Alabama project hopes to capitalize on ethnic, organic trends

02/25/2013 09:08:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

Asian vegetablesVicky BoydResearchers want to help limited-resource growers take advantage of hot ethnic and organic markets.Ethnic and organically grown foods are hot right now.

And a group of researchers led by Rao Mentreddy of Alabama A&M University, Normal, wants to help limited-resource farmers take advantage of the trend.

With funding from a Speicalty Crops Block Grant, the group hopes to introduce and demonstrate new and emerging ethnic vegetable crops using organic production, according to a news release.

They cited Alabama's growing Hispanic and Asian populations, which grew 145 percent and 71 percent, respectively, between 2000 and 2010 as reason for their focus.

The researchers also hope that ethnic and organic crops will provide a more sustainable form of production.

Neighboring states, such as Georgia and Kentucky, have already begun to cash in on these markets.

The first step is to establish ethnic vegetable crops at Alabama A&M's Winifred Thomas Agricultural Research Station in Hazel Green.

By the end of the first year, the group hopes to have secured collaborators who will hold educational field days, sharing marketing strategies and cooking demonstrations.

The second year will involve exploring additional opportunities, recruiting participating farmers and conducting more educational workshops and culinary programs.

Other participating researchers include Julio Correa, Robert Spencer and Eddie Wheeler of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System's Alabama Ethnic Food Security Network; Karen Wynne of Crotovina Inc., Radhika Kakani of Indigo Market LLC; and Bonita Gill, a graduate student in the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Alabama A&M University.

For more information about the Alabama Ethnic Food Security Network, click here.

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