Central state lands $10 million grant to study sustainable farming systems

The United States Department of Agriculture is awarding Central State University at Wilberforce a $10 million grant to study the potential of hemp to solve some food security and sustainability issues.

The award is part of $146 million the USDA is distributing to boost Sustainable Agriculture Systems (SAS). Central State is the only university in Ohio and the only historically black college or university (HBCU) to receive an SAS grant, according to a statement.

Over five years, the project will explore how hemp could be used as an aquaculture feed ingredient to address food safety issues related to the consumption of seafood raised with hemp-based feed additives. Researchers will look for ways to increase economic markets and the sustainability of seafood and hemp production.

“This project is my heart and soul,” says Brandy E. Phipps, Ph.D., assistant professor of food, nutrition, and health research at Central State, who wrote the grant and is the principal investigator. .

She points to the systemic structures that have led Blacks, Latinxes, and Native Americans to have some of the worst health outcomes.

“If we want to address health issues in a way that is sustainable and truly meets the needs – especially of those who have been historically disadvantaged – then we have to do it holistically. We have to be able to say ‘It’s the foods which will contribute to health.”

She says that means going beyond just educating people about food, but giving them access and sovereignty over their food choices.

“It comes into a community (and) forms real, lasting partnerships that say ‘Tell me what you need and how can I use and leverage my privilege and my resources to support you and amplify this and help you to achieve your goals towards yours food sovereignty and health outcomes.’ “



Central State University

Brandy E. Phipps, Ph.D. is the project’s principal investigator.

The project includes partnerships with the College of Menominee Nation, Kentucky State University, University of Delaware, University of Kentucky, and Mississippi State University.

Phipps notes that the project will provide training and degrees to African American and Native American students in agriSTEM fields where they are not well represented. New certificate programs will be created in the areas of hemp production and aquaculture. Community members will also be able to earn these certificates. Part of the deal means that students at the College of Menominee Nation — primarily a two-year tribal college — can also earn a four-year bachelor’s degree in a variety of agriculture-related fields.

“They can then hopefully bring that — those skills and credentials — back to their community and build those communities that way as well,” Phipps says.

She says the goal in five years is to “show that hemp can be safely used as seed for aquaculture, which would lead to the possibility of increasing markets for hemp grain as well as aquaculture production.” in a way that is environmentally sustainable… We would have many more African American and Native American and agriSTEM graduates We will diversify the workforce Hopefully we will have new local growers in the communities with which we work.

She would also like the program to be a model for other institutions.

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