Research on Local Food Promotion: ENS Student Takes Studies to South Carolina

By Madison Dyment

For many students, the pinnacle of their collegiate experience is securing a position on a research project. For UK student and environmental and sustainability studies major Charles “Adler” Hulsey, that opportunity came through UK’s Student Sustainability Council and the Office of Undergraduate Research.

“I actually was made aware of this opportunity by a friend who worked previously with the Student Sustainability Council,” said Hulsey. “They had a research opportunity available for the summer; I applied and I got it.”

This particular position required Hulsey, a native of Alabama, to travel to South Carolina and study under his sponsor, Michael Vassalos, at Clemson University. Even without having conducted any kind of real academic research before, his background as an ENS major made Hulsey an excellent fit for the subject.

“My research was focused on promoting a local food system in South Carolina, focusing primarily on restaurants,” said Hulsey. “This consisted of working on making known a South Carolina-equivalent of Kentucky Proud ™, and creating a survey to establish the current level of education and opinions restaurant owners had.”

Clemson proved to be an overwhelmingly positive experience for Hulsey.

“I had so much fun at Clemson! I was housed on campus and able to walk to work every day. I would meet with Dr. Vassalos and figure out what I would be doing for the day and how to implement ideas into our own research,” said Hulsey.

The research called for a great deal of reading from scholarly articles from previous related projects. From the inquired insight, Hulsey was required to form a survey to send to local restaurant owners.

“The survey had to evaluate the current perceptions of local foods that restaurant owners had in South Carolina,” said Hulsey.

The research is currently ongoing, with the surveys yet to be distributed. Once distribution occurs, the data will be examined by the research team to determine next steps.

“The overall goal is to move all of South Carolina towards locally sourced food, which means there is obviously a lot of work still to be done,” said Hulsey.

With such an exceptional experience under his belt, Hulsey intends to continue his education through graduate school.

“I’m currently deciding if I want to go straight into graduate school or if I should work and then go back,” said Hulsey. “I believe furthering my education is a must, so I am trying to figure out when.”

Either way, Hulsey believes his foundation at UK and in the College of Arts & Sciences has prepared him well for this and future research opportunities and as he plans next steps toward furthering his education.