New Fermentation Major Available at University of Maryland College of Ag | Cooking-and-recipes

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The process of fermentation is responsible for some of mankind’s tastiest achievements – beer, wine, bread, cheese and pickles, for example. Now there’s a major at the University of Maryland that will teach the specific science of fermentation to a new generation of makers and entrepreneurs.

The University of Maryland says the new fermentation science major, housed at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, or AGNR, will prepare students for the labor demand. Broad fermentation industries include beverages (beer, wine, distilled spirits, and kombucha), plant foods (kimchi, tempeh, and miso), dairy (cheese and yogurt), and biotech industries (biofuels and pharmaceuticals) . In addition to general education courses, students will complete required core courses in the science of fermentation. They will also participate in industrial internships, gain hands-on experience and engage in experiential learning with fermentation industries, which will result in a possible placement in these companies.

“Brewing for a while”

Professor Frank Coale, Extension Specialist and Acting Assistant Dean for Special Programs at the College of AGNR, was instrumental in the creation of the major.

“It’s been brewing for a while,” Coale said. “It’s been at least five years that local agriculture and food industries across the state have been talking about the need for well-trained professionals to help the various fermentation industries grow and diversify.”

However, the fermentation science major didn’t happen overnight. The process, from interested conversation to formal inquiry to the creation of the new major, began two and a half years ago. The first step was to build a workforce, led by the Maryland Department of Commerce and the Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) at Towson University in 2019.

“It was important to us that the study was conducted by an independent entity,” Coale said, “and when the study was published in early 2020, it showed that the food and beverage fermentation industry beverages is one of the fastest growing in the state, outpacing overall growth, and prospects for jobs at the vocational baccalaureate level were strong.

Kevin Atticks of Grow & Fortify, a company that specializes in supporting Maryland’s wine, brewery and distillery industries, can attest to this need. He is delighted that the University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources provides such an educational opportunity.

“The new fermentation program is a transformational development for our industry,” said Atticks. “Bringing in new expertise and training a new workforce will open new opportunities for growth in all sectors of the fermentation industry.”

Coale said Atticks has also been a “great help” in running the program, and Grow & Fortify commissioned a survey for the industry that was met with great enthusiasm from more than 50 respondents. “When you email a survey and people take the time to not only fill in the multiple choice answers provided, but also write paragraphs in the comment box, you know you’ve touched on a topic that is important to them.”

Once studies and surveys showed the viability of the program, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources then turned to researching how they wanted to design the major. They looked at similar programs at other universities, like the University of California, Davis and Colorado State University.

“Compared to all the other programs already in existence, however, our new program will be unique,” ​​Coale said. “One, because it combines fermentation studies for food, beverages and pharmaceuticals, and two, because we require students to also study the origin of the agricultural materials used to create the end products and how they are cultivated. Students will be on farms to see how the grains, grapes, fruits, vegetables and milk they use are produced. »

As such, the Fermentation Science major falls under the purview of two departments within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources – both the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences and the Department of plant science and landscape architecture.

Diana Cochran, an assistant clinical professor of plant science and landscape architecture, with a background in the study and production of hops, grapes, and berries, is the program’s lead faculty member. She helps spread the word to current and incoming students about the new major and its opportunities.

“I think the major is going to attract students who might not have ended up in agricultural college otherwise,” Cochran said. “The connection to the food industry will attract a potentially diverse new group of students.”

Creating experts for a growing field

Upon successful completion of their prerequisite science courses, students will focus on specific major courses such as cheese making, enology, brewing, distillation, food science, and food processing. These courses will focus on the fundamentals of processing, to understand the complex and diverse materials that are the raw ingredients and the final food and beverage products of fermentation.

In addition, internships and research credits will be required for the major.

“We want students to be very active and make real connections to the industry they will be graduating in,” Cochran said.

Both Cochran and Coale are enthusiastic about applying the research and internship components. Coale was instrumental in planning the renovation of the new fermentation lab on the university’s College Park campus that will enable “complete brewing, complete winemaking, complete cheesemaking,” he said.

Cochran has started conversations with wineries and breweries interested in hiring interns from the program.

“The industry is ready for us to do that,” she said.

Indeed, not only the industry, but the entire state of Maryland is ready. Final approval for the major had to pass not only through the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the University of Maryland Board of Regents, but also through the Maryland Commission on Higher Education and all universities in the university system. of State.

“A lot of eyeballing and a lot of critical evaluation went into developing this new program. And, every step of the way, it was a resounding yes,” Coale said.

The new fermentation science major is offered at the University of Maryland’s College Park campus and Shady Grove Universities in Maryland starting this fall.

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