Embracing Ethnic Diversity in the Morningside University Garden

Food diversity can be a positive factor in the understanding of individual cultural uniqueness, and this article highlights Morningside University’s efforts to share this appreciation.

Amaranth, more commonly known as pigweed, is often aggressively weeded from plant beds and gardens in the United States. In other parts of the world, though, it is lovingly harvested.

Dr. Annie Kinwa-Muzinga knows this firsthand. A native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kinwa-Muzinga enjoys amaranth as a healthy staple that she describes as similar to a salad. She also knew that in Sioux City, year-round demand for amaranth exists among individuals like herself from Africa, South America, and beyond because the only options that otherwise exist are frozen, not fresh. 

“I went to Dr. Tom Paulsen, Associate Professor and Department head of Applied Agriculture and Food Studies, once we knew the Morningside University Rosen Ag Center was going to happen. I suggested that we try our hand at producing ethnic food in the greenhouse. He was right on board with it,” said Kinwa-Muzinga. 

In the fall of 2021, Kinwa-Muzinga developed a plan to have her agribusiness entrepreneurship class participate in a project to grow the African staple in the greenhouse. The project included budgeting, production, marketing, and selling amaranth, basil, and romaine while allowing students to take part in every aspect of building the business plan.

“Our next step was to find a market. The students got out and made connections with the community members, and we were able to sell all of the amaranth we had within 15 minutes,” recalled Kinwa-Muzinga. 

The excitement and demand have not let up since. Since January 2022, the Morningside University Garden and Lags Greenhouse have shipped more than 300 pounds of the delicacy to local families and JMV, a Sioux City African grocery store. The students have also expanded their ethnic food production work, with sour sour and Gustavo leaves, and are in the beginning phases of Cassava production. 

In addition to ethnic foods, ag students are also using their business plans to donate or sell other produce harvested from the Morningside University Rosen Ag Center and Morningside Garden to Sodexo for the Morningside Cafe, Table 32, The Hard Rock, Kahill’s, Up from the Earth, The Gospel Mission, and more.

Contributed by Up From The Earth

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