This interview was conducted while Emma Richardson ’18 was a senior at Appalachian.
What interested you in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in fermentation sciences?
I have been integrated in the world of fermented foods since I moved to North Carolina at the age of 18. I worked in a high-quality wine shop while completing an associate degree in sustainable agriculture at Central Carolina Community College.
After graduation I worked for a homestead biodynamic farm in Washington state and was further exposed to the importance of overall health via fermented foods. When I transferred to App State, it only made sense to major in fermentation sciences.
What have been your most beneficial experiences in the program?
The fact that this degree is set up to be an applied chemistry degree has been the most beneficial experience. Years ago, my cousin made a joke to me saying “Emma, will you go get a chemistry degree and help me be a better cheese maker?” I honestly never thought I would do that, but I kind of, sort of, accidentally did exactly that.
Describe the faculty in the program – how do they mentor you or inspire you?
I connected to Dr. Sommer first because he was the most rounded in his appreciation for food ferments, and he also respected and understood the niche farming practices of biodynamic agriculture which I had just spent three months studying.
Dr. Sommer has gotten to know me very well over the past three years and has always, happily, been there to tell me to get my work done and graduate from the program. He gets excited when students are excited about something, he gives us grief when we deserve it, and he tells us (me in particular) that I'm smart enough to get through the chemistry. I know that I will stay connected to Dr. Sommer throughout my fermentation career – for the friendship as well as the guidance and any fermentation troubleshooting in my future.
What do you hope to do when you graduate?
When I graduate, I will start the process of becoming the production manager for my family’s cheese facility as well as being a wine rep for a small, organic Italian wine importing company. I hope to move to Italy in a few years to work with generational winemakers.
Why should a prospective student interested in this degree choose to attend Appalachian?
Where else would you go?
Have you gotten involved in any leadership opportunities while on campus, and how are they enhancing your education?
I have been an officer of the student-run Fermentation Sciences Club. I’ve been planning off-campus events and trying to convince my fellow students to look past the beer kegs and see the important and healthy world of food fermentation.