The Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Horticultural Sciences kicked off its Spirited Learning program for fall 2023, which is designed to bring students and the extended Texas A&M University community together with Texas horticulture industry leaders.
Spirited Learning is a collaborative and interactive experience in which participants learn about the state’s vibrant horticulture industry while celebrating Texas wines.
Amit Dhingra, Ph.D., head of the Department of Horticultural Sciences, Bryan-College Station, said Spirited Learning has become an extremely popular program founded on connecting attendees to horticulture.
The program is part of the department’s focus on environmental and economic sustainability, human wellness and food security in support of the Texas horticulture industry, which has a nearly $60 billion economic impact on the state.
“These events are a great medium to bring people together to educate them about horticulture,” he said. “Wine has been used for thousands of years to bring people together and enhances so many aspects of life and community. It is proving to do the same thing here. There is a connectivity at these events that is exciting for the students, our department and across the campus.”
Spirited Learning program continues to grow
The program continues to grow. It was initiated in February 2022, with over 200 participants attending each event.
Past events have featured vineyards and winemakers from across the state, including Kerrville Hill Vineyards, Kerrville; Messina Hof Winery, Bryan; Bending Branch Winery, Comfort; William Chris Vineyards, Hye; Pebble Rock Cellars, Johnson City; Frio Canyon Vineyard, Leakey; and several upcoming wineries such as Threshold vineyards, En Gedi Vineyard and Elisa Christopher wines.
Dhingra said there were 580 RSVPs to the most recent event that featured the largest Texas vineyard — Becker Vineyards, Fredericksburg.
Students, horticulture industry members, Texas A&M faculty and administrators, and community members were all among the event attendees. Dhingra said 75% of attendees at the fall kickoff event were students who represented 75 departments across the campus.
Through face-to-face networking around the featured wines, participants learn about wine, winemaking and career possibilities related to horticulture industries that span academic disciplines.
“Bringing people together around horticulture products, especially our students, brings an awareness and educates them about making healthful choices as it relates to food — be it fruits, nuts and produce or the wellness-enhancing impact of plants and flowers and the big picture concepts like sustainability and food security and horticulture’s role in that evolution,” he said. “Horticulture touches so much of life.”
Spirited Learning continues to connect
Dhingra said this program enhances the department, university and Texas A&M AgriLife agencies’ abilities to serve the broader horticulture industry. The programs connect the research, teaching and extension efforts and provide a platform for students, faculty and industry insiders to interact.
As the program grows, he hopes to incorporate other horticulture products, such as pecans, ornamentals and other food crops, into future events as another link to green industries across the state and nation.
Dhingra said past events have created opportunities for internships and employment for students and laid the foundation for relationships and collaboration.
“I think the events certainly lend themselves to connecting people, and expanding what is featured only amplifies the program’s impact,” he said. “That could be an internship for a student, a collaboration between industry and our department or across disciplines and departments or stir a conversation about challenges producers face in the field.”
Fall 2023 Spirited Learning events, all held in the Shirley and Joe Swinbank ’74 AgriLife Center on the Texas A&M campus, are scheduled for Oct. 26, Nov. 16 and Dec. 7.
For information about the Spirited Learning program or events, contact Dhingra at firstname.lastname@example.org.