College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Nutrition & Food Science

Summer in Angers, France

Students learn about European agricultural practices at the Ecole Superieure d’Agriculture d’Angers (ESA)

Seven students from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources took off for the French countryside earlier this summer to immerse themselves in the local culture and learn about agricultural practices specific to the European Union. It’s the largest contingency of students the College of AGNR has sent to this unique program in Angers, France.

The trip, which took place from May 27th to June 25th, began with a visit to Paris (specifically Champs-Élysées, The Louvre, Montmarte, Notre Dame), followed by a tour of Marche International de Rungis (the largest wholesale food market in the world) and a journey to Amboise, where students toured the Loire Valley, Château de Chenonceau, Château d’Amboise, and Château de Montreuil-Bellay. Students participated in wine tastings and were able to explore local farmers markets before beginning their classes at Ecole Superieure d’Agriculture d’Angers (ESA).

“Angers is where we truly learned about French culture – from spending time with our host families to attending classes at ESA,” Angela Mazur Gray, Coordinator for Undergraduate Academic Programs and Student Services at AGNR and trip chaperone, said.  “The school where the classes took place was in the middle of the city; it was quite lovely walking to and from class every day…[and] by our second week there, we were already starting to feel like residents of the town!”

At ESA, students attended lectures which covered a wide range of topics, including: Introduction to French Agriculture, Sustainable Development, Food Industry Economics, French Language and Culture, Quality Certification in France and Europe, Viticulture, Links Between Agriculture and Food Consumption, and Bread Processing.

To supplement their classroom education, students were also taken on company visits to places such as cheese-making factories and agroforestry farms. 

“The subject matter we covered in the program wasn't what I had previously studied, but I think that the mindset of going into these new subjects with the willingness to ask questions and learn was something that UMD and AGNR helped instill in me,” said Caroline Johnson, a Food Science and Government and Politics double major hoping to someday conduct research for a food company. “I learned about traditional food processing and a great deal about food labeling and culture in the EU, which are applicable to my degree in Food Science, [but I also] enjoyed the approach to traditional food and would like to learn more about it, perhaps in the context of other cultures…this could be a future career path.”

“My studies in AGNR helped me be involved in the many lectures and discussions we had about sustainability and made me more prepared to question the French professors as to why they did certain farming practices differently,” said Harold Jimenez, a senior Horticulture and Crop Production major aiming to own his own vineyard and greenhouses one day.

Jimenez took advantage of an opportunity to enhance his experience by participating in two internships and extending his stay in Angers until August 31st.  The first internship was located on a small vineyard called Domaine Des Noades in Les Verchers-sur-Layon and the second was at a horticulture firm in La Possoniere.

At the vineyard, Jimenez helped its owner, Jacky Ripoche, farm 15 acres of multiple grape varieties by participating in grass and weed removal, trimming and pruning, raising retaining wire and clips to protect from wind damage, and labeling and capping wine bottle for sale at markets. 

“The experience and knowledge gained on the vineyard indubitably made me a more attractive job candidate in applying for jobs in the viticulture industry in the United States and gave me some insight as to what it takes to run a farm on your own,” Jimenez said.

 At the horticulture firm, Jimenez worked with perennial, herbal, and aquatic plants while rotating between four different crews, providing him with not only a more wholesome insight into the firm’s overall operations, but also the modern robots that are being used for planting purposes. 

“A lesson that really stayed with me is that no matter how much you read, learn, or think you know about a place, there is always something there that will surprise you and there is nothing like actually experiencing it,” Jimenez reflected. “Whether it's at the dinner table, walking to the town center, or visiting a monument, every moment is new…you feel like a child again learning a new language, a new history, culture and way of life, [and] it's an invaluable experience.” 

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