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

Project Overview

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

Sixteen farmers participated. Names are withheld per IRB requirements.

Information Products


  • Agronomic: other, rice
  • Fruits: apples, avocados, berries (blueberries), berries (other), berries (strawberries), grapes, other, papaya
  • Nuts: other, pecans, walnuts
  • Vegetables: asparagus, cabbages, eggplant, garlic, okra, other, peppers, radishes (culinary)
  • Additional Plants: ginger, ginseng, herbs, other


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, free-range, grazing management, herbal medicines, other
  • Crop Production: agroforestry, alley cropping, forest farming, high tunnels or hoop houses, other, silvopasture
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, other, participatory research, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, business planning, community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, farmers' markets/farm stands, financial management, land access, market study, marketing management, new enterprise development, other, risk management, whole farm planning
  • Pest Management: biological control, compost extracts, field monitoring/scouting
  • Production Systems: holistic management, other
  • Soil Management: composting
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, employment opportunities, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, urban agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    The primary issues currently faced by small, socially disadvantaged, and minority (SSDM) farmers are a lack of information, limited access to markets, a lack of knowledge and skills required for a sustainable operation of farm enterprises. Therefore, the project sets two objectives in support of the farmers: 1) to strengthen their technical and economic efficiency, and 2) to explore the scope and market potential of specialty crops. 

    Major components

    1. SSDM farmers 
    2. Garden activities (community, urban farms, backyard, school, market)
    3. Needs assessments 
    4. Hands-on training
    5. Support services
    6. Specialty crop markets
    7. Market survey 
    8. Development and adoption of a business plan

    Outreach strategy: 

    The project will disseminate findings to SSDM farmers, concerned individuals, and institutions working in agriculture: Maryland Department of Agriculture, twenty-four county extension offices, the Maryland Farmers Association, and farmer/fresh/niche market network. Findings will also be disseminated to wider audiences through eXtension. The dissemination will be continued even after project termination through its online learning platform (e.g., blog). In addition, findings will be disseminated through year-round Extension events: quarterly meetings, the annual farmers conference, farmers’ field days, farm demonstrations, and farm tours. Equally, the findings will be made public through Extension (brochures, flyers, factsheets, pamphlets, technotes, bulletins) and peer-reviewed publications, social media, email, and phone communications. Similarly, Extension’s bi-monthly newsletter, Connections; the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences (SANS) monthly digest; and the annual research magazine, Ingenuity. The UMES SANS and Extension websites are other major means of disseminating findings as well as the 1890, 1862, and 1994 Extension networks. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to achieve the following objectives:

    1. To strengthen farmers’ technical and economic efficiency: The project will investigate the factors inhibiting 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. 

    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.