We recently spoke with Brighid O’Keane, the director of the Cider Institute of North America. If you are unfamiliar with this organization, they are a non-profit organization focused on the education and certification of cidermakers and the furthering of cider sciences. To really get an understanding and depth of what they do, we got on the phone with Brighid and talked CINA.
What is the Cider Institute of North America?
She explained that they are a non-profit organization consisting of industry professionals and educators that are trying to drive cider education and research for the betterment of the industry. They were formed at CiderCon 2016 and they recognized the need for training and cider production skill development. Individuals can earn certification for passing these exams and courses and they act as an accreditation for cider production training. Among these assets to the industry CINA also advocates for the industry and works with other organizations to keep cider moving forward in the US.
She started earlier this year as the first executive director for CINA. Her primary objective was to make things more structured.
The Cider Institute itself started about 2 years ago, built off of the groundwork of cider and perry classes in UK. Of the past 15 years, Peter Mitchell has been the “it” source for learning cidermaking in the UK. Other partnerships include academic unions with Cornell, Washington state, and other universities.
Brighid works with her team to make the standard in the industry for certifications, currently boasting over 1,000 students.
They offer a certification exam which makes you eligible for higher classes. The levels include apprentice (the foundation), journeyman (science-forward), and the master cidermakers level.
At CiderCon, they will launch their intermediate level and announce the master-class industry standard.
Brighid had her skills honed with the wine and tea industry where she developed adult education and advocacy. She wanted to work for a non-profit and try her hand in a new industry that was growing in demand. She happened to be living in Washington where, as they say, it was the state right place at the right time.
The current universities have worked with Peter in the past and instructors have teamed up to help teach these areas. They are well positioned to instruct on these topics and have a rich fermentation background.
Cidermakers is a broad term, but Brighid believes these course can be for anyone in the industry, those looking for a historical context, or those interested in hard science.
She said all orchardists, cidermakers, home brewers, and cider aficionados are welcome and will likely be interested.
Brighid mentioned that their classes do vary from other offerings out there.
CCP, the certification from United States Association of Cider Makers, is more of a marketing or educational element and helpful for bartending staff.
Yes, they build on this with a suite of educational opportunities for cider makers, may they be intermediate or master classes.
Brighid mentioned a couple different things to consider when selecting training provider. The minimum requirements to offer this course include having the materials and facilities for that specific course as some may need labs or a business setting. There are robust guides to teaching or offering a course and the standards need to be met.
Qualified instructors have a background in teaching and utilize that skill set to develop a curriculum. As this program grows, they will be offering more training programs for future educators.
Thus far, the Foundation Course is a successful model. They have the industry standards that need to be met for successful completion. From there, the organization can go their own way and institute other elements.
Brighid said there is constant development over time and general growth occurring. They will be offering more classes to more students with more partners and instructors as needed.
Brighid has worked for over a decade in nonprofit organizational development and joins CINA from LIVE, a certifier of sustainable vineyards and wineries. Prior to that, she was the Deputy Director and Interim Executive Director of the Alliance for Biking & Walking, North America’s coalition of active transportation advocates, where she helped train organizations and leaders to build and fund healthy communities. She is a board member of the Berkeley Student Food Collective and co-founder of a direct trade tea company. A graduate from the University of Colorado, Brighid grew up in Rochester, NY and currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.