West Marin Cheese & Herb Adventure
Learn how some of the best cheeses in California are made, and how delicious additions from a local farm contribute vivid color, distinctive texture, and intense fragrance and flavor on this creamery and farm tour of West Marin.
Cowgirl Creamery, which sold cheeses at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market for many years, and Allstar Organics, another Ferry Plaza favorite, have a shared history as fellow leaders of the movement to preserve agriculture in Marin. In addition, they have a business relationship: Cowgirl features Allstar’s herbs and flowers on several of their seasonal cheeses, and Allstar’s herbs, tomatoes, peppers and herbal salts make regular appearances at their stores and cafes. Although founders Sue Conley and Peggy Smith recently sold Cowgirl Creamy, they continue to manage the business according to their founding values and principles.
Upon our arrival at Cowgirl Creamery, we will enjoy a presentation on West Marin, Cowgirl’s beginnings, and their cheese. You’ll get an up-close curd-making demonstration and a guided tasting of all of the Cowgirl Creamery cheeses. Then we'll enjoy lunch on Cowgirl's patio. Before we leave the area, you will have time to explore and walk around the charming West Marin town of Point Reyes Station, also home to Bovine Bakery, Toby’s Feed Barn, and Marin Sun Farms.
The second half of our tour will take us to Allstar Organics, where Janet Brown and Marty Jacobson will welcome us to their home farm in Lagunitas. Janet and Marty will share their philosophy of diversified organic farming and land stewardship. We’ll see how they produce their line of herbs and seasonings, and learn about their herb cultivation and value-added products, sampling some of their delicious seasonings, salts, and sugars along the way.
Tickets include round-trip transportation from the Ferry Building in San Francisco in a comfortable bus and a farm-fresh lunch featuring seasonal produce, courtesy of CUESA.
Cowgirl Creamery’s story is the story of two friends, a baby blue Chevy van and a lifelong love affair with food. Sue Conley and Peggy Smith took a hippie trip to San Francisco in 1976 after finishing degrees at the University of Tennessee. Both established careers in some of San Francisco’s most famous kitchens: Peggy spending 17 years at Chez Panisse, and Sue co-owning Bette’s Oceanview Diner in Berkeley. By the early 1990s, Peggy and Sue were ready for a new challenge. They found it in Pt. Reyes Station, a picturesque postage-stamp-of-a-town on the coast about an hour north of San Francisco. With their first-hand knowledge of the restaurant business, they launched Tomales Bay Foods, a marketing vehicle to help West Marin’s farms and dairies get their delicious products into the hands of the Bay Area’s finest chefs. Their first location, a renovated hay barn in downtown Point Reyes, featured a small cheesemaking room at the entrance to the building. It gave them ideas. Using milk from neighboring Straus Family Creamery, they began making delicious fresh cheeses. Today, Cowgirl Creamery cheeses are sold to over 500 stores, independent cheese shops, farmers markets and restaurants, and nationally through Whole Foods Markets.
In 1994, Marty and Janet of Allstar Organics began growing heirloom tomatoes organically on 1.5 acres at their home in Lagunitas. They have since diversified and expanded, adding crops, varieties, and value-added products. An all-weather farm with distinct seasons and a highly mineralized, clay-based soil, Allstar uses a diverse cover-cropping system, microbiological drenches, and aged nutritional mulches. They grow over 100 varieties of 10 primary crops on the Lafranchi family dairy and cheese factory in Nicasio. The land is permanently protected by a Marin Agricultural Land Trust conservation easement. Janet is active in farming issues and is a Marin Organic board member. Allstar Organics produces a growing line of dried herbs, herbal salts, and herbal sugars, grown. dried, hand-finished, and hand-packed on-farm.
Where to meet: Meet in front of the Ferry Building on the south side of the clock tower, at the curb. Please arrive by 8:45 am; we leave at 9:00 am. Please be prompt! We cannot wait for stragglers. Note that Daylight Savings Time begins the night before, so don’t forget to set your clocks back.
Things to know: The weather can be unpredictable. Please dress in layers. Shoes must be appropriate for walking around the farms, closed-toe and preferably waterproof.
The tour is geared toward adults and will probably not be enjoyable for young children. Children who are likely to appreciate an adult-level tour are welcome to come with their guardians. Please call if you have questions.
Bring: A water bottle, layers, sunscreen. Optional: snacks, a camera, a book or other entertainment for the bus, and cash for purchases. We will do our best to return by 6:00 pm, but traffic conditions can be unpredictable and we can’t guarantee a punctual arrival.
We sincerely thank our farm tour sponsor, First National Bank of Northern California, for underwriting tour costs and Coach 21 for providing a discount on the bus charter fee.
Please note: Tickets are nonrefundable but are transferable to another guest for this tour.
A note about price: CUESA is committed to providing accessible food system education to all. If you are interested in a scholarship for one of our farm tours, please email Carrie Sullivan (email@example.com) for a scholarship application.