- Vegetables: cucurbits, eggplant
- Crop Production: cropping systems
- Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
- Pest Management: cultivation
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 targets from proposal:
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.