One of my professional passions in life is assisting those studying for the ACS CCP™ Exam. In 2014, I started the Cheese Study Group on Facebook to post study documents to assist Cheese Professionals in pursuit of this prestigious certification. As of July 2017 there are almost 900 Cheese Pros who have successfully passed the exam. This year the Cheese Study Group created crowd-funding via GoFundMe to raise scholarship money to assist in taking the exam and also for existing ACS CCPs to attend the annual ACS Conference. Through the generosity of our cheese community we were able to 100% fund four scholarships: 2 applicants for the exam and 2 CCPs to attend the conference. (It has always bothered me that once becoming CCPs, ongoing educational opportunities are not available because of monetary restrictions. It also annoys me that the large retailers don’t/won’t pony up the cash for at least a few of their CCPs to attend the conference. The conference is educational and an important networking venue to expand opportunities.)
One of our scholarship winners is Matt Bellingham, an ACS CCP who works for Whole Foods Markets in Portland, Oregon (Its Hollywood Store). Matt was kind enough to write a short essay about his experience at the Denver 2017 ACS Conference. Our thanks to Matt for taking the time to share with us:
“The opportunity to attend the 2017 American Cheese Society Conference in Denver, Colorado was a moment that I will not soon forget. I very much appreciate the hard work that was put into organizing and raising funds for the scholarships that enabled the four candidates to experience this year’s conference. I am very grateful to Marcella Wright and the Cheese Study Group for all of their efforts in making the trip possible and for their continued support of the industry as a whole. I would also like to extend my gratitude to all of those in the greater cheese community who made the experience possible through their generous contributions.
The ACS conference is a tremendous and necessary event for all those involved in the American Cheese Community. The ability to be able to meet and mingle with those that have been your working partners, contacts and community over the years is invaluable. I especially enjoyed making many new connections with people this year from many different areas. The conference is a wonderful moment to grow those relationships and bonds that help to strengthen our industry.
As a monger and buyer I can’t express how fantastic the Meet the Maker event is. The chance to be able to taste cheese that may be new to you and then have the opportunity to chat with the maker firsthand is immensely beneficial. There are so many great, passionate people out there making superb cheese. It’s an incredible moment to have many of them under one roof at the same time and witness their talent and excitement for their product.
The seminars are always a fantastic moment to both learn and share with fellow attendees. Each seminar has something fascinating and unique to offer; because of that, it’s sometimes hard to choose which one to attend. The tastings are always fun and informative. I especially enjoyed the Research & Development seminar/tasting this year that was designed as a sort of “speed-dating” moment where makers presented their newest creations and then sought our candid feedback. It was interesting to listen, learn and taste what direction particular makers are headed and then possibly help by offering our own take on the product.
Volunteering was also a great experience for me. I enjoyed giving back and helping to make the conference more enjoyable for others. It was fascinating to witness the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. The ACS crew and Official Conference Cheesemonger team has a huge task in front of them making the entire event run smoothly. I appreciate the diligence, aptitude and humor they put into it.
Again, I am truly honored and thankful to be able to have attended the conference this year. The experience was immediately transferred to my local community. As I said in the essay I submitted for the scholarship:
The existence of artisan cheese in the United States rests with our ability to carefully protect and promote the history, tradition and importance of the craft. The conference is where that happens.
The American Cheese Community is increasing the awareness and appreciation of the meaning and benefits of artisan cheese to the world. I feel fortunate in supporting an industry that has existed and thrived for millennia.”
See you in Pittsburg!
Sincerely, Matt Bellingham Portland, Oregon
Of course, in addition to sharing Matt’s experience with you, I have ulterior motives: it is time to start Fund-Raising for 2018 Scholarships. Our Cheese Study Group needs you to help us again, this time to fund 10 Scholarship Winners. The exam and the ACS Conference will take place in Pittsburgh in July 2018. We want to split the scholarships like we did last year: 5 to take the exam and 5 CCPs to attend the conference. It’s a huge investment in the future of our Cheese Community. We are in the process of making the Scholarship Fund an IRS sanctioned charity and hope to begin accepting donations by January 1. However, we will be contacting you to pledge your donations for 2018. If you wish to pledge a donation, you can email me via 2017csgscholarship (@) gmail.com. Thanks to all who supported us in 2017 and thanks for future donations for our 2018 campaign.