 Making sustainable use of limited and scarce resources

Ninety-six percent of the project farmers confirmed that the project support was extremely useful (36%), very useful (55%) and moderately useful (5%) for managing scarce and limited farm resources while practicing mixed farming intensively (Figure 16).

[1] *Soybean and cowpea are counted as both vegetable and pulse crops. **Buckwheat is counted as both vegetable and cereal crops.

 Please refer to the attached file below for the relevant Tables, Pictures, Figures, and Footnotes.

neSARE_GRANT_Annual_Report_2022-Final

Research conclusions:

The project aimed to enhance the technical and economic efficiency of small, socially disadvantaged, and minority (SSDM) farmers by strengthening their knowledge and skills to make informed decisions, develop evidence-based farm plans, and adopt economically sustainable practices to optimize farm income.

The project accomplished the following activities: (i) a needs assessment, (ii) hands-on training on the basics of farm economics and management, (iii) farm data recording, and data-driven production plan, iv) a specialty crop market survey, (v) market survey analysis, (vi) marketing initiatives, (vii) supporting production inputs, and (viii) end of project ‘impact assessment’ survey.

Positive changes

Outreach service expanded. The project was initiated with 14 SSDM farmers, which was increased to 22 during the project period.

Farmers gained knowledge and enhanced skills. Based on the findings of the baseline needs assessment study, the project conducted several training events such as in-person discussions, peer-to-peer and peer-specialist interactions, field visits, focus group discussions, in-person and Zoom counseling to enhance knowledge and skills of the farmers.

Technical and economic efficiency strengthened. The project strengthened farmers’ technical and economic efficiency by (i) enhancing their capacity to allocate limited resources efficiently and make informed decisions, (ii) strengthening their knowledge and skills to record farm data and monitor farm performance such as production, consumption, and marketing, (iii)) developing  their capacity to prepare a data-driven farm business plan, iv)  increasing cropping intensity and crop diversity, v) encouraging them to install rainwater harvesting technology, vi) educating and expanding compost making, and vii) linking them to  markets to sell their marketable surplus.

Technology adoption. The participating farmers:

  • Expanded rainwater harvesting, compost making, and two-tier production system,
  • Intensively integrated mixed farming for risk diversification and risk mitigation,
  • Initiated marketing of surplus produce to mitigate production, marketing, and financial risks.

Impact of the project

The post-evaluation findings confirmed that their participation in the project was useful for:

  • developing entrepreneurial skills,
  • developing data-driven planning,
  • managing limited resources efficiently,
  • reducing cost of production,
  • mitigating risks,
  • improving farm production and increasing consumption of fresh products,
  • maximizing farm revenue and increasing household income,
  • continuing farming,
  • securing socio-economic and technical benefits
  • changing their behavior/action, attitude, and enthusiasm to sell produce in the market,
  • 15 farmers collectively reported $1,700.00 in sales, primarily through direct marketing during the summer and the fall of 2022;
  • 20 farmers reported an increase in fresh vegetable intake, respectively by 25% (15 farmers) and 15% (5 farmers), which was equivalent to $12,500.00 during the project period (2022);
  • direct and indirect economic benefits from the production due to the project intervention was $14,200.00.

Farmers benefited from the enhanced knowledge, skills, and acquired experiences gained from the project to continue farming.  

Participation Summary
15 Farmers participating in research

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

75 Consultations
1 Journal articles
3 On-farm demonstrations
1 Online trainings
2 Published press articles, newsletters
3 Tours
5 Webinars / talks / presentations
3 Workshop field days
5 Other educational activities: Peer-to-peer interactions, On farm demonstrations, farm visits

Participation Summary:

22 Farmers participated
15 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities
Education/outreach description:

8. Presentation in conferences

8.1 Lila B. Karki, Prem Bhandari, Yeong Nain Chi, and Suzanne W. Street (2022).   Agricultural Problems Hierarchy and Rational Decision-Making: A Case of Minority Urban Farmers in Maryland. Association of Nepalese Agricultural Professionals of America (NAPA), 3rd Biennial International Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, May 27-29. Abstract and oral presentation.

