International Class Will Be Studying Arkansas Food Industries and Cuisine

Students in the Department of Food Science's "Arkansas Food Industries and Culinary Traditions" summer course.
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Students in the Department of Food Science's "Arkansas Food Industries and Culinary Traditions" summer course.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Students from all around Arkansas and the world will spend two weeks in Fayetteville this month studying Arkansas’ food industry and culinary traditions.

The Department of Food Science in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas is organizing the international “short course.” It will highlight the importance of the area’s regional food industry and food culture. Topics and speakers range from major international companies to unique small niche home-grown businesses.

From July 9-20, students will have sessions on topics such as food product innovation, sensory testing, fermented food and beverages, the art and science of coffee brewing, coffee flavor chemistry and sensory analysis, rice processing and small fruit breeding.

Students will take part in hands-on sauerkraut production, multiple cooking demonstrations, rice milling demonstrations and small group workshops.

“The purpose is to broaden the cultural and professional experience of food science students from all over,” said Andrew Proctor, University Professor of food science. “These annual courses integrate student’s academic education with the real-life food business operations of a specific geographical region.”

Five students from Austria (Graz Technical University), one from Belgium (University of Ghent) and one from Switzerland (Zurich University of Applied Science) have enrolled in the two-week course, along with four students from the U of A and two from Fresno State University in California.

“The courses allow students from different nationalities to interact in a classroom, social and professional environments,” said Proctor. “We are focusing on Northwest Arkansas, but also visiting the rice industry of the Delta region.”

The course, Arkansas Food Industries and Culinary Traditions, is part of a strategy to develop relationships with key international partners in research, education and industry outreach, Proctor said. He and food science professor Luke Howard developed research collaborations with Graz TU, and Proctor taught two summer classes in Austria last year as part of the first summer program in the partnership.

In addition to the international students, three instructors from Austria are among the presenters and speakers, including Erich Leiter, an internationally recognized chef and professor. Leiter is an expert in consumer trends, a flavor chemist, sensory science expert and Bumpers College’s key partner at Graz TU. Proctor and Leiter worked together when Proctor served as a Fulbright-Austria NAWI Graz Visiting Professor in Natural Sciences in 2015. Leiter visited the U of A the following semester, and was struck by the similarity and subtle differences in the food industry and culture between the Styria region of Austria and the Ozark region of Arkansas.

The program was developed by Proctor and Jean-Francois Meullenet, former department head and now associate vice president for agriculture–research with the U of A System Division of Agriculture.

“This short course helps highlight Northwest Arkansas as a center of interest for food science professionals,” said Proctor. “It increases our profile at Graz Technical University and promotes our international standing. Our department may be developing a model for others to follow as we synergistically engage with key international partners. The focus is on ‘relationships’ rather than ‘programs.’ The programs then develop from these relationships.”        

Sessions will be led by various speakers, including Brian Davis, Simmons Foods; Jessica Sossamon, Tyson Discovery Center; and Stephen O’Brien, Walmart Innovation Center.

Tours include visits to Walmart’s Innovation Center, Tyson’s Discovery Center, Onyx Coffee Lab in Rogers, Fossil Cove microbrewery, Moniker Ferments, the Rice Research and Extension Center in Stuttgart, supermarket visits (Harps, Sam’s Club, Whole Foods) as part of a consumer trends study, Post Familie Vineyards in Altus, Fruit Research Station in Clarksville, Fayetteville Farmers Market and Brightwater Center for the Study of Food in Bentonville.

About the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences: Bumpers College provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates who will be leaders in the businesses associated with foods, family, the environment, agriculture, sustainability and human quality of life; and who will be first-choice candidates of employers looking for leaders, innovators, policy makers and entrepreneurs. The college is named for Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas governor and longtime U.S. senator who made the state prominent in national and international agriculture.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Robby Edwards, director of communications
Bumpers College


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