A Discussion on Diversity- Cider, Education, and The Future
Let’s face it. Discussions around race, disability, gender, and various forms of diversity in general are difficult and often times uncomfortable. This discomfort can easily get in the way of people, companies, and industries from making real progress. However, ongoing discussions on these topics are necessary for positive change and equality.
When it comes to the cider industry, diversity hasn’t been a strong suit. And on an even larger scale of the wine, beer, and general alcoholic beverage world; increasing diversity is a relatively new endeavor. In fact, the American Cider Association put out a statement in June, 2020 claiming “when it comes to standing up for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) we have made critical mistakes in the past and we have done harm with our silence. We recognize that we have a lot to learn, that we will make mistakes while we are learning, and that we will grow from those mistakes.”
When we look at our position in this world- Longmont, CO. Boulder County- we can see clearly that our population is predominantly white. However, that is no excuse to not keep an open dialogue about diversity issues and finding ways to make a more representative environment for all. Boulder County is taking some initiative such as in their joining the Government Alliance on Race and Equality (GARE) back in 2018.
To get some perspective on how industry professionals can promote diversity and inclusion, and how education can be a pathway to greater
representation in various fields, we had a discussion with members of Colorado State University’s Fermentation Science Program. Jeffrey Callaway, the Associate Director, and Jeff Biegert, brewmaster and professor shared their insights as educators with industry backgrounds.
The Fermentation Science program got its start in 2013 with around 17 students enrolled and has grown to about 100-150 students per semester. Brewing is a model they use frequently in their program, but their courses cover so much beyond that including food technology, nutrition, product development, etc. “Brewing is the main model because it is a very successful way of teaching people and is translatable to many other industries,” says Callaway.
When it comes to cider, Biegert says “there are a few students who go off into the cider industry after graduation. I’m not sure if they came to us with that interest but possibly became aware of it while they were in the program. Each
semester, we have about 1-3 students who gravitate to cider/other industries.” The majority of the students are actually non-traditional meaning they are older, transferred from other programs, have graduated and then returned, etc. While the spread of ages and educational backgrounds vary quite a bit, other forms of diversity are lacking in the program.
Callaway and Biegert explained how “Colorado and Fort Collins are predominantly white so it is difficult. However, CSU itself is a very diverse place. In our department, we have one person of color so we are not very broad. We typically have 2-3 latinx students in class and we have good female representation overall.” According to an Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness report from 2019, 24% of CSU’s student body identifies as Asian, Black, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, Multi-racial, or Native American and the campus has many cultural centers to accommodate and support those individuals.
So, how can we translate the diversity we see on campus and growing in our communities into the Fermentation Science program and ultimately to the various fermentation industries including cidermaking? The answer is unfortunately not straightforward.
“Our methods for encouraging diversity are still very much in the works. We come up against a lot of federal regulations. For example, we can’t make scholarships just for people of color or any specific group of people. There are Cultural centers on campus where we can look to advertise our programs. Ideally, we want to meet students when they are younger (as most of our participants are juniors or older). For undecided (no chosen major) students, there is an opportunity to get time in front of them and potentially get them interested in our program. From a program perspective, we are limited in our options, but, we want to participate in the broader university initiatives which have more ability to make changes. Ultimately, we want to recruit the best people for the program and jobs and that is a diverse calling. Most industries are looking to increase diversity and we hope to continue having those conversations to make that happen.”
They truly want to emphasize the wealth of opportunities that can come from completion of the Fermentation Science Degree. “This is a viable career path for people of all backgrounds. It’s a collaborative effort between producers and manufacturers and everything in between,” says Biegert.
Callaway and Biegert believe Industry professionals can play a role in spreading this message of diverse opportunities for people of all walks of life. “Industry members can make people aware that the skills that we teach can go farther than beer. The professionals have a lot more flexibility in outreach and community involvement and developing scholarships. We should be letting people know that these are viable careers. People really just don’t know that they can have a livelihood in so many areas as a result of the fermentation program.”
Ultimately, diversification is a large undertaking easier said than done. But it’s a worthy endeavor. Cider is naturally inclusive. It knows no discrimination. Anyone is welcome to enjoy its deliciousness. It is us humans that need to change. And we are committed to making sure cider can be made and enjoyed by all people. We are committed to learning, conversing and challenging ourselves and the industry. We will continue to create a safe, open space for all full of laughter, celebration, dignity and authenticity. We will continue to push ourselves to create a more diverse pipeline into the industry. We all can do better. We will do better.
Special thanks to Jeffrey Callaway and Jeff Biegert of CSU’s Fermentation Science program for taking the time to share their thoughts and knowledge on this topic and keeping an open dialogue. To learn more about the program click HERE.