Cultivation of Asian Indian Vegetables on the Delmarva Peninsula

Progress report for SNE20-006-MD

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $33,332.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
State Coordinator:
Dr. Naveen Kumar Dixit
University of Maryland Eastern Shore
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Project Information

Summary:

Problem and Justification: In the last two decades, there has been a quantum jump in the American Asian populations on the East coast of the US including Delmarva Peninsula with a potential increase in the near future. This growing ethnic Asian population and associated food and culinary industry generates demand and opportunities for the local growers. In fact, recent data showed the existence of an untapped market for Asian Indian vegetables worth $190 to $230 million per annum on the East Coast. Moreover, this enterprise will benefit growers on the Delmarva Peninsula considering close proximity with Asian dominated areas (NY, NJ, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore), within a radius of 120 to 250 miles. There is a paradigm shift in the behavior of mainstream consumers, in addition to taste and appearance; they are looking for healthy and nutritional food. The local food movement also brings awareness among consumers to support local farmers, and consumers are willing to pay a premium price for this fresh supply. Currently, the Corona virus pandemic further showed the importance of local food cultivation for survival, sustainability, and self-dependence. Most of these vegetables are imported from South American countries. The current food system on the Peninsula is characterized by lack of functional food diversity and movement out of row cropping to a mix of crop that can also satisfy regional food trends. Cultivation of row crops is the dominant agricultural enterprise on the Delmarva Peninsula. Small farmers on the Delmarva Peninsula cannot rely on row crops due to changing environmental conditions and market volatility. Despite multiple economic, environmental, and sustainable opportunities, no significant demonstration and extension outreach work has been done to popularize the cultivation of Asian Indian vegetables on the Peninsula.
Solution and Approach:
We will develop an annual plasticulture system for the cultivation of four Asian Indian vegetables ‘Bitter Gourd’ (Momordica charantia L.), Bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria (Mol.) Standl.), Fenugreek leaves (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.), and Eggplant (small and round; Solanum melongena L.). These are the 4 most popular Asian Indian vegetables on the East coast. Traditional Asian Indian varieties will be screened for authentic Indian taste. A multidisciplinary ‘Ethnic Crop Team’ will be created and shall be comprised of faculty, extension agents and stakeholders (local growers, agriculture related non-governmental organizations, farm managers, state sustainable agriculture research and education coordinators, small farm program coordinators, nutriment management coordinators, and county extension agents and associates). Our live learning education approach will be used through a variety of experiential learning methods such as classroom teaching followed by field visits. Cooking classes and recipe development for Indian vegetables. Live streaming of workshops will be facilitated with use of social media platforms to reach to stakeholder throughout the USA and world.

Performance Target:

Ten 'Ethnic Crop Team’ members who enrich their knowledge and skill of Asian Indian vegetables cultivation, management and cooking through this project will teach 15 farmers by incorporating information learned into fact sheets, workshops, field days, on-farm training, one-on-one consultations, and online training.

Introduction:

Agriculture Need:

Globalization of the economy caused significant immigration and changes in the demographic profile on the East Coast of the USA including the Delmarva Peninsula. Asian Populations dominate among other ethnic populations on the East Coast of the US. Asian populations grew by 72% between 2000 and 2015 (11.9 million to 20.4 million; https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/08/key-facts-about-asian-americans/). As per the 2010 US Census, Asian population constitutes 6.4%, 6.5%, and 2.1% of the total population in MD, VA, and DE (https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/decade.2010.html ). This change in demography brings economic opportunities for local growers to cultivate Asian Indian vegetables. There is an economic demand for Asian Indian vegetables on the East Coast of the US worth $190 to $230 million per annum (Puduri and Govindasamy, 2011). In addition, the local restaurant and food industry demands specialty vegetables for new taste, flavor, and exotic demand from consumers. Most of the Asian Indian vegetables are perishable and cannot be stored or shipped for longer distances, which provides an important opportunity for our local growers to grow Asian Indian vegetables. Growers on the Delmarva Peninsula can take the advantage of sharing close proximity with Asian population-dominated areas in NY, NJ, and Washington, D.C. Consumers are well aware of the ‘Local Food-Local People-Local Health-Local Economy’ movement and willing to pay a premium price for a fresh and safe food supply. The purchasing power of American Asians is also high in comparison to other ethnic populations. Crop diversity on the Peninsula is restricted to row crops with inefficient phosphorus (P) uptake efficiencies; however, Asian Indian vegetables have higher P uptake from previous P application of animal waste. Cultivation of Asian Indian vegetables will not only bring functional food diversity, but also help in the reclamation of P-enriched soils on the Delmarva Peninsula. Changing weather patterns throughout multiple years becomes a new norm on the Delmarva Peninsula and causes crop failure and price volatility for row crops. Adoption of Asian Indian vegetables cultivation by small farmers will minimize the risks at the farm and subsequently increase the income. Most Asian Indian vegetables are imported from Mexico, Honduras, China, India, and other South American countries. Despite having a potential climate and market for these crops, our farmers were never trained for the cultivation of these vegetable crops. Some studies were conducted, but without using traditional/indigenous varieties, which were not accepted by ethnic populations due to differences in taste and quality. It is evident that our small growers on the Delmarva Peninsula are missing an important economic opportunity.  

Proposed Solution:

I was awarded a Delmarva Grant for the development of an Annual plasticulture system for the Asian ethnic crop ‘Bitter Gourd’ (Momordica charantia L.). In addition, we will also develop plasticulture technology for the other three top most Asian Indian vegetables popular on the East coast e.g., Bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria (Mol.) Standl.), Fenugreek leaves (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.), and Eggplant (small and round; Solanum melongena L.). Indian varieties will be used to provide authentic Indian taste to accelerate the commercial demand. We will develop multidisciplinary ‘Ethnic Crop Team’ for this work includes horticulture faculty (development of cultivation practice), food and consumer science extension agent (demonstration of cooking and recipe development), vegetable entomologist (insect management), nutrient management advisor (development of nutrient plans for individual crop), urban agriculture agent (popularize crop among urban growers), Local NGO (train US service veterans), and local farmers (marketing in local farmer market). Our educational approach will involve classroom teaching, field demonstration, local farm visit, YouTube channel, live streaming through social media, cooking classes and recipes development, fact sheets, and sharing of resources on UMES ‘Horticulture Physiology’ Facebook Page. Under persistent COVID-19 situation, targeted Ag service providers will be engaged through available online platforms. Marketing of these vegetable crops will be facilitated with the help of local farmers, farmer market, ethnic grocery stores, and existing CSA.   

Ag. Service Provider Interest:

An overview of current experiences of county extension agents and associates reflects their strength in the cultivation and management of local popular vegetables and row crops only. There is a complete lack of expertise for the cultivation of Asian Indian vegetables. This proposal was shared with several agent associates, senior agents, and local growers in the Tri-County area and nearby counties for its potential impact and need. Ag. Service Providers showed interest and willingness to participate in the development of this program and extension outreach. We are expecting to develop an ‘Ethnic Crop Team’ (10 or 12 trained extension personnel) and trained farmers during the two years of this project. 

 

 

Advisors/Cooperators

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Educational Approach

Educational approach:

Recruitment

'Ethnic Crop Team' recruitment was initiated during the development of this project. Regional Ag. service provider were communicated with the outline of this project. 8 Ag. service providers and 6 farmers showed willingness to join this team. With the progress of this project, current team members and PI will communicate with the other Ag. service providers and growers to become the part of this project through media, personal contact, and face-to- consultation.

Surveys of service providers will be conducted each year throughout the project and the above-mentioned information will be collected and used to verify teaching actions and modify the proposed extension plan in the successive years. Service providers will also receive handouts for recording their teaching actions with farmers. Following information will be collected from Ag. Service providers and stakeholders. 

I: How many farmers/growers attended workshops, field days, on farm trainings you conducted during the past year?

II: How many farmers showed interest to adapt annual plasticulture technology for Asian Indian vegetables?

III: What kind of questions were raised by the farmers during teaching and advising?

IV: What suggestions and recommendations were provided by the farmers?

V: What kind of limitations and obstacles were faced by the farmers? 

VI: What they did to teach and advise farmers?

VII: How many email, telephone calls, and face-to face advice was given to interested growers?

Ag. service providers will be provided with stationery and other requirements for the dissemination of information to stakeholders. 

 

Education

Each year four-extension events will be organized during October (Cooking Out Veggies Day), April (Bitter Gourd Day/Fenugreek Day), July (Bottle Gourd Day/Eggplant Day), and September (Veggies Budget Day) of each year at UMES. In addition to above mentioned four workshops, two more workshops will also be conducted for US service veterans in Baltimore in association with NGO, TALMAR.  

Educational approaches at each event will include a classroom presentation followed by the vegetable plot visit. All the practical trainings will be conducted at UMES experimental vegetable plots to observe the various phases of vegetable development, constraints faced, and their management solutions. YouTube video will be generated for each classroom presentation and live streaming will also be conducted using social media platforms (UMES- Horticulture Physiology Facebook Page; 200 growers are the current members on this page) to reach interested stakeholders or interested parties across the state and country. In addition, visits to team members farms, commercially growing Asian Indian vegetables will also be facilitated as a part of peer-to-peer learning.   

Printed and online material will be provided to attendees after each workshop and through email communication. Power point and workshop video will be uploaded on 'Kumar YouTube Channel' and UMES-Hort-Physio Facebook Page.  Up-to-date information on Asian Indian vegetable cultivation will be disseminated to the participants during the successive year of this project.

We expect our program will enrich the following knowledge base of extension service providers and participating farmers to establish a small-scale commercial Asian Indian vegetables enterprises.

I: Understanding of climatic and soil factors essential for Asian Indian vegetable cultivation.

II: Selection of Indian varieties suitable for Delmarva Peninsula.

III: Raised bed preparation.

IV: Trellis design.

V: Fertigation, irrigation, and pest management.

VI: Harvesting stages and marketing approaches.

VII: Cooking and popular recipes for Asian Indian vegetable.

VIII: Developing enterprise budget for small-scale Asian Indian vegetable enterprise and record keeping.

All these topics will be discussed during the funded two years and within each year an overview will be provided to refresh the past learning outcomes. This approach will help the new service provider to catch up with current topics.

Above mentioned learning outcomes/objectives will be further classified into a subset of competencies-knowledge and skill sets for the successful development of small-scale commercial Asian Indian vegetable enterprise.

Team members will also provide individual consultation and advice to interested growers. In addition, team members can also facilitate farmer’s visits to UMES vegetable farm for live demonstrations. Team members can also provide online study material to targeted audience.  

 

Verification

Following information will be collected from Ag. service providers each year in September.

I: How many farmers/growers attended workshops, field days, on farm trainings you conducted during the past year?

II: How many farmers showed interest to adapt annual plasticulture technology for Asian Indian vegetables?

III: What kind of questions were raised by the farmers during teaching and advising?

IV: What suggestions and recommendations were provided by the farmers?

V: What kind of limitations and obstacles were faced by the farmers? 

VI: What they did to teach and advise farmers?

VII: How many email, telephone calls, and face-to face advice was given to interested growers?

VIII: How many field visits were requested by Asian Indian vegetable growers?

IX: How many infected sample and diseased plants of Asian Indian vegetables were submitted to extension office?

X: Asian Indian vegetable growers requested any other relevant information.

Data collected from these questions will be used to  modify the program for successive Asian Ethnic vegetables in terms of information delivery and other requested information.   

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

8 Agriculture service providers and 6 farmers will be invited to attend ‘Cooking Out Veggies Day’ (October 2020) at UMES to visit ‘Bitter Gourd’ experimental trial and learn how to cook bitter gourd vegetable. This cooking demonstration will help stakeholders to share recipes with consumers to popularize and accelerate the sale of bitter gourd. Interested parties will be encouraged to participate in the projects during the spring (April 2021) education programs for the cultivation and management of bitter gourd and bottle gourd. Recruitment of ‘Ethnic Crop Team’ will also be undertaken during this workshop. Selected ‘Ethnic Crop Team’ members are expected to provide individual consultation and advice to vegetable growers. Members can also facilitate UMES vegetable plots visit to interested parties. Interested parties will be communicated before each workshop to join the ‘Ethnic Crop Team’ through emails, personal contact, and with the help from extension agents. New team members who will join the project at later stages will receive previous educational materials (factsheet, videos, face-to-face consultation) to keep pace with the project.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
6
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
8
Proposed Completion Date:
October 10, 2020
Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

An ‘Ethnic Crop Team’ of 10-12 service providers will be recruited from highly interested and committed agricultural service providers for a period of two year during ‘Bitter Gourd Day’ (April 2021). Members of ‘Ethnic Crop Team’ (10-12) and 10 or more farmers sign up for the program will participate in the second workshop during ‘Bitter Gourd Day’ and learn about the fundamentals of climate, soil, site preparation, selection of varieties, formation of raised beds, and trellis design for bitter gourd and bottle gourd cultivation. Team and growers will also be invited for next workshop in July 2021. New team members who will join the project at later stages will receive previous educational materials (factsheet, videos, face-to-face consultation) to keep pace with the project.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed Completion Date:
April 10, 2021
Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Members of ‘Ethnic Crop Team’ (10 or 12) and 15 or more farmers will participate in the third workshop during ‘Bottle Gourd Day’ (July 2021) at UMES. Participants gain knowledge about the fertigation, irrigation, pest management, and harvesting of bitter gourd and bottle gourd. Team and growers will also be invited for next workshop in September 2021. New team members who will join the project at later stages will receive previous educational materials (factsheet, videos, face-to-face consultation) to keep pace with the project.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
12
Proposed Completion Date:
July 10, 2021
Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Members of ‘Ethnic Crop Team’ (10 or 12) and 18 farmers will participate in the fourth workshop during ‘Veggies Budget Day’ (September 2021) at UMES. Participants learn about budget preparation and market strategies for the sale of Asian Indian vegetables. In addition, cooking class for bottle gourd preparation will also be conducted. Members of team (10 or 12) and farmers who patriciate in the earlier workshops responds to annual verification to report on teaching and assistance about cultivation of Asian Indian vegetables biter gourd and bottle gourd. Members will also be invited for next workshop in October 2021. New team members who will join the project at later stages will receive previous educational materials (factsheet, videos, face-to-face consultation) to keep pace with the project.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
18
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
12
Proposed Completion Date:
September 25, 2021
Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Members of Ethnic Crop Team’ (10 or 12) and farmers will be contacted quarterly about the latest information and developments in our vegetable trials and asking if they have any questions and need assistance or more information. Online study material will also be provided about the Asian Indian vegetable cultivation and Q&A session will be organized after each workshop. Members will also be invited for next workshop in October 2021.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
18
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
12
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2021
Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Members of Ethnic Crop Team’ (10 or 12) and 18 farmers will be invited to attend ‘Cooking Out Veggies Day’ (October 2021) at UMES to visit ‘Fenugreek’ experimental trial and learn how to cook fenugreek leaves. This cooking demonstration will help stakeholders to share recipes with consumers to popularize and accelerate the sale of fenugreek leaves. Interested parties will be encouraged to participate in the projects spring (April 2022) education programs for the cultivation and management of fenugreek and eggplant. New team members who will join the project at later stages will receive previous educational materials (factsheet, videos, face-to-face consultation) to keep pace with the project.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
18
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
12
Proposed Completion Date:
October 30, 2021
Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

An ‘Ethnic Crop Team’ of 10-12 service providers and 20 farmers will participate in the second workshop during ‘Fenugreek Day’ (April 2022) and learn about the fundamentals of climate, soil, site preparation, selection of varieties, formation of raised beds, and trellis design for fenugreek and eggplant cultivation. Team and growers will also be invited for the next workshop in July 2022. New team members who will join the project at later stages will receive previous educational materials (factsheet, videos, face-to-face consultation) to keep pace with the project.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
12
Proposed Completion Date:
April 30, 2022
Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Members of ‘Ethnic Crop Team’ (10 or 12) and 22 or more farmers will participate in the third workshop during ‘Eggplant Day’ (July 2022) at UMES. Participants gain knowledge about the fertigation, irrigation, pest management, and harvesting of fenugreek and eggplant. Team and growers will also be invited for next workshop in September 2022. New team members who will join the project at later stages will receive previous educational materials (factsheet, videos, face-to-face consultation) to keep pace with the project.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
22
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
12
Proposed Completion Date:
July 16, 2022
Milestone #9 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Members of ‘Ethnic Crop Team’ (10 or 12) and 25 farmers will participate in the fourth workshop during ‘Veggies Budget Day’ (September 2022) at UMES. Participants learn about budget preparation and market strategies for the sale of Asian Indian vegetables. In addition, cooking class for eggplant preparation will also be conducted. Members of team (10 or 12) and farmers who patriciate in the earlier workshops responds to annual verification to report on teaching and assistance about cultivation of Asian Indian vegetables fenugreek and eggplant. New team members who will join the project at later stages will receive previous educational materials (factsheet, videos, face-to-face consultation) to keep pace with the project.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
25
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
12
Proposed Completion Date:
April 30, 2022
Milestone #10 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Members of Ethnic Crop Team’ (10 or 12) and 25 farmers will be contacted quarterly about the latest information and developments in our vegetable trials and asking if they have any questions and need assistance or more information. Online study material will also be provided about the Asian Indian vegetable cultivation and Q&A session will be organized after each workshop.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
25
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
12
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2022
Milestone #11 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Each year one workshop will be conducted at TALMAR to Educate US Service veteran to cultivate Asian Indian vegetables in Baltimore area of MD.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
8
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
1
Proposed Completion Date:
September 6, 2021

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

SARE Outreach

Outreach about SARE:

SARE Outreach Plan

I am responsible for the organization of multiple extension and outreach events through the UMES extension program. These events will provide a platform to share and communicate SARE program to growers, farmers, extension educators, and agriculture service providers. In addition, all my research grants include an extension component, which will be utilized for the dissemination of SARE program benefits to the farmers. Following is the list of scheduled events;

I: Worcester County Fair (June, 2020/2021) in Snow Hill organized by UME.

I: Agriculture Day (Sep., 2020/2021) at UMES.

II: Apple Day (Oct., 2020/2021) at UMES.                                                            

III: Strawberry Day (Nov., 2020/2021) at UMES.

IV: Small Farm Conference (Nov., 2020/2021) at UMES.

V: E mail communication with UMES faculty to participate in SARE grants

All these events will be attended by the farmers, growers, stakeholders, farm managers, and extension educators. Sustainable agriculture practices in selected fields of farming will be disseminated through a variety of tools

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.