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, a year-round demand for amaranth exists among individuals like herself who are from Africa, South America, and beyond because the only options that otherwise exist are frozen, not fresh.
“I went to Dr. Paulsen once we knew the Rosen Ag Center was going to happen and suggested that we try our hand at producing an ethnic food in the greenhouse. He was right on board with it,” said Kinwa-Muzinga.
In fall 2021, Kinwa-Muzinga developed a plan to have her agribusiness entrepreneurship class participate in a project to grow the root in the greenhouse. The project included budgeting, production, marketing, and selling amaranth, basil and romaine, 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 greenhouse has shipped more than 100 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 in the beginning phases of production.
In addition to ethnic foods, ag students are also using their business plans to donate or sell other produce harvested from the Rosen Ag Center and Morningside Garden to Sodexo for the Morningside Caf, Table 32, The Hard Rock, Kahill’s, and more.