Acknowledgement: The study was funded by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program-competitive partnership grant in 2021. 

8.2 Lila B. Karki and Prem Bhandari (2022). Farmers’ Preferences of Timing and Program for Building Capacity: A Case of Minority Beginning-Farmers in Maryland. National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals’ (NACDEP), Annual Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana, June 5-8. Abstract and poster presentation.

Acknowledgement: The study was funded by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program-competitive partnership grant in 2021. 

8.3 Lila B. Karki and Prem Bhandari (2022). Preferences of Minority Farmers for Urban Agriculture and Learning Resources: A   Case of Maryland. Agriculture and Applied Economics Association (AAEA), Annual Conference, Anaheim, California, July 31-August 2. Abstract and poster presentation.

 Acknowledgement: The study was funded by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program-competitive partnership grant in 2021. 

8.4 Lila B. Karki and Prem Bhandari (2023). Rational Producers and Risk Diversification: A Case of Urban Gardening. Southern Agricultural Economics Association (SAEA), 55th Annual Conference, Oklahoma City, February 5-7. Accepted for oral presentation.

Acknowledgement: The study was funded by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program-competitive partnership grant in 2021. 

8.5 Lila B. Karki and Prem Bhandari (2023). Cost Reducing Technologies to Sustain Minority Farmers in Small-Scale Urban Gardening. Southern Rural Sociological Association (SRSA), Annual conference, Oklahoma City, February 5-6. Accepted for oral presentation.

Acknowledgement: The study was funded by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program-competitive partnership grant in 2021. 

9. Publication in online e-Newsletter

 9.1 UMES Extension helps Bhutanese American farmers through Northeast SARE grant: CONNECTION, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, August 17, 2022.

https://wwwcp.umes.edu/sans/connections/august-2022/umes-extension-helps-bhutanese-american-farmers-through-northeast-sare-grant/?utm_source=Connections%21+Newsletter&utm_campaign=398d5deeea-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_6_9_2022_9_52_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_96dda0321e-398d5deeea-377991417&mc_cid=398d5deeea&mc_eid=af459a61da

 Acknowledgement: The study was funded by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program-competitive partnership grant in 2021. 

9.2 UMES Extension facilitates marketing opportunities for urban growers of ethnic vegetables (2023). Connection online newsletter, January 23.

https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=7c66a70b05&view=lg&permmsgid=msg-f%3A1755844996468867112&ser=1

10. Online Journal Submission

Lila B. Karki and Prem Bhandari (2023). Rational Producers and Risk Diversification: A Case of Urban Gardening in Maryland. Submitted to AgEconSearch. Research in Agricultural and Applied Economics. https://ageconsearch.umn.edu/pages/?page=submit&ln=en

Acknowledgement: The study was funded by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program-competitive partnership grant in 2021. 

11. Working progress on journal publication

The following two articles are in progress. They are expected to be published by May, 2023.

  • Impact of Urban Gardening on the Household Economy of Minority Farmers in the Changing Social Context. University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Maryland.
  • Socially Disadvantaged and Minority Farmers’ Needs and Capacity Building Expectations. University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Maryland.

Learning Outcomes

22 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas in which farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness:

Please refer to the attached file below for the details.

neSARE_GRANT_Annual_Report_2022-Final

6. Learning outcomes

The following are the project outcomes achieved.

  1. Improved technical and economic efficiency of participating farmers. The project investigated the factors inhibiting small, socially disadvantaged and minority farmers from allocating limited resources efficiently and making informed decisions (refer to project outcomes – knowledge and skills, production, consumption, sales, and household income).
  2. Enhanced farmers’ capacity to record farm data and monitor farm performance (refer to project outcomes – marketing, consumption, and household income).
  3. Developed farmers’ capacity to prepare a farm business plan (refer to project outcomes – water harvesting tanks, compost making, cropping intensity, and marketing initiatives).
  4. Studied the scope and market potentials of specialty and ethnic vegetables (refer to project outcomes – market price, cropping intensity, and niche marketing).

