Jun 25, 2019
by Eva Granahan
Yes, it’s a new title. I am expanding the coverage of my column to include the West of our West County. It will not only cover Bodega and its Byways, but also Freestone, Valley Ford and Bloomfield. If you have ideas from any of