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.
Annie’s Project: Farming in New Jersey’s Cities and the Urban Fringe focused on the following five areas of risk identified by the US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service: financial, production, marketing/price, legal/institutional, and human/personnel. Additional education regarding urban farming topics included securing suitable land, dealing with contaminated soils and alternative growing medias, and securing water for crop production. We delivered a series of six 3-hour evening classes to 23 producers. We administered a retrospective evaluation at the conclusion of the series and distributed an evaluation survey 6 months after training. Both evaluations found that participants increased their understanding of farm risks. Furthermore, they indicated they were better able to manage the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their farm business activities.