How do you keep a small town the same?
For a place to stay the same, it must change. Point Reyes Station has gone through many changes over time, from Miwok village to immigrant outpost, then bustling train stop and now visitor serving town for the glorious Point Reyes National Seashore. In the 1980’s and 90’s, most visitors drove around or through Point Reyes Station destined for a hike along the dramatic coastline. Main Street was nearly abandoned when Cowgirl Creamery opened in 1997 There was wonderful community center, The Dance Palace, and Paper Mill Creek preschool--both founded by creative San Francisco transplants. The Station House Café was a locals hang- out and ranchers congregated at the coffee shop to talk about the price of hay and the promise of rain.
Cowgirl Creamery opened the Barn doors in Point Reyes Station in 1997, where we make all of our Red Hawk cheese alongside our Cheese Shop & Cantina. Soon after, an article appeared in one of the first issues of Saveur Magazine (1996) entitled, Farming for the Love of Food. It was written by Christopher Hirsheimer and Peggy Knickerbocker. While working on this piece, they stayed at Manka’s Inverness Lodge which had just been revamped by new owner, Margaret Grade, with a farm to table menu and elegantly rustic rooms. She served wild mushrooms and wild boar in the evening and coddled “under the hen” eggs in the morning by the fireplace. Magical.
Drawn by the bounty and beauty of the farms and parkland, Peggy and Christopher drove the perimeter of the Tomales Bay, interviewing and photographing the farmers and food producers of the region. They started with Terry Sawyer and Jon Finger at Hog Island Oyster Company and worked up to the Straus Family Organic Dairy, then over to the Callahan’s Bellwether Farms sheep dairy and cheesemaking operation near the town of Valley Ford. All of these now successful enterprises were struggling new businesses at the time.
Next stop, south to Bolinas, where Warren Weber, Dennis and Sandy Dierkes and Sean Thackary talked about their connection to this unique geography, soil and climate of their piece of earth on the San Andreas Fault. Weber and the Dierkes’ waxed on about certified organic salad greens and cool weather crops like artichokes and broccoli while Thackery focused on fermenting grapes from old vines in the Napa Valley, stored in open casks under Eucalyptus trees on his land near the Bolinas Lagoon.
After interviews and photographs were taken of the farms, the producers gathered together at a private home in Inverness. It was the first time some people in the group had met. We cooked a meal with the local bounty and enjoyed the company of each other. The meal was outstanding and the photographs mouthwatering.
The conversation at that dinner affirmed that things were changing all around us and we had not had time to look up to see that we were making progress toward a sustainable farm system built on infrastructure that had been nurtured by generations of the very good farmers that came before us.
Our town has become a destination for food and nature lovers and it continues to be a hub for the region’s ranchers, chefs and farmers who produce some of the best food in Northern California. Cowgirl Creamery has been central to connecting these producers together by distributing their products to stores and restaurants and educating visitors about the benefits of local food systems. We delight in knowing that because of the efforts of these farmers and the organizations that support them (MALT, UC Ag Extension, Agricultural Institute of Marin) the rolling hills will remain in productive agriculture for years to come.
We hope you get a chance to visit, and get a taste of this living landscape from our cheese counter and café. Our Pt Reyes Creamery Barn Shop & Cantina is open for safe in-store shopping and contactless pickup.
- Sue Conley, Cowgirl Creamery Co-Founder