From farmer’s market to fashion shows: MSU students create new venues for sweet potatoes and fashion

The Reflector – news
In order to create a more secure market for domestic cull sweet potatoes, the Mississippi Sweet Potato Challenge was formed at Mississippi State University. This gives MSU students the chance to be included in a project which teaches them about research while also providing sweet potato gardeners with a possible new business forming within the state.
         Sweet potatoes are grown by about 160 Mississippi farmers and contribute 82 million dollars to the state’s economy according to spchallenge.msucares.com.
  Dr. Charles Freeman, assistant professor of fashion design and merchandising from the school of human sciences, has helped with the project since its beginning three years ago. 
   Freeman said the cull sweet potatoes cannot be sold for the best market value in comparison with others of larger sizes, so they are trying to find new ways to use these smaller sweet potatoes.
     Fleshia Gillon and Mikayla James, both fashion design and merchandising majors, are partners who came up with the idea of creating leather from the cull sweet potatoes. They began working together in a class in fall of 2015. Gillon and James create this leather by using sucrose from the potatoes.
“Each semester the Sweet Potato Challenge actually present their findings and their product to a panel to determine if they’re going to continue on as a company to work through the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach to start a company, a brand and a product and really launch it,” Freeman said. 
 Freeman said the Sweet Potato Challenge team wrote a research abstract for the International Textiles and Apparel Association Conference, which is taking place this year in Vancouver, Canada.
Freeman said the abstract and research was accepted as a new kind of innovation in textile research with there being no one else doing it right now even from an academic standpoint. He said faux leather is big trend in fashion …


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