- Vegetables: greens (leafy)
- Crop Production: organic fertilizers
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
- Farm Business Management: market study
- Production Systems: general crop production
- Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, local and regional food systems
Farmers in the densely populated, ethnically diverse northeastern United States are uniquely positioned to diversify their production landscape and customer base through the addition of ethnic crops. This project will focus on amaranth, a culturally significant vegetable for many ethnic communities. Potential for high yield per unit area and tolerance of biotic and abiotic stresses make this underutilized crop an especially attractive choice for small and beginning farmers seeking entry into the ethnic crop market. Building upon a season of preliminary research to establish production protocols in the northeast temperate climate and determine the benefit of low-cost plasticulture technologies for this heat-loving crop, this project will provide new information to assist growers of ethnic vegetables in building their customer base. Amaranth grown on URI’s Agronomy Farm will be sold by vendors at farmers’ markets throughout Rhode Island to determine whether demand for amaranth, or particular amaranth varieties, can be predicted by market community demographics. Results of both production and marketing research will be shared with local growers through University of Rhode Island’s Cooperative Extension outlets and presentations to local and regional growers. This new information will provide a base for continued growth of targeted and informed direct to consumer sales of ethnic vegetables in the northeast region.
Project objectives from proposal:
1. Perform study on demand for vegetable amaranth at farmers’ markets:
Offer varieties at 24 farmers’ market evens in Rhode Island.
Compare sales success of varieties.
Determine whether demand for this crop or certain varieties can be predicted by demographics of communities surrounding markets.
2. Develop intensive production protocols for vegetable amaranth in the northeast temperate climate. Using the most successful varieties and climate modification systems from preliminary research:
Determine yield potential for each variety.
Determine effects of harvest method on cumulative yield.
Compare cumulative yield of plasticulture production to open field production.
3. Share new information with farmers:
Host field day at URI Agronomy Farm.
Produce Cooperative Extension publication that synthesizes results of both portions of the study into flexible and region-specific vegetable amaranth production protocol adaptable to farmers’ specific production systems and target customer base.
Present findings at regional vegetable growers’ conference.