France - Comparative Food Systems: Anne Puzak, Food Science


Posted: October 18, 2014

I was able to learn a lot about agriculture not only in France, but here in the United States as well.
In the vineyards

In the vineyards

While growing up, I always wanted to go to Europe, and once I was given that chance all I wanted to do was go back. Majoring in Food Science makes traveling abroad for a whole semester a little challenging, especially when planning on graduating within four years.  Luckily, the College of Agricultural Sciences offers embedded courses that allowed me to take a trip to Paris, France for two weeks in the summer.

The course AG BM 470B compared agricultural components between the United States and France. The class met twice a week during the Spring semester leading up to the trip. Each week was split into a day of learning about a topic and a day of demonstration or discussion based on related articles. Topics included genetically modified organisms, food safety and security, the role of agribusinesses, animal welfare, and much more. Speakers were brought in from various departments in the College of Agricultural Sciences to speak more on some of the subjects and demonstrations included cheese tasting and a visit to a vineyard.

The semester flew by and next thing I knew it was the third week in May and time to board a flight to Paris. We arrived on a weekend, so we were given a walking tour and time to adjust and explore the area. We adventured to the Luxembourg Gardens and visited the Eiffel Tower and even stumbled on a bread festival in front of Notre Dame. It was great to be able to have the free time to roam before having to start classes.

AgroParis TechThe first week at AgroParis Tech was very busy. The first day we had an introductory lecture of the school and the culture of France. We were then escorted onto a boat tour along the Seine River that pointed out many of the important landmarks in the city. We caught dinner with the group and many professors of AgroParis Tech to more casually introduce and get to know everyone. The lectures on Tuesday included economy and animal welfare. It was really cool to get the French perspective on these topics. Class was followed up with a trip to the US Embassy.  We were able to have lunch with the FAS chair and discuss their role in economic trades when it comes to agriculture. It was a really cool experience to be inside that building. Everything was so fancy that I would hate to live there for fear of destroying anything. 

Wednesday we were able to get out of the classroom for scheduled class time. A bus transported us to the region of Champagne.  We were given a tour of Lycee Aroviticole Crezancy which is an agricultural school in France. The presentations were given by students, which was a really cool experience to be able to interact with them. We were then transferred to CIVC which is a champagne house where we learned their role in the production of champagne. Our last stop on the field trip was to Vazart- Coquart’s farm and vineyard. We were walked through the production of his champagne. It was really cool to see all the different aspects of production and have specific it needs to be.

The end of the week was more focused on food. Thursday we had lectures on the food industry and the specific labels in France. We were able to go to a local grocery store and have a scavenger hunt for these labels which were later used to make a giant lunch for the class. We also went on a chocolate tour throughout Paris that showcased the large chocolatiers in the area. Friday was spent at Rungis Fresh Market. It is the largest fresh market, and it was incredible. As a food scientist it was so cool to see the distribution of the food and productions because you never really hear about how that happens.  After the market, we were given a tour of an organic farm that was in the area. We finished the day with a quick guided tour of the National Assembly.  It was a busy week and we were looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend.

The weekend was spent very similar to that of the first.  We explored the area some more and walked along the Seine. We discovered they have a bunch of stations set up that advertise and promote local businesses and artists. There are sections set up for daily fitness classes and we were able to participate in free fencing lessons! Saturday was very relaxing. Sunday, we took a day trip to south eastern Paris to go to the zoo. It recently reopened due to renovation so there weren’t all the animals back. It was still a really cool experience. Across the street from the zoo is a giant park and a huge carnival was taking place. We explored for a little bit and were even brave enough to try some of the rides. It was really cool to just hang out and find things to do in the park, but by the evening we were exhausted.

Monday started the week off with a lecture on crop production and a tour of the research garden on the roof of the school. It was a pretty rainy day. It worked to our advantage though because a small group of us went up to the top of the Eiffel Tower and there was barely a line. Tuesday, the class went on a field trip to the Raspail street market. Venders set up along a street with fresh produce, cheese, and meat products. We then traveled to Versailles where we toured the Potoger du Roi gardens. They are the gardens that King Louis had to grow food for his meals. Yet again it looked a bit rainy, so we ended up skipping out on the Versailles gardens. Wednesday was a very educational day. We started the morning out with a lecture on genetically modified organisms. For lunch we conducted a cheese tasting with all different types of cheese such as Brie and goat. We then headed to the Louvre for a tour of paintings that incorporate agriculture. Many of the paintings just contained food. Thursday we took a medieval tour of Paris. It was cool because we walked by a lot of the places we visited in the past two weeks. It was a good way to wrap up seeing everything in the city. It was a holiday in Paris so we didn’t have anything else scheduled for the day. A lot of us just went back to the dorms to hang out and work on our presentations that were due the next day. Presentations were given all day Friday. We were split into two sections, morning and afternoon. I presented a case study on the difference in beef production between the United States and France. Afterwards, the class was invited onto the rooftop for a party with the staff of AgriParis Tech. There were appetizers and desserts for us to munch on as we mingled. It was a great ending to the course.

The course was an awesome experience. I was able to learn a lot about agriculture not only in France, but here in the United States as well. Traveling to a foreign country and having free time gave me a lot of confidence. You have to come up with a game plan and figure out how to execute it with the challenge of a language barrier. I hope to apply this experience in the future by having a different perspective on ways to go about agriculture. There are some differences between the two countries that could be extremely beneficial to each other. I’m extremely grateful for being given the opportunity to have returned to Paris for the summer class.