This month’s special section includes a profile of California’s renowned Cowgirl Creamery, a new truffle cheese from Cypress Grove Chevre, and a story on the state-by-state rBST defense campaigns.

Ohio Adopts rBST Labeling Policy

Following a recent compromise made in neighboring Pennsylvania, Ohio officials last month began adopting new restrictions on label messages regarding artificial growth hormones.

Gov. Ted Strickland issued an emergency order prohibiting the “mislabeling” of dairy products and providing definitions of what is misleading. The order is effective for 90 days as the state Department of Agriculture adopts the new guidelines and holds a public hearing.

Dairy marketers will no longer be able to state that their milk is made without rBST without first providing some certification. That measure, along with other adopted requirements, mirror the compromise reached about a month earlier in Pennsylvania. The decision follows months of hearings and controversy in both states.

“We want our consumers to be fully informed, especially with all the concern, rightfully or wrongfully, about our food,” Ohio Ag. Dir. Robert Boggs said about the labeling decision.

Under the new rule, labels claiming milk is hormone-free or rBST-free are false and misleading. But the state will allow labels claiming that the milk comes “from cows not supplemented with rBST” as long as the claim is verified. The milk container also must include the FDA “no significant difference” disclaimer.

A survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year found that only about 15% of U.S. dairy farms use rBST.

Artisan Profile: Cowgirl Creamery

Sue Conley’s family is rooted in the restaurant business, but the experience of earning a political science degree was also instrumental in Conley’s creation of one of America’s most renowned artisan cheese companies.

Peggy Smith partnered with Conley in the startup of Cowgirl Creamery in Marin County, Calif., in 1997.  Conley and Smith had met two decades prior at the University of Tennessee, and by 1997, both had a wealth of experience in the restaurant and gourmet foods industries.

Conley’s interest in political science, and subsequent involvement in the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, served as an introduction to Ellen Straus, of the pioneering organic dairy, Straus Family Creamery. Smith, meanwhile, spent more than 17 years cooking at Chez Panisse-the storied Berkeley restaurant belonging to Alice Waters. Waters’ ingredient-focused culinary philosophy led to the fresh/local/seasonal approach that’s now a centerpiece of culinary trends from coast to coast. It has left an imprint on Cowgirl Creamery and its parent company.

Three years prior to the creation of  Cowgirl Creamery, Conley established a food marketing company, Tomales Bay Foods in Point Reyes Station, north of San Francisco. It soon morphed into a diversified business steeped in local food culture. Around the time Smith joined the company, Conley was looking for a new way to utilize the excellent milk from Straus. Both women already had some cheese credentials, and cheese was the logical solution.  

Cowgirl Creamery’s cheeses have since earned their own renown. Soft ripened cheeses like Red Hawk and Mt. Tam, luxuriant cheeses in the triple crème tradition, have won numerous awards at the American Cheese Society Conference, including a 2003 best of show for Red Hawk. The creamery makes several fresh products including a clabbered cottage cheese. Herbs and other ingredients native to Marin County enhance some cheeses. All are made from pasteurized milk.

Initially, Conley was the lead cheesemaker, and she keeps a hand in the vat. Nowadays, a group of seven cheesemakers is led by Maureen Cunnie, another restaurant veteran who, starting in 2001, learned from Conley the art and science of coaxing curds into cheese. Straus Family Creamery still supplies all the milk.

Cowgirl Creamery has also evolved into a distributor, carrying more than 200 cheeses from other producers. Many are local, but the portfolio includes U.K. cheeses from Neal’s Yard of London, as well as products from Bordeaux and from Spain, and from across the U.S. The common thread is three-fold: they all come from small scale production processes, the animals providing the milk are well cared for, and the milk is handled carefully.

Wholesale operations and an additional cheese shop are based in neighboring Petaluma. In 2006, the company opened a 2,000 sq ft retail shop in Washington D.C., where it is working with East Coast cheesemakers to help fill the cases. Tomales Bay Foods employs around 50 people, and the creamery derives most of its power from solar panels.

Recently, 3D Cheese, a San Francisco-based firm that represents a select group of superb cheesemakers to retailers across the U.S., added Cowgirl Creamery to its client list. Cowgirl’s website includes the amazing Library of Cheese.

Cowgirl Creamery
  • 80 Fourth St., Pointe Reyes Station, CA.
  • Cheesemaking established 1997
  • Visitors welcome Wed.-Sun.
  • Production: 3,000 lbs weekly
  • Internet sales available


    Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, a Colorado-based farmstead cheesemaker was awarded the Certified Humane label by the not-for-profit Humane Farm Animal Care. 

    Grafton Village Cheese Co., Grafton Vt., has nearly completed work on its new production facility at the Retreat Farm, in Brattleboro Vt., and a new president has been named to lead the company. Adam Mueller, whose family has been making cheese in the Midwest since 1884, is moving to Vermont to lead the company as it opens its new 28,000-square-foot building along Route 30.  Mueller’s family business, the Minerva Cheese Co., in Minerva, Ohio, specializes in Swiss cheese and gets its milk from Amish and other Ohio farms near the plant.

    Chipotle Mexican Grill is now serving naturally raised beef in all 44 of its Minnesota restaurants, making 100% of its meat in Minnesota naturally raised. All of Chipotle’s naturally raised beef, pork, and chicken comes from animals that are humanely raised, never given antibiotics or added hormones, and fed a pure vegetarian diet.

    Rhode Island has its first artisan cheese company. Louella Hill and partner Mark Federico founded Narragansett Creamery late last year. Hill spent time working with the Maine Cheese Guild to learn the cheese craft. Their first cheese, Divine Providence is a Gouda made from milk gathered within 50 miles of the creamery.

    Wisconsin-based Grass Point Farms, recently awarded a $500 feed mill gift certificate to Charles Flodquist of Colfax, Wis. Flodquist was chosen in a drawing held during February’s 2008 Wisconsin Grazing Conference, held in Stevens Point. Also, Grass Point Farm’s parent company, Organic Farm Marketing, which manufactures the Wisconsin Organics brand, has reached an agreement with Joe Tomandl III, Thorp Wis. to serve as producer services liaison for its Grass Point Farms brand. Tomandl, who has been a grass fed dairy farmer for ten years and one of Grass Point Farms first producers, will be responsible for all communications between producers and management, and will assist with producer services such as logistics. Tomandl’s current priority is to work with the producers to help draft new Grass Point Farms Certified Pasture standards.

    Ken Strunk has joined Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery, Sebastopol, Calif., as general mgr. Redwood Hill has recently introduced Gravenstein Gold, a new raw milk goat cheese.

    The fourth annual Seattle Cheese Festival will be held May 16-18 at Pike Place Market. The festival features more than 250 cheeses, seminars, a wine garden and cooking demonstrations. For more information visit  

    Wisconsin-based co-op, Organic Valley Family of Farms recently contributed $50,000 to University of Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers. The contribution will provide training and mentoring for students looking to a future in pasture-based organic dairy or livestock farming. Also, last month, Organic Valley partnered with dairy processor Byrne Dairy, Syracuse, N.Y. to contribute funds to the New York Agricultural Land Trust, a new nonprofit dedicated to protecting land for the future of farming in New York. The land trust is working toward protecting 11 farms in Central New York.

    Aurora Organic Dairy, a leading private label organic milk and butter, has approved the election of company officers for 2008.  Marc Peperzak will continue to serve as CEO/Pres., and Mark Retzloff will serve as Chairman of the Board. New additions to the Aurora Organic Dairy leadership team include: Cammie Muller, acting CFO; Dan Placke, v.p. of accounting and finance; and Sonja Tuitele, v.p. of public relations and communications.

    New Truffle Cheese from Cypress Grove

    Cypress Grove Chevre, Arcata, Calif., the maker of Humboldt Fog and other award winning artisan goat cheeses, has introduced a brand new product. Truffle Tremor is an aged goat cheese made with imported Italian truffles.

    The cheese is similar to European cheeses, like the Italian Boschetto Al Tartufo Bianchetto. “Earthy, elegant, and sophisticated,” the company says. “It’s sure to make even the most distinguished taste buds shake!”

    Cypress Grove, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2008, was awarded Outstanding Product Line at the 2007 Summer Fancy Food Show in New York.

    Courses Filling up at Vermont Institute

    The Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese has a number of programs scheduled in the coming months. The programs are open to all cheesemakers. April 7-9:  Essential Principles and Practices of Cheesemaking. April 10:  Hygiene and Food Safety in Cheesemaking. April 11: Quality and Chemistry of Milk. May 19; Advanced Sensory Evaluation(ACC) (Prerequisite: Basic Sensory Evaluation): May 20: Cheese & Culture.

    To find out more about the course offerings, visit or call 802/656-8300.