Project Outcomes

22 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
2 Grants applied for that built upon this project
1 Grant received that built upon this project
$252,000.00 Dollar amount of grant received that built upon this project
Project outcomes:

Please refer to the attached file for the details.

neSARE_GRANT_Annual_Report_2022-Final

7. Impact and outcomes of the project intervention

A post project evaluation survey was administered to 22 participating farmers to assess the impact of the project interventions. The following indicators were used to measure the impact of the project.

7.1 Delivery of production inputs and services

7.2 Change in knowledge and skills

            7.2.1 Usefulness of peer-to-peer interactions and networking

            7.2.2 Usefulness of training and specialists to producers

7.3 Change in behavior and action

7.4 Building entrepreneurial capability

7.5 Technology adoption

7.6 Increase production and productivity

7.7 Increase intake of fresh vegetable consumption

7.8 Mitigating production, marketing, and financial risks

            7.8.1 Market mechanism initiated

            7.8.2 Marketing network initiated

7.8.3 Niche marketing promoted at the street festival

7.8.4 Project contribution to agricultural risk mitigation

7.8.5 Marketing of ethnic vegetables 

7.8.6 Crop biodiversity increase

7.9 Reducing production cost

            7.9.1 Rainwater harvesting

            7.9.2 Making compost

            7.9.3 Lowering the production cost

7.10 Networking peer-to-peer and peer-to-specialists

7.11 Training and peer-to specialist interactions/counseling/consultation

7.12 Increasing farm revenue

7.13 Developing data-based farm planning and budgeting

7.14 Connecting producers and consumers with the market

7.15 Making sustainable use of limited and scarce resources.

Please refer to the attached file for the details.

neSARE_GRANT_Annual_Report_2022-Final

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:
  1. Assessment of project approach / areas of further study needed:
  • This project focused on a small group of farmers primarily Asian American (64%). Therefore, the findings should be considered with some care. In the future, the team suggests studying a larger sample of a representative and inclusive group of farmers from other counties in Maryland.
  • This case study identified farmers conveniently due to absence of a sampling frame. Thus, in the future, first, the team would like to prepare a reliable sampling frame of farmers in the selected counties of Maryland. Then, the team proposes to select a more representative group of farmers for applying more rigorous inferential statistical analytical methods for internal validation as well as to obtain more generalizable conclusions (external validation).
  • This is a one-time cross-sectional case study. In the future, the team proposes to make it a longitudinal (panel) study to obtain more meaningful results (conclusions).
  • At this stage, the team has created several data collection instruments such as (a) baseline study to collect background information of farmers as well as for understanding hierarchy of needs and problems, training modules, and training areas perceived by the farmers, (b) market survey, (c) crop diversity survey, and (d) farm data recording format. While these instruments have been very useful in understanding what the project intended to explore and investigate, the team plans to standardize these instruments for a larger group of representative SSDM farmers.
  • In terms of analysis, the team could present only descriptive results at this time. The team plans to design instruments to record more specific data such as production costs, revenue and profits, marketing margins, and level of technical and economic efficiencies and analyze them using rigorous approaches.
  • The team envisions to test the efficacy of the training modules such as in-house trainings, peer-to-peer interactions, and farmer-expert interactions.
  • The team intends to develop additional instruments to measure cropping intensity, cropping diversity, and economic efficiencies that arise from multi-tiered mixed farming systems practiced by farmers to mitigate production, marketing, and financial risks.
  1. Who would benefit?
  • The findings of this study are quite useful for the state or county level extension personnel who are working with the SSDM farmers of Maryland. However, these findings are also useful to other Northeast SARE states and many other states of the U.S.
  • University research faculties, extension specialists, research personnel, extension educators, and policy makers who are primarily engaged in specialty and ethnic crops (vegetables, herbs, and fruits) concerned with SSDM farmers.
  • Students and faculties of agricultural universities working with extension program.
  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • For those willing to do research with Asian communities/farmers.

Please refer to the attached file for detail report.

neSARE_GRANT_Annual_Report_2022-Final

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.