When Laurie Greenberg and Kathy Guidi asked me to be on a panel introducing the idea of establishing a Fromager certification at an American Cheese Society conference we hoped we might have a certification up and running right away. The response to our suggestion was so strong that the room was not large enough to hold all the members that were interested. We snagged a second session at the conference to form an exploratory committee. That was seven years ago. One of the strongest supporters for the program was Susan Sturman. Susan has tirelessly served as the Chairperson of our committee ever since.
As our small but enthusiastic committee looked into certification programs for other occupations we quickly discovered that there would be much more to it than we initially thought. It would be much more complicated than preparing a simple multiple-choice 100-question exam, then deciding on a passing grade. When the American Cheese Society membership showed strong support for the project its Board of Directors decided to endorse the program.
As it is, a big component of the Societyâ€™s mission statement is about cheese education. With all the many facets regarding cheese taken into account and all the existing cheese jobs descriptions, it was immediately evident that this would become a much larger undertaking than writing up that little test. We were fortunate to have someone in the certification industry as one of our earliest committee members. This gave us a deeper perspective of what designing a credible certification would entail. The first surveys sent to the ACS membership were relatively easy to prepare and distribute. Analysis of the results required a little more focus, though it clearly indicated very strong support for creating the certification.
Many ACS members have asked me what the holdup could possibly be. To that I think to myself of the myriad of conference calls and face-to-face meetings that our committee has had over the years, the hundreds of e-mails, the surveys and analyses, the consultations with a professional certification company (after screening several companiesâ€™ proposals), the solicitation of volunteers to help with the work (and facing the waning enthusiasm of some of these), the preparations of slide presentations, designating Subject Matter Experts and providing a forum for their contributions, working with the ACS Board of Directors and Administration, etc.
After all these years I believe our small committee can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are hoping that we can remain on track to offer the first certification exam at the 2012 ACS conference. We have developed a Body of Knowledge which will serve as a baseline for the content of the exam. This document will be tweaked, and with the way that the cheese industry changes it will certainly evolve, but we believe that we have put a stake in the ground. Now we require the assistance of that professional certification company to see it through to completion. We are almost there!
The Fromager Certification program will be a sustainable non-profit entity when it is fully up and running. At this point the Committee is working to fund the start-up. There is still plenty of work ahead but again, we are almost there.