Using Demographic Information to Identify Specialty Crop Markets

Project Overview

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2017: $38,050.00
Funds awarded in 2018: $40,000.00
Funds awarded in 2019: $40,000.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2020
Grant Recipient: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
State Coordinator:
Michelle Infante-Casella
Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Cooperative Extension

Information Products


  • Vegetables: various ethnic vegetables


  • Education and Training: extension
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change

    Proposal abstract:

    The most requested educational need agriculture producers express, to agricultural service providers when surveyedis, “What can I produce to make money?” This is especially true with beginning farmers. A survey taken by 28 agricultural service providers in New Jersey at the Spring Agricultural and Natural Resources department meeting revealed that 75 % of agricultural agents and program associates said they are most often asked what should be produced to make money when questioned by new farmers. When asked what were the top inquiries from established farmers, 68% of agricultural service providers still said, “what can be grown for increased profitability”. Without financial success all other components of sustainability are unachievable. Producing widely grown “staple commodities” rarely achieves sustainable profits in the wholesale market for small-scale, limited-season producers in New Jersey. Many traditional wholesale producers have begun some form of local/retail marketing strategies to increase farm profits, recognizing that in order to be profitable, farmers in the State must produce high value crops and market them locally; but the question from farmers about what new high-value crops specifically might be profitable to produce is difficult to answer. Local markets in New Jersey are diverse and changing, with increasing ethnic populations. Currently, agricultural service providers lack adequate knowledge about the demographics contributing to the diversity of markets to properly advise farmers.

    New Jersey is an extremely unique state; very intense agricultural production systems, among an extremely diverse and concentrated population. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the population of New Jersey to be 8,944,469 in 2016, making the State the most densely populated in the Nation with 1,210 persons per square mile. In addition, more than 1 in 4 New Jerseyans identify as either Latino or Asian. The U.S. census data also reveals that 21.7% of persons living in New Jersey are foreign born. Moreover, according to the American Immigration Council, in 2014 the purchasing power of New Jersey’s Latino and Asian populations was $46 billion and $46.3 billion respectively. Besides cultural diversity, New Jerseyans also earn some of the highest per capita incomes in the nation. It is an obvious strategy to market directly to consumers in a state that is the most densely populated in the U.S., with high diversity and wealth, and with farmers who recognize there are opportunities   to market ethnic specialty crops for a price premium in the state.  It is not so obvious, however, to a vast majority of farmers or ag service providers, about where specifically to market and what crops to grow for the extremely diverse populations.

    Information about market demand and demographics, coupled with the ability to produce a crop in the Northeast region must be considered in their decisions. If producers have access to population demographic information about their potential market areas, then they can use this information, with the assistance of ag service providers, to make informed choices about which high demand ethnic crops to produce and where to focus or increase their marketing efforts. Currently agricultural service providers cannot provide this kind of assistance to producers because they lack the detailed, localized demographic data that can help farmers identify promising ethnic markets and target their production and marketing to access theses areas.  Additionally, traditional horticultural and crops training may not have included ethnic crops information. Therefore, the use of the “World Crops” website will be essential in the training in tandem with demographic information training. The World Crops website has detailed production information on crops from 4 different continents and 26 different countries. The website was developed from a previous SARE grant with the University of Massachusetts and Rutgers University. Most of the crops listed have been researched for production in the Northeast.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    8 ag service providers will work with 5 farmers each, for a total of 40 farmers, to identify new ethnic specialty crops to produce for market using demographic information that reveals areas of strong demand and market outlets, and World Crops information (from ) to select crops suitable for production in New Jersey.

    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.