A Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) Cooperative Extension program designed to conduct research and outreach programming on the marketing and production potential of new ethnic crops for East Coast farmers was honored at the annual meeting of the Northeast Extension Directors held July 8 at Cornell University.
The program, An Integrated Multistate Research and Extension Program Identifying Potential Consumer Demand, Production Opportunities and Barriers to Adoption of Ethnic Crops as Alternatives for East Coast Farmers received the 2012 Award of Excellence, the highest award presented by the directors of Extension in the Northeast.
The award recognizes extension outreach programming that has achieved outstanding accomplishments, results and impacts in addressing contemporary issues. Rick VanVranken, agricultural agent, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Atlantic County, accepted the award on behalf of the Ethnic Produce Production and Marketing Working Group (EPPMWG). In addition to VanVranken, the Rutgers members of the working group include Ramu Govindasamy, professor and marketing specialist in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics (DAFRE); James Simon, professor in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology and director, New Use Agriculture and Natural Plant Products Program (NUANPP) at Rutgers; Albert Ayeni, instructor, Plant Biology and Pathology ; Tom Orton, extension specialist in horticulture at Rutgers Agricultural Research and Extension Center; Brian Schilling, assistant extension specialist, DAFRE; Chung Park with NUANPP; as well as agricultural and resource management agents William Sciarappa (Monmouth County); Peter Nitzsche (Morris County); and Stephen Komar (Sussex County).
The EPPMWG is a multi-state, multidisciplinary team of extension agents, specialists and researchers from Rutgers, the University of Massachusetts, Cornell, Penn State and University of Florida. Six programs were nominated in the Northeast region, which includes states from Maine to West Virginia, including the District of Columbia.
Ethnic communities in the Northeast offer opportunities for entrepreneurial farmers to grow unique crops. Evolving from a call to address the “Nuances of Marketing Ethnic Produce” for the Mid-Atlantic Direct Marketing Conference in the late 1990s, an Ethnic Produce Production and Marketing Working Group was established to identify and quantify opportunities and barriers to the adoption of ethnic crops as alternatives for East Coast farmers.
The EPPMWG has secured more than $2.3 million to conduct research and implement outreach programs relating to ethnic produce. Collectively, on ethnic produce alone, this diverse group has to its credit 50 refereed journal articles, 14 extension publications, eight peer reviewed abstracts, three conference proceedings, three edited books, 17 edited book chapters, 77 presentations, 12 posters, 20 abstracts in proceedings, four trade journal articles and six newsletter articles. The working group has also established the WorldCrops.org website.