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In September 2016, the College of Agricultural Sciences offered its most recent edition of its Exploring World Agriculture study abroad course series. The theme of this two-week program to France was “commodities to cafes – understanding French food systems from farm gate to food plate.” Program leaders were James Sterns, Larry Lev, and Ann Shriver, all faculty members in the Department of Applied Economics.
During the first week of the program, the 14 participating students visited a range of agricultural and food production facilities near Lyon, including a small-scale organic farm and vineyard in the Beaujolais region, alpine dairy farms in the French Alps, the Beaufort cheese cooperative, and one of the most expansive aquaculture production systems in Europe. Lyon is France’s third largest city and is considered the country’s “culinary capital,” so dining options were plentiful and diverse - a few students even were happy to find McDonald’s golden arches and sample the French version of the fast food chain’s global network. Students also visited the campus of ISARA, a French university specializing in research and teaching in the areas of agriculture, food systems and the environment. ISARA faculty shared recent research findings about sustainable agricultural production practices and trends in French consumer food markets.
Week two was in Paris, where students visited Rungis, which is the world’s largest food and fresh produce wholesale distribution complex, as well as several site visits focusing on international trade and marketing. These included a visit with the USDA FAS Agricultural Attaché at the U.S. Embassy, and visits to the international headquarters of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). A highlight of the OECD visit was a chance to meet and talk with AEC Alumnus Roger Martini, who lives with his family in Paris and works at the Trade and Agriculture Directorate of the OECD. Shopping (or at least browsing) at high-end food retailing and specialty stores, and a scavenger hunt through the street markets and food boutiques of Paris added to the students’ experiences, while also leaving time for them to explore the “postcard” highlights of the city such as the Eiffel Tour, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre and Orsay Museums. Students concluded the program with a farewell dinner on Saturday night, a flight home on Sunday and the start of Fall term classes three days later!