Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, the two chefs who co-founded Point Reyes Station, Calif.-based Cowgirl Creamery in 1997 and pioneered organic artisan cheesemaking in America, announced their retirement.

In a letter they sent to friends and colleagues in the cheese industry today, the two wrote: “Creating and building Cowgirl Creamery has been the greatest adventure in our lives. The development of Cowgirl Creamery built many careers in cheesemaking, mongering, food safety, sales and distribution. We leave a seasoned team of leaders, each with their own team of passionate people working together to strengthen this artisan cheese movement.”

Conley and Smith applied their belief that organic practices were a key to proper stewardship of the land, the company said, championing from the beginning that good cheese starts with good milk. Good milk, in turn, can come only from rich, healthy soils and animals. Over the last two decades, under their guidance, the company became a pioneer in the American artisan cheese movement, creating award-winning cheeses reflective of the Northern California terroir and ethos. The company became a steward of the land, evident in its organic creameries and work with the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, and advocates for a vibrant community of dairy farmers, cheese producers and chefs, all of whom comprise “the Northern California milkshed.”

Conley and Smith are passing the torch to Amanda Parker, managing director, who will oversee company operations. Parker, who joined Cowgirl Creamery in 2018 as deputy managing director before taking over as managing director in 2019, has worked in tandem with Conley and Smith and brings a keen understanding of and passion for artisan cheese, Cowgill Creamery said.

Parker’s Certified Cheese Professional’s in-depth literacy stems from eight years at Murray’s Cheese, starting as a cheesemonger and ending as vice president of business development. During that time, she oversaw the national partnership with Kroger supermarkets for the New York-based company, opening more than 350 cheese kiosks in stores nationwide, Cowgirl Creamery said. From there, she furthered her business aptitude with an MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, where she continued her focus on food systems and innovation while staying involved in the cheese industry, teaching classes at the Cheese School of San Francisco.