While small farms represent the dominant form of production agriculture in the world, typical agricultural knowledge and technology development models have often failed to improve small farm productivity, enhance resource conservation, reduce rural poverty, or improve regional food security.
A new research study in organic farming–a unique value-added form of agriculture–has been undertaken to help address inadequacies in the current knowledge of the organic market as well as provide innovative new options for struggling small farmers. Rutgers, in partnership with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, was awarded a $99,803 grant for the study of consumer perceptions and behaviors in the Mid-Atlantic region in order to enable growers to capitalize on the organic market. The grant was awarded through the USDA’s Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program, which provides matching funds to state departments of Agriculture, state agricultural experiment stations, and other state agencies to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products, and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.
Rutgers faculty participating in the project are Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics members, Professor Ramu Govindasamy (Principal Investigator), Instructor Isaac Vellangany, and Postdoctoral Associate Surendran Arumugam; Extension Specialist in Soil Science Joseph Heckman, Department of Plant Biology and Pathology; and Rutgers Cooperative Extension Agricultural Agents Rick Vanvranken, Atlantic County; Meredith Melendez, Mercer County; Wes Kline, Cumberland County; and Jenny Carleo (CC’99, GSNB ’03), Cape May County. The goal of this research is to enhance both the net profits and the sustainability of small farms choosing to service the organic niche market.