Economic opportunities have arisen for specialty agriculture catering to ethnically diverse consumers along the eastern coast of the United States (Tubene, 2001). U.S. Census data shows that the overall average American population increases from 2000 to 2012 were 9.5% as compared with 32% for the subgroup of Asians (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). U.S. Census data (2011) had shown that the mainstream population of this eastern region increased by 13% from 1990 to 2000 as compared with 48% for Asian populations. Total U.S. Asian populations are expected to rise to ≈25 and 40 million people by 2030 and 2050, respectively. The ethnic population boom from 1990 to 2005 along the east coast was even more pronounced where Asian population hubs in the northeast region reached 60% growth or more during this period (Govindasamy et al., 2007c). With large Asian populations in New York City, Newark, Baltimore, and Washington D.C., local growers can adopt new ethnic crops to engage these emerging markets.
By identifying new specialty vegetables, greens, and herbs that can be grown economically on the east coast, our concept was to connect more precisely with consumer interest which mitigates grower risk and creates more opportunities for local agricultural production. We hypothesized that if ethnic consumers were searching for and/or purchasing specific fresh horticultural produce, this rising demand provides alternative production options for U.S. farmers to grow new crops that are not easily found in the traditional markets in their region.
The overall objective was to focus on the ethnic produce market segments along the east coast where Chinese and Asian Indian consumers were chosen to survey for their strong recent growth and continued growth expectations (Govindasamy et al., 2007a, 2007b, 2007c, 2010a, 2010b, 2014). This demographic approach applied market survey results of consumer preference to identify and prioritize crop types of specific Asian cultivars for research investigation and commercial demonstration.
University extension trials continue to work on production practices for these new crop introductions (Ayeni et al., 2010a, 2010b, 2010c; Mangan et al., 2012; Park et al., 2007; Sciarappa 2003; Sciarappa et al., 2004a, 2004b). Local farmers can benefit from targeting food crops in higher demand and catering to the special culinary needs of this sizable ethnic market as well as expanding local production into Asian markets and penetrating established mainstream institutions (Govindasamy et al., 2010a, 2014a).
Market penetration of new food crops can be improved by documenting human health functionality by noting native properties of the produce (Goldman, 2014). Recent research efforts have begun to better understand phytonutrient content of vegetable crops (Newell-McGloughlin, 2008). Concurrently, more consumers are choosing foods with suspected health benefits and superior nutritional qualities (Cappellano, 2009). Increased consumption of a diversity of vegetables in the diet may provide beneficial health outcomes (Bellavia et al., 2013). Several indigenous Asian crops in the Allium (chives), Brassicaceae (broccoli and cabbage), and herb families are associated with medicinal and health properties (Block, 2010; Janick, 2003). The Working Group of Asian Horticulture held a workshop entitled ‘Asia’s Indigenous Horticultural Crops’ at the 2009 annual conference of the American Society of Horticultural Scientists to share research information and increase awareness among members (Mou and Wang, 2012). Similarly, this paper from the 2015 Working Group of Asian Horticulture Colloquium presents highlights to illustrate the use of a market-first analysis of new crops to determine research steps targeting ethnic consumers and crop producers.
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