Engaging South Asian growers and customers in fresh vegetable production
Recently, New York City (and the United States) has seen an influx of South Asian immigrants, especially from Bangladesh, joining more established immigrant groups from India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Bangladeshi immigrants bring with them a vibrant agricultural tradition, and many are accustomed to purchasing vegetables directly from producers or fresh vegetable markets. At the same time, New York City has an increasing number of urban farms and farmers markets in immigrant neighborhoods. We seek to bridge the gap to integrate South Asian immigrants and their traditional crops into established markets, gardens, and farms as a way to make regional agriculture more inclusive and financially viable. We are seeking a better understanding of the community as both growers and consumers by asking what crops they are growing or buying, how best to support local growers, and how to connect them to markets and resources.
Our objectives are to create a grower’s resource guide for South Asian specialty crops and to create a report with recommendations on building strong connections between farmers’ markets and South Asian growers and customers. We will survey South Asian growers and shoppers, and the results will inform the grower guide and report contents, which will be disseminated through workshops, conferences, and the ENY Gardener Handbook. The crop guide and report will provide both new and established farmers with tools to sustain their crop production, and will encourage South Asian immigrants to participate fully in farmers markets and their new community.
- We hired two Bengali-speaking specialists, both graduates of our youth internship program, to administer 80 surveys in Bengali.
- We surveyed 40 Bangladeshi growers in East New York and collected data on growing space, crops grown, outlets for distribution of produce, and resources needed.
- We surveyed 40 Bangladeshi consumers in shopping centers; 20 at various farmers markets in Eastern Brooklyn and Queens, 10 at supermarkets, and 10 at green grocers. We collected data on shopping behavior (including frequency and location of shopping event), produce preferences, and reasons for shopping choices.
March 2016: David Vigil (ENYF Project Director) and Deborah Greig (ENYF Agricultural Director) will hire outreach specialist. Outreach specialist will begin assembling contacts for the grower survey from our database and community contacts. Vigil and Greig will design grower and shopper surveys and outreach specialist will test them out to determine average survey times, making adjustments as necessary. Final survey will be translated into Bengali.
ENYF was undergoing the hiring process for a new Youth Farm manager, so these initial steps were postponed until the position was filled.
April 2016: Print grower survey. Outreach specialist will begin grower survey outreach at supply distributions and community events. Vigil and Greig will accompany outreach specialist to assist with training and quality control.
David Vigil assembled contacts for grower survey from data collected at a compost giveaway event. Grower survey was designed.
May-June 2016: Continue grower survey, aim to complete by end of June. Weekly check-ins with ENYF staff about survey process. ENYF staff will finalize and print shopper survey, and outreach specialist will begin administering it.
New ENYF Youth Farm Manager was hired (Kendra Ellis). Outreach specialist (Afroza Sultana) was hired and given 40 printed surveys and a list of community contacts. Sultana administered the surveys, visited home gardens, and took photos of study participants in their gardens.
June-September 2016: Outreach specialist will continue shopper survey at the ENY Farmers’ Market and at local produce outlets and retail areas. Continue check-ins with ENYF staff.
Ellis designed the shopper survey, which was accompanied by a stack of photos to aid in communication during survey administration. Due to professional and academic demands, Sultana was unable to continue as outreach specialist, so we passed the role onto her brother, Minhazul Abedin, to administer the consumer surveys.
October 2016: Outreach specialist will assist with tabulating surveys. Agriculture Director will analyze data and begin assembling the guides. ENYF staff will conduct research into crops as needed for the crop guide. ENYF staff will collaborate on writing the guide summarizing the research.
Abedin finished administering the consumer surveys.
November-December 2016: Finalize and print crop guide and research summary. Publicize the guides on website, email, and social media.
Ellis is analyzing the results and beginning the process of crafting the crop guide and research summary.
January-February 2017: Project Director will complete SARE Report. ENYF Staff will give at least one workshop on South Asian specialty crops (or have the workshop accepted into the conference at this point) and distribute the guides at the workshop.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The data from the grower survey revealed that the overwhelming majority of Bengali growers utilize their backyard space, meaning that they aren’t involved with community gardens, and that they grow for their families and have little interest in vending at a farmers market.
One common concern that arose from the consumer survey results was the need for Bengali translators at farmers markets and shopping centers. Many consumers also expressed a desire to see more fruit, peppers, organic produce, and generally more South Asian produce. These initial results will likely impact the crop plan for our Youth Farm and our hiring decisions for this year’s crop of youth interns.
Youth Farm Manager
East New York Farms!/United Community Centers
613 New Lots Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11207
Office Phone: 7186497979