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  • Writer's pictureBig Rick Stuart

Founders of Sonoma County’s Cowgirl Creamery retire

Pioneers in U.S. organic artisan cheesemaking, chefs Sue Conley and Peggy Smith on Thursday announced their retirement from Cowgirl Creamery, which they started in 1997 and grew to the point it attracted the attention of a global dairy giant.

“Creating and building Cowgirl Creamery, has been the greatest adventure in our lives,” they wrote in a letter to friends and colleagues, released Thursday. It noted that their last day was Jan. 1. “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.”

Noted achievements are their work with the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, or MALT, which protects rural properties for food production, and promotion of “the Northern California milkshed,” described as including dairy farmers, cheese producers and the chefs who use their products.

Swiss dairy products company Emmi acquired Cowgirl Creamery in 2016, providing an infusion of capital and operational support that helped the company expand production in Petaluma in 2017 and bring on new top leadership in training in 2019.

Wikimedia photo by Frank Schulenburg

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