January 2018 Issue of Wines & Vines

Texas Tech Adds Local Food and Wine Production Concentration

by Kate Lavin

Fredricksburg, Texas—The board overseeing higher education in Texas approved an innovative new program that will allow students at Texas Tech University to earn a degree in local food and wine production. 

The program will fall under the Department of Plant & Soil Science and be overseen by viticulture and enology professor Ed Hellman. “A lot of universities over the past few decades have gotten away from horticultural crop-production classes,” Hellman told Wines & Vines. “But with the local food and farm-to-table-type movements, there is much more interest in where your food comes from. Consumers are much more interested in that.” He added that sustainable production of food and wine is another component of the program, and unlike viticulture and enology, the new concentration also 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 Fredricksburg campus where he is based. The concentration also is available to students at Texas Tech’s main campus in Lubbock, where the school’s viticulture and enology program was first introduced in 2010. (That program, too, has since expanded to include the satellite campus in the Texas Hill Country town of Fredricksburg.) 

While most of the state’s grapes are grown in West Texas, according to Hellman, “The Hill Country is what a lot of people think of as ‘Texas wine country.’ This is where it all comes together.” 

As of July 2017, Texas was the fifth-largest wine-producing state in terms of cases produced per year. The Lone Star State is home to 294 wineries, according to Wines Vines Analytics, producing 1.8 million cases per year. 

Career trajectory 
Graduates could put the new degree program 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. 

“Places that are wine tourism destinations have got to have good restaurants, and the farm-to-table-type restaurants are exactly what wine consumers are looking for,” Hellman said. “There’s a need just like there is in the wine industry for trained professionals.…That’s why we started the viticulture and enology concentration, and that’s why we’re expanding to this food and wine production concentration.”


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