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Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center

Celebrating the first 20 years

From 1997 to 2017, FAPC has kept food and agricultural processors and entrepreneurs on the forefront of cutting-edge value-added processing and technology and has assisted more than 1,000 Oklahoma clients through 3,000 technical and business projects.

By Mandy Gross

FAPC is celebrating its first 20 years of adding value to Oklahoma.

From 1997 to 2017, FAPC has kept food and agricultural processors and entrepreneurs on the forefront of cutting-edge value-added processing and technology and has assisted more than 1,000 Oklahoma clients through 3,000 technical and business projects.

“FAPC was launched with a tremendous vision of helping value-added food and agricultural companies across the state, but no one had an idea of how it would actually flesh out,” said Roy Escoubas, FAPC director.

Twenty years later the center is still going strong. In fact, many of the faculty and staff hired in 1997 are still employed at FAPC today.

Jim Brooks, FAPC business and marketing services manager, and Tim Bowser, FAPC food process engineer, were the first two people hired on Jan. 2, 1997.

“Remembering back to 1997 when FAPC officially opened its doors to serve the food and agricultural industry in Oklahoma, it doesn’t seem possible that 20 years have passed by so quickly,” Brooks said. “It has been my privilege to have been in the very first group of faculty and staff to be hired and begin the work for industry in our state.”

Bowser said it is hard to believe he has been at FAPC for 20 years, but he is excited for the future.

“I think 20 years sure went fast,” Bowser said. “I think the next 20, if I’m here to see any of them, will go quickly too. I think the center’s goals and its original intentions are long lasting. I think they will sustain the center through the next 20 years easily.”

Dani Bellmer, FAPC food process engineer, also has been working for the center since June 1, 1997.

“I honestly cannot believe it has been 20 years already; it’s been a wonderful 20 years,” Bellmer said. “It’s been fun, it’s gone by fast, and I am really excited about our 20-year celebration. But, I’m even more excited for what’s to come. I think we’re going to do many great things in the future.”

The center has celebrated the 20-year milestone with several events and will continue throughout 2017.

FAPC kicked off the 20-year anniversary with a reception during its 17th Annual Research Symposium in February. The symposium highlighted food and agricultural products student research from OSU, Langston and the University of Central Oklahoma.

In March, FAPC and the Oklahoma Wheat Commission partnered with Oklahoma 4-H to promote Bake and Take Month with a contest promoting the 20-year anniversary. 4-H members across the state were encouraged to bake products made with locally grown wheat, use Made in Oklahoma products and decorate with a 20-year anniversary theme.

FAPC celebrated Made in Oklahoma month with a 20-year anniversary booth during MIO Day at the OSU Student Union and the Wine Forum of Oklahoma, sponsored by OSU’s Human Sciences in April.

Recently, FAPC, along with The Oklahoman and the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources SUNUP TV show, developed a documentary, which aired on OETA in May.

The documentary, “20 Years of Made in Oklahoma Food Innovation,” highlighted how FAPC was started, the impact the center has on Oklahoma and the food industry, and three Made in Oklahoma companies FAPC has assisted: Suan’s Foods, Ace in the Bowl Salsa and Diane’s Signature Products.

In addition, FAPC launched FAPC Connect, a free mobile app providing food safety and other food processing information on the go. Individuals can select topics of interest and get notified when new content is added; access articles, videos and trainings by FAPC topics or experts; and ask an expert to get answers on FAPC topics.

Finally, FAPC published an historical book outlining how FAPC was established to help add value to Oklahoma’s economy.

FAPC will hold one more event to help celebrate its 20-year anniversary, a Food & Beverage Product Development Competition on Sept. 12. The contest provides a venue for college students to share creative and innovative ideas for new food and beverage products to the food industry.

“We have had an amazing year celebrating our successes for the first 20 years, but we’re not finished,” Escoubas said. “I hope to see many food and agricultural  industry representatives in September for our product development competition. The future of FAPC is bright, and I truly believe the best is yet to come.”