Farmers on Delmarva poised to enter ethnic food markets | University of Maryland Eastern Shore Marketing Retarget Pixel

Farmers on Delmarva poised to enter ethnic food markets

  • Dr. Dixit-bitter gourds PRINCESS ANNE, MD-(September 8, 2020)-The pandemic has brought to light the importance of growing local food for “survival, sustainability and self-dependence.” University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s Dr. Naveen Kumar Dixit (at left) aims to help Delmarva farmers tap into consumer demand and an emerging market for Asian vegetables—a market currently dominated by South American imports.

    “Growers on the Delmarva Peninsula are uniquely poised to compete in the market considering their close proximity to metropolitan areas with a growing population of Asian Americans, including New York, New Jersey, the District of Columbia and Baltimore,” Dixit, an assistant professor of horticulture and UMES Extension specialist, said.  “Moreover, the non-Asian population also shows interest in ethnic vegetables in their search for new tastes and healthy foods. Modern consumers who back the ‘Buy Local Movement” are more willing to shop and pay for fresh, safe food products.”

    According to Pew research, Asian American populations grew by 72% between 2000 and 2015.  This shift in demographics brings different food cultures and develops an associated food industry in the densely populated metropolitan areas, Dixit said.  Asian Indian ethnic populations generate a significant demand for ethnic crops like bitter gourd, bottle gourd, fenugreek leaves and eggplant.

    “Cultivation of these ethnic crops will enhance business at the farm level by diversifying crops and minimizing the risk associated with dependence on single row crops, the current agricultural trend on Delmarva,” Dixit said.  “Small farmers can’t rely solely on row crops due to changing environmental conditions and market volatility.  Ethnic crops provide premium prices and are free from those negative aspects.”Students-gourds

    Dixit is the principal investigator on two grants totaling $63,000, one from the Delmarva Land Grant Institution Cooperative Research Seed Funding Program and one from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education’s Professional Development Program, to “research and provide training to agriculture service providers, growers, extension agents and other stakeholders to start successful Asian Indian vegetable enterprises.”

    A multidisciplinary ethnic crop team will expand their knowledge of Asian Indian vegetable cultivation, management and cooking in order to educate farmers through classes, field visits, workshops and demonstrations.  Online platforms will also be used to make information available to stakeholders throughout the nation and world.

    Small farmers dominate Delmarva and the Mid-Atlantic region, Dixit said.  More than 6,000 farms have less than 50 acres of land.

    “Our main goal is to enhance the prosperity of small growers on the Delmarva Peninsula in association with consumers’ satisfaction for a fresh and safe food supply,” Dixit said.

    For more information, contact Dixit at

    Top: Dr. Naveen Kumar Dixit in a creative display of sample ethnic crops he is growing in test fields on the UMES farm.

    At Right:  UMES graduate students studying agriculture economics, from left, Stanley Meli and Erasmus Aduteye, help Dixit in the field by measuring the height of test bitter gourd plants.


    Gail Stephens, agricultural communications and media associate, School of Agricultural & Natural Sciences, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, 410-621-3850,