In Press: CASNR rolls out local food, wine production concentration next fall
By: Norman Martin
Recently, Ed Hellman, a professor with Texas Tech's Department of Plant & Soil Science, was interviewed by Kate Lavin with San Rafael, California-based Wine & Vines magazine for a news article that appeared on its website. Here's a part of the conversation.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has approved an innovative new program that allows students at Texas Tech University to earn a plant and soil science degree with a concentration in local food and wine production.
The program will fall under the university's Department of Plant and Soil Science, and students can begin enrolling in the hybrid program next fall. It will be available either at the university's main campus in Lubbock, a regional campus in Fredericksburg, or through on-line courses.
"A lot of universities over the past few decades have gotten away from horticultural crop-production classes," said Ed Hellman, a Texas Tech professor of viticulture and enology. "But with the local food and farm-to-table-type movements, there's much more interest in where your food comes from."
Sustainable production of food and wine is another component of Tech's program, and unlike viticulture and enology, the new concentration includes components of sustainable agriculture including vegetables, fruits and nuts.
As the U.S. population grows, Hellman expects the already trendy urban farming and small-acreage production movements will take off in areas like San Antonio and Austin, which are within commuting distance to the Fredericksburg campus where he is based. As of July (2017), Texas was the fifth-largest wine-producing state in terms of cases produced per year. Home to 294 wineries, it's producing 1.8 million cases per year, according to Wines Vines Analytics.
Tech graduates could put the new degree concentration to use in multiple ways, Hellman said, adding that an entrepreneurial, production-oriented graduate could start their own operation. And given the program's emphasis on small and urban operations, it wouldn't take a massive investment in land and equipment to get started.
Others, he said, will get plugged into existing operations, be they greenhouses, high-tunnel fruit and vegetable production or wineries, which often have small gardens of their own to promote biodiversity and supply their in-house kitchens for hospitality events.
"There's a need – just like there is in the wine industry – for trained professionals," Hellman said.
CONTACT: Eric Hequet, Department Chair, Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2838 or firstname.lastname@example.org
0118NM18 / Editor's Note: For a full text version of the Wine & Vines article, click here