Recently, we have been spending some time reflecting on what we value at Cowgirl—on the values that resonate with us as people and as a business. We talk a lot about what we like to call “the Cowgirl Spirit,” this driving force that binds us together and motivates our work. The Cowgirl Spirit is the embodiment of the passion that kickstarted our cheesemaking over twenty years ago, and the creative problem-solving that turned what might have felt like a failure to some into a beloved American Original–the infamous origin story of our own Red Hawk!
When it comes to Spirit, there are no better examples than our own founders.
It was the late 1990s when Sue Conley and Peggy Smith stood in front of a falling-down hay-barn in the tiny town of Point Reyes Station. On this particular day, they stood with Ellen Straus, the matriarch of the Straus Family Creamery, who we still work with in a decades-long partnership. They were watching renovations unfold on this old hay-barn that would become the birthplace of Cowgirl Creamery and dreaming of how they might help preserve the dairy traditions that have been a part of West Marin for centuries, protect the local families and lands from the development that was popping up all over the Bay Area. As they watched, a woman on horseback passed by them, hitched her horse to a post, and went into the local bank. When Ellen commented, “we live in the wild, wild West,” the three women laughed. “I guess that makes us cowgirls,” Sue said, “and this must be the Cowgirl Creamery.”
Our founders were able to see beyond what was, to what could be. It was their vision—their Spirit—that drove them to make the cheeses we know and love today. Our “happy accident,” the award-winning Red Hawk, is a great example. Legend has it that British cheesemonger and friend of Cowgirl, Kate Arding, brought back a bit of Stilton from her homeland, stashing it away in the Pt Reyes cooler. As tends to happen, a bit of unwanted mold found its way onto our Mt Tam, so precious in these early days when we couldn’t afford to toss anything out. Instead, these early wheels of cheese were washed, put away for a bit, and lo and behold! Red Hawk was born.
All these years later, we’re still forging ahead with the Cowgirl Spirit. Our mission from day one has been to use dairy as a force for good, and we strive to continue this work every day, upholding this legacy of blazing trails in the Wild West, the land of cowgirls.