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Conference Name Urban agriculture in Maryland: results of an Extension needs assessment

Neith Little and Shannon Dill


This poster will present key results of an Extension needs assessment of urban farmers and entrepreneurs in Maryland.

Interest is high in urban agriculture, with many non-profits, businesses, municipalities, and individuals launching urban agriculture ventures. To enable extension educators and applied researchers to better serve urban agricultural audiences, we conducted a needs assessment of urban farmers and urban agriculture entrepreneurs in Maryland.

Methods were an online survey and guided interviews. Because no complete list of urban farmers exists, survey and interview participation was solicited from two sample populations: (1) a list of 47 urban farmers identified during the informal needs assessment and (2) the mailing list of 473 subscribers to Urban Ag E-News, published by UMD Extension.Of the survey respondents, 29 were identified as urban farmers or urban agriculture entrepreneurs.

Key results include that in Maryland, the majority of urban farmers grow outdoors in-ground, in raised beds, or in high tunnels. A minority of urban farmers in Maryland grow indoors using high-tech methods such as aquaponics, hydroponics, artificial lights. Urban farmers have multiple goals for their enterprises and are very strongly committed to the triple bottom line of producing income, improving their communities, and benefiting the environment. Urban farmers are more diverse than the general farming population.

Based on the barriers to success and educational needs identified in this needs assessment, extension has a lot to offer urban farmers. In particular, educational materials and applied research on small-scale, diversified vegetable production for local market is relevant to urban farmers in Maryland. However, to serve this audience well, it will be important to invest in local Extension educators to build trust and relationships, to listen to urban farmers’ specific goals and practices, and to adapt existing resources to the scale and priorities of urban farmers while conducting new applied research to expand the science-based knowledge in this field.