Specialty and Ethnic Crops
The Ethnic Crops program exists to meet the needs of the rapidly changing ethnic makeup of the region’s consumers. Working with area community gardeners, Ethnic Crop Development Specialist Yao Afantchao advises residents on how to grow and cook a variety of healthy and flavorful international menu options. He also introduces commercial growers to expanding ethnic produce marketing opportunities. “Ethnic produce presents a significant opportunity for Mid-Atlantic farmers as high-value alternative crops and an excellent source of income,” Mr. Af-antchao points out. Ongoing research in plant varieties and cultivation techniques is also a part of the Ethnic Crops program. Two vegetable recipes have been chosen for study in the program’s research plot: garden eggs, a kind of eggplant, and a hot pepper known as Scotch Bonnet. According to Mr. Afantchao, ethnic foods products in North America account for more than 12% of all retail food sales, and are projected to grow 5% annually. “For some consumers, ethnic produce is not only a source of food and fiber but also a source of cultural values.”
* In 2010, an estimated 155,000 DC residents were exposed to ethnic crops planted in 11 community gardens and eight recreation centers. Residents enjoyed sampling a variety of African plants at community “tasting” events throughout the District.
*Source: DC Department of Parks and Recreation
Ethnic Crop Development Specialist