Over the Golden Gate Bridge or through the Nicasio woods sits the humble, yet exciting Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. The foggy mists of the Bay embrace this coastal haven within the western side of Marin County, which brings about the best of artisanal cheese — a strong heart.
One of our B2L team members had the pleasure of being hosted by one of the sisters, Lynn Giacomini Stray, the Chief Operating Officer of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. She, along with her two other sisters, now run the show on this family farmstead. Lynn, like her sisters, quit her career from big industries to commit themselves to their family’s land.
But things didn’t kick off as a cheese company. Their great-grandfather, Tobias Giacomini, an immigrant who came from northern Italy in 1904, came with a dream to establish himself in the immigrant-friendly community of Marin County in Northern California. After first owning a grocery store, he moved on to the dairy business. In 2000, the Giacomini sisters decided to utilize the high quality milk they’ve produced for years into making their own cheese.
Their flagship varietal, the Original Blue, is where it all started at the top of the 21st century. After doing research and getting feedback from all around the nation, the Giacomini family found the missing piece in the world of artisanal fromage: a California blue cheese. And for ten years, that was all they made. Piquant, yet creamy, this truly unique & gourmet blue cheese offers many epicureans versatility: as a decadent component of a cheeseboard or with a multitude of recipes.
One of Lynn’s favorite ways to use the Original Blue is by roasting it with fresh beets — a sumptuous and simple dish for the colder seasons! Find more farmstead recipes here.
Another staple within their cheesy regime is the Toma — a simple, and delicious cheese that can literally be eaten everyday. According to Lynn, in northern Italy (and in France) the Toma style cheese is meant to be “the farmer’s cheese” with multiple uses and meant for multiple meals. Being the farmstead’s second-ever release, it originated as a nod to their Italian heritage. (Not to mention, the smooth and velvety flavor can please even the pickiest person at the party.)
Their latest release, the Quinta, represents their fifth type of cheese release and is an homage to their mother’s Portuguese heritage. This buttery, silky cheese is wrapped in Spruce bark and, when fully ripened, reveals a luscious texture that well surpasses a baked brie. Truly, a distinctive and luxurious cheese that is so good, it’s constantly sold out!
The Cows and The Land
A point to excellent cheese is the excellent milk. All of the Holstein cattle at the farmstead have come from a line of cattle originating from the dairy farm of generations prior. This means that this is a closed herd, with no outside milk product used in their cheesemaking.
But with good milk comes good cattle care. First and foremost at the farmstead prioritizes the “cow comfort” that each mother cow has in her daily life and in milking.
This is because each cow is chipped with her own data, where it is scanned every time they come into milk. (That’s right, they get milked voluntarily.) After an initial steep investment , the farmstead acquired two Lely milking machines from the Netherlands which monitors how much milk they produce on average, their birthing cycle, how much they come into feed and much more. This way, not only can they scientifically monitor the amount of milk they get — they can monitor the health of the cows as well.
Fun Fact: Prior to the Lely machines, they used to milk the cows twice a day. With the new machines, it allows, on average, three voluntary milkings a day!
This “cow comfort” is also exemplified by the cleanliness of the pens, and the ample amount of space in which they have to live happily. Having such happy cows supports the business, the livestock, and the land on which they live — all important aspects to the Giacomini sisters.
As for their environment, the sustainable lifestyle on the farm evolved from, like everything, necessity. When in such a remote location, self-sufficiency is key; if something breaks down or runs out, a business (and a family) cannot depend on waiting days for repairs or supplies. This is why Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. not only figured out how to solve their own day-to-day problems, but to make it eco-friendly as well.
For example, the cow pens are cleaned regularly by the recycled waste water held in their small reservoir. And with this wastewater, the farmstead uses a special machine to process all of the cow particles (from said water) into a reusable gas that is used to fuel the generators for the entire facility. Ingenious, really!
Another way they reduce waste is taking the food byproduct from local businesses and supplementing their cattle feed. By using things like leftover beer mulch or cotton seeds, the cows are fed a nutritious diet and produce delicious milk — all while reducing production waste from their local area. (Sounds familiar?)
A Woman’s Hand in Business
Point Reyes Farmstead also represents the best of what women can accomplish at the helm. And with the three sisters leading the team, they became nationally recognized as a WBENC-certified business. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is an American non-profit organization founded in 1997 to advocate for women-owned businesses within various industries and to offer certification. The farmstead had also received a Women-Owned Small Business certification by the U.S. Small Business Association.
But what does a feminine touch bring to a business? According to Lynn, the understanding of the different roles women have in their life, all over the world.
“At the end of the day: family comes first,” she said. “When we started back in 2000, we understood work-life balance from our own experience.”
And work-life balance is not the only thing the Giacomini sisters consider. While it is typical on a dairy farm to house employees, the Giacomini family invests in the families of the employees and local community through supported child care, livable wages, and providing job opportunities to people in the area.
They also want their employees to grow both their personal and professional development. Which means they offer ample opportunities and self-improvement for their employees through avenues like English as a Second Language classes.
So what makes this cheese and family business so special? The care.
They care about the cattle.
They care about the environment.
They care about their farm family, who thrive together.
A kind of care that sometimes only women truly know.
"Lead with empathy.” — Lynn Giacomini Stray
After a private look into the facility, B2L got to sit down at The Fork — the culinary learning annex of the farmstead. With handcrafted, seasonal recipes, Being able to sample all of their cheeses was almost too good to be true — not to mention all of the hand-crafted accompaniments that came with it! Over a lovely glass of rosé, Lynn expertly explained the flavor profile, the conception, and the possible uses of each cheese selection.
From our experience, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. is more than just cheese or business — it’s a lifestyle of togetherness that supports the community, the animals, and the beautiful coast of Marin.
Having your own self-guided tasting at The Fork can be remarkable experience for couples and families alike. If you would like to schedule a tasting at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., click here for options! (Virtual Tastings also available!)