The International Maple Syrup Institute Maple Grading School began as the New England Maple Grading School and was the brainchild of Henry Marckres, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets; Sumner Dole, University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension; and Kathy Hopkins, University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Armed with a grant from the Maine Agricultural Center and support from Leader Evaporator, the International Maple Syrup Institute and the Maple Digest, the first school was delivered in 2004 in Lancaster, NH. It was intended to be a one-time presentation but because of continuing demand it has been held annually and has been adopted by the International Maple Syrup Institute as a signature event offered in accordance with the IMSI mission to protect the quality and integrity of maple products. Its location has moved around to make it more accessible to producers across North America.
Numerous condensed versions have been offered both by IMSI faculty and by other Extension personnel who have attended the school. Newsletter articles, producer reference cards, and continuing discussion on maple grades and grading topics have kept producers interested in participating in the school and in producing the best quality maple products possible. The continued success of the school has helped promote the wholesome image of the maple industry and shown that its participants are high quality producers of unique products.
Six years of evaluation results show that 80% of participants (107) have increased their knowledge about producing high quality of syrup by 2-6 steps on a seven step scale. The continuation of the school provides an excellent platform to discuss with and educate the industry about the process of developing some version of a more standardized grading and nomenclature system for pure maple syrup.
The school received media attention in December 2009 and was featured on three local Maine television stations, on New England Cable News Network, and was covered by AP and NPR.