SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. (DC News Now) — A Shepherd University project is striving to build a model for global food sustainability.

It is centered around the chestnut tree which once dominated the eastern American forest. But logging in the glory days of the American railroad decimated the trees.

“The chestnut tree was a part of every aspect of every American’s life,” said Dr. Sylvia Bailey Shurbett with the Center for Appalachian Studies. “The tree would build a barn that would last 150 years. It would feed their pigs. It would help them grow their crops. It was food for them.”

Chestnut trees imported from China are treasured because they are especially resistant to blight.

“The more you can get out and plant trees, whether it’s chestnut trees or other trees, you’re going to be increasing biodiversity,” said Dr. Brooke Comer at Shepherd. “It helps clean the air. It does so many good things. It pulls carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

Researchers say the Appalachian region is the ideal place for the project.

“This is where on the whole eastern half of the United States the species are fleeing climate change,” explained Susan Thompson with the Sustainable Farming Project.

The research done here has global implications.

“The practices that we are doing here,” said farm coordinator Madison Hale, “we’re thinking about social impact, economic impact and the ecological impact.”