- Sue Conley of Cowgirl Creamery on the company's journey to success and the influences that led the way
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For over two decades, Cowgirl Creamery has been making handcrafted, organic cheeses in Northern California. Guided by the ideals that great cheese starts with happy soil, Cowgirl Creamery partners with dairy farms that champion organic, regenerative agriculture. Indeed, this commitment to the land creates a true taste of place in our award-winning fresh and aged cheeses. As pioneers in artisan cheesemaking in the US, Cowgirl is inspired by European traditions and their surrounding environs to create American originals.
Since the founding of the American Cheese Society in the 1970s, unique European-style cheeses for commercial markets in the United States have been flourishing. It was during this time that fresh handmade goat cheese made it onto the menu at Chez Panisse in Berkeley and the sector grew from there. Sheep milk cheeses are still rare, but find a prominent place on the artisan cheese counter. But there are few certified organic artisan cheesemakers in the States, and we are one of them.
Cowgirl Creamery plays an important role in making a handful of fantastic artisan cheeses that are distributed across the country, primarily through Whole Foods Markets. We also run two full service cheese shops in San Francisco and Point Reyes that sell a limited selection of the artisan cheese from our region as well as from California, the United States, a few favorites from Neal’s Yard Dairy, classics from Italy, Spain and France. Of course, Cowgirl Creamery cheeses are displayed prominently and represent a large percentage of our sales.
We also have a distribution arm called Tomales Bay Foods that delivers all of the cheeses on our shop counters to over 700 retail and restaurant accounts in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition, we ship through FED EX to areas in the US that do not have access to great cheese.
At our shops we sell primarily to visitors from our region and all over the world. Lots of grocers and specialty shops are now selling artisan cheese, so education is happening all over town. This helps spread the word about the benefits of sustainable farming and small production to the flavors of cheeses to the health of the animals and our planet.
Neal’s Yard Dairy has had a tremendous influence on artisan cheesemaking in the US. They have been helping Americans understand dairying and cheesemaking since the 1970s when Randolph Hodgson appeared on the scene to teach us how to taste and appreciate the wonders of British farmstead cheese. When he talked about the dairies and milk quality as the key to great cheese, many budding cheesemakers, including the Cowgirls, perked up and paid attention. The amazing mongers and cheesemakers at Neal’s Yard Dairy continue to inspire their American counterparts.
Our company was modeled on the Neal’s Yard philosophies and was created with the same commitment and attention to all parts of the industry from making, to selling, to delivering cheese in good condition.
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