The rapid evolution of electronic technologies is providing researchers, educators, and consumers increasingly fast access to information. On the Internet (Net), electronic mail is a rapid, efficient, and economical medium for communication. Mail list management software (Listserv, Almanac, Majordomo, and Liststar) now allows users with interests in specific topics to address production and marketing issues across state and international boundaries by posting messages to a discussion group (DG) at one electronic address. Replies from anyone interested in responding may be sent to the entire DG, constituting a discussion, or returned directly to the originator of the message. Three commodity-oriented, horticultural DGs—Apple-Crop, Veg-Prod and Direct-Mkt—established over the last 30 months now provide on-line forums for >600 subscribers from 46 states, 4 Canadian provinces, and 21 other countries. Twenty-seven percent to 31% of these DGs' subscribers responded to a survey evaluating the effectiveness of DGs as communication tools. Reponses showed that DGs were a valuable communication tool for reaching a broad resource pool rapidly and economically. Information requests, meeting announcements, and resource listings have dominated the activity of these DGs. Cooperative extension specialists and county agricultural agents represent most users (69%), followed by researchers (14%), farmers, and those with unlisted job descriptions (7% each). Ease of use, quickness (often within 24 hours), quality and quantity of replies, and the ability to glean timely information for files and newsletters were cited as the most important reasons for using these DGs.
The rapid expansion of Asian populations in the United States presents significant opportunities and challenges for the eastern U.S. produce sector to take advantage of their close proximity to densely populated areas. Initial crop studies followed by ethnic consumer and crop surveys were conducted to examine vegetable, leafy green, and herb consumption and expenditures among Chinese, Asian Indians, and other Asian groups. Consumer choices were used to prioritize subsequent production trials. Family expenditures were determined for specific Asian produce types and total produce purchases. This market data were extrapolated to the east coast Asian populations to assess potential market size (90% confidence interval, error margin 5.6%). Chinese consumer values ranged from $245 to $296 million per annum and Asian Indians ranged from $190 to $230 million per annum. The average annual fresh fruit and vegetable expenditures by both Asian groups were 2 to 3.5 times respective national averages. Leading Chinese vegetables determined by average expenditures were baby bok choy, pak choy, oriental eggplant, snow pea, oriental spinach, and napa cabbage. Highest expenditure of leafy greens and herbs for Chinese consumers were chives and garland chrysanthemum. This market-driven survey reported consumption of over 100 Asian crops and 42 cultivars were ranked “feasible” to grow in the eastern section of the United States. Horticultural matrices of selection criteria narrowed the list to the most promising candidates for production. As a result, 28 cultivars were then grown in University research and demonstration plots at Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Florida in determining growth characteristics and yield to focus horticultural crop producers. Leading vegetable cultivars for Asian Indian consumers were bitter gourd, eggplant, fenugreek leaves, cluster beans, and bottle gourd. Leading leafy greens and herbs for Asian Indians were turmeric, fenugreek, sorrel spinach, and radish greens. Most of these Asian cultivars were demonstrated to grow well in the three main growing zones of 5, 7, and 9. Phytochemical attributes such as antioxidant activity, polyphenols, and mineral contents were analyzed for several of the leading crop candidates. This initial field and laboratory data shows that many of these ethnic crops can be grown in the eastern United States to direct production opportunities and are nutrient rich to help drive consumer demand.