Sustainable Cheese Spotlights

COWGIRL CREAMERY 
Sue Conley, Co-founder
Point Reyes, CA
Founded: 1997
Products: A variety of artisan cheeses.

 


AS SOMEONE WORKING IN THE CHEESE INDUSTRY, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO OPERATE IN A SUSTAINABLE WAY?

Sue Conley: Ecological practices are a baseline for our company. From the beginning, we have been committed to working with certified organic milk. This ensures that the animals are treated humanely, the land is cared for, and non-toxic cleaners are used in processing.

WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU SEE AS A DIRECT RESULT OF RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS IN A MORE SUSTAINABLE OR CONSCIOUS WAY?

SC: We live in an area whose farmers have led the way in establishing sustainable agriculture practices. We also have a vibrant market for goods produced in an ecological way. Northern California is known to have the largest, most enthusiastic natural foods market in the world. The counties where we make cheese, Sonoma and Marin, have governments that support our efforts in many ways. Marin is the first county in the country to fund a third-party certification program for organic farmers. This support has helped many struggling farmers increase revenues by going organic.

Cowgirl Creamery would probably sell just as much cheese if we were not organic, but for us organic is a baseline, a way to measure how we are doing and guide us to practices that are better for the environment. Everyone on our hardworking staff is dedicated to these practices and it makes our jobs more satisfying.


KITE HILL
Matthew Sade, CEO
Hayward, CA
Founded: 2012
Products: Nut milk products including three artisan nut milk cheeses, two cultured nut milk cream cheeses, and a nut milk ricotta.

AS SOMEONE WORKING IN THE CHEESE INDUSTRY, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO OPERATE IN A SUSTAINABLE WAY?

Matthew Sade: Animal farming is the number one environmental offender globally; 30 percent of the earth’s land surface is in active use for animal farming - the area of North and South America combined. The animal farming industry emits more greenhouse gases than any other industry bar none, exceeding all means of transportation combined. What better reason is there?

CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR DECISION TO MAKE CHEESE OUT OF NUTS?

MS: Nuts have the right composition to allow our milk to form a curd, the basic biochemical reaction necessary to make cheese. Nuts are also nutrient dense, taste great, and can be sourced locally here in California.

WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU SEE AS A DIRECT RESULT OF RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS IN A MORE SUSTAINABLE OR CONSCIOUS WAY?

MS: Sustainability is not a way in which we do business; sustainability is the reason why we are in business. As we scale this company and our products are used by an ever growing number of people, Kite Hill will be lessening our society’s dependence on animal agriculture.


PIEMONTE FARM
Sandra Sarlinga, Co-founder
Greensboro, NC
Founded: 2013
Products: Aged artisan cheeses made with raw cow’s milk, including Don Agustin (Manchego-style cheese), Don Gabino (an Alpine Italian cheese), Italiano (another mountainstyle Italian cheese), Old Glencoe (old-fashioned American homestead cheese), mozzarella, ricotta, and mascarpone.


WHAT SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES ARE MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU?

Sandra Sarlinga: We keep our operations small and in the family to be sustainable. We pay as we go and we have been given small, affordable loans through Slow Money and Community Sourced Capital. These small loans have a very low interest rate and are mostly supported by friends and the community we are in.

WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU SEE AS A DIRECT RESULT OF RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS IN A MORE SUSTAINABLE OR CONSCIOUS WAY?

SS: We benefit from making a more quality product and we benefit from the personal relationships that we have. For example, the cow’s milk we use for our cheeses comes from a dairy farm and a creamery that we have very deep relationships with. This third-generation family farm, Gerringer Dairy, and Calico Farmstead Cheese, are both located in Gibsonville, NC, just a few miles down the road from our farm. The collaboration with this family farm has been the foundation of our small cheese-making business. We buy their milk and use their creamery whenever they are not making cheese. They have mentored us through the process and have been a source of encouragement and inspiration. By keeping the business at a small family scale, we can stay in business for a long time and later leave it in our kids’ hands.


CABOT CREAMERY
Jed Davis, Director of Sustainability
Cabot, VT
Founded: 1919
Products: Traditional, specialty, reduced-fat, and flavored cheddar cheese as well as butter, cultured dairy products, and Greek style yogurt.

AS SOMEONE WORKING IN THE CHEESE INDUSTRY, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO OPERATE IN A SUSTAINABLE WAY?

Jed Davis: A sense of stewardship and sustainability are traits across our organization that are inspired by our dairy farmers. The majority of our farms are multi-generational farms - often across several generations - and they know firsthand the care and attention that is necessary to nurture the soil and their animals for the benefit of generations to come.

WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU SEE AS A DIRECT RESULT OF RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS IN A MORE SUSTAINABLE OR CONSCIOUS WAY?

JD: In a fundamental way, managing our business across the triple bottom line of social, economic, and environmental impacts is just how we feel businesses should be run. In the process of aspiring to conduct business this way, we’ve seen direct results in a number of ways: reduced costs through attention to reducing impacts like energy, waste, and water; better conversations with our key stakeholders, whether customers or consumers or farmers or the general public; higher interest when hiring new employees; and heightened innovation from grappling to identify solutions to our most pressing sustainability challenges.

Photo: Cabot Creamery


REDWOOD HILL FARM & CREAMERY
Jennifer Bice, President & CEO
Sebastopol, CA
Founded: 1968
Products: Redwood Hill Farm: Goat’s milk yogurt, kefir (a drinkable yogurt), and artisan goat’s milk cheeses, including a number of French-style rind ripened cheeses and hard cheeses, plus raw milk feta and cheddar. Green Valley Organics (a sister line): Organic, lactose-free cow’s milk dairy products including yogurt, kefir, sour cream, and cream cheese.

AS SOMEONE WORKING IN THE CHEESE INDUSTRY, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO OPERATE IN A SUSTAINABLE WAY?

Jennifer Bice: Being sustainable is about taking personal responsibility for our animals and the environment. We base our personal actions on values, and running a business in that manner is just a natural extension. For cheese-making, this means that we upcycle the whey by giving it to local pig farmers, which helps them in turn reduce their feed costs and also provides high nutrition for their pigs. We have to acknowledge the true cost of food - this is how we make choices in running a sustainable company, just like our consumers make choices with their food dollars.

WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU SEE AS A DIRECT RESULT OF RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS IN A MORE SUSTAINABLE OR CONSCIOUS WAY?

JB: I feel a personal sense of happiness by aligning my values with the way I run my business. But it goes beyond that. We are also able to educate consumers about their food, help them care about or connect more deeply with the animals that make the delicious milk for our yogurts and cheeses, and talk honestly about the challenges of agriculture. Also, sustainable practices often just make good business sense and actually save money, such as the use of renewable energy and reducing energy costs through insulation.



This article appeared in Issue 3 | Summer 2015

To read more inspiring articles from Issue 3, including our cover story featuring Eileen Fisher, as well as inspiring stories featuring John Replogle of Seventh Generation, Pantheon Enterprises, Transatomic Power, gDiapers, and more - purchase a copy of Issue 3 online!

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