Last December, my husband and I happened upon Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese while in the San Francisco area for a wedding and my “love affair” started; not only with the cheese but with the philosophy and commitment by the Giacomini family. In 1959, Bob and Dean Giacomini established their successful dairy farm just north of Point Reyes Station in Marin County, California. When Bob decided to retire in the late 1990’s, family conversations with the four daughters began about how best to preserve the land and the dairy sustainability, both environmentally and economically. Hence, the transformation began.
Use of Land Trusts
In 2000, together with their daughters, the family began making hand-crafted cheese on the farm with milk from their own herd of Holsteins, producing the first hand-crafted blue cheese west of the Mississippi. The cheeses are amazing, but how they produce the cheese is even more the story. To preserve the land for production and prevent any development detrimental to sustainable agriculture, they sold their conservation easement to the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) which preserves farmland and keeps it viable for agricultural production.
This allowed the family to focus on implementing practices that would ensure the sustainability of their operations. Today, the dairy females not only produce the milk for the cheese but with the aid of a methane digester capturing the greenhouse gas from their manure and turning it into energy, over 65% of the farm’s electricity is supplied by those Holsteins. Additionally, byproducts of local crops – almonds and grains along with the brewer’s yeast from a craft brewery – contribute to the dairy’s daily diet.
In 2014, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese received the Aldo Leopold Conservation Award for the State of California for their sustainability practices. Today, the business is 100% Women-Owned by sisters Diana, Lynn and Jill and produces over a million pounds of cheese a year from the milk of its 450 dairy cows. The Point Reyes Farmstead product line has now expanded to five cheeses: Fresh Mozzarella, Toma, Bay Blue, Gouda and Original Blue. It is available throughout the U.S. or online at www.pointreyescheese.com.
In 2010, the company opened The Fork, a culinary and educational center offering farm-to-table educational experiences for both consumers and the trade. As of January 2019, a plant was opened nearby in Petaluma, California, with the goal of doubling the current cheese supply in the next five years.
So, the next time you are in the San Francisco area, take time on a Friday afternoon and experience the tour of the farm, see sustainability in action, taste some fabulous cheese and don’t forget to sample the blue cheese ice cream. The Giacomini family are “doing well by doing good.”