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The Coastal Milkshed

A cooperative dairy network that helps local producers be the best they can be.

sara remington

DREAMS DON’T COME true overnight, and until they do, knocking down your competitors won’t help you achieve your goals any faster. Just ask Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, founders of Cowgirl Creamery. Before they began to make their own cheese, they helped Sonoma County cheese makers (Redwood Hill Farm, Matos Cheese Factory, Bellwether Farms) as well as butter, yogurt and milk producers Straus Family Creamery bring their products to market as a regional collective under the name Tomales Bay Foods. Its goal was to rebuild the artisanal dairy industry, which collapsed in the wake of World War II, and to create a local dairy network built on quality and cooperation in the coastal Marin and Sonoma milkshed. A milkshed is similar to a watershed except it’s a dairy region that provides products to a particular, mostly local community. West Marin was the original milkshed for all of San Francisco during the Gold Rush, but until 1994 when Straus went organic, there were no organic dairies west of the Mississippi. Cowgirl Creamery followed suit in 1997; when it did, it used mostly milk from the Straus family and still does to this day. Later, in 2001, Cowgirl Creamery was the first business to sign a lease at the Ferry Building in San Francisco; Straus began selling its softserve ice cream there in 2012. Today, the Marin and Sonoma coastal milkshed is a premier cheese and dairy region with 30 commercial cheese makers, and it couldn’t have been done without a little cooperation.

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