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Central State University Teaching New Farmers How To Start Up

A row of collard greens at the Edgemont Solar Garden incubator farm in Dayton.
Alejandro Figueroa
A row of collard greens at the Edgemont Solar Garden incubator farm in Dayton.

Central State University was recently awarded a new grant to teach local farmers how to start and operate their own farming businesses.

The Beginning Farmer Program was created, in part, to help new farmers overcome some of the most common obstacles when starting a farming business. The USDA grant will fund incubator farms and farmer’s markets in underserved communities in the Dayton area, according to the university.

Two incubator farms are already in operation, one in the Edgemont neighborhood in Dayton and one in Trotwood. The program has about 50 participants.

Cindy Folck, the extension program leader, said it's also about encouraging a healthier diet in communities with limited access to fresh produce.

In addition to teaching farming skills, CSU faculty members will provide nutrition education and cooking classes to help families cook healthier meals with the vegetables grown at the incubator farms, Folck said.

Omope Carter Daboiku, the farm manager at the Edgemont Solar Garden — which hosts one of the incubator farms — said part of the program is about reclaiming the agricultural tradition, particularly among people of color.

“This also is revitalizing the community,” Daboiku said. “As people drive by and see the farmer's market that we launched a couple of weeks ago and see things growing on the landscape and see cars in the parking lot, we've had people just come off the street and say, 'wow, what are you all doing?'”

The grant is set to last three years. Folck said the plan is to eventually extend the program statewide. The hope is, by the end of the program, it will have built a stronger local community around food in Dayton.

Food reporter Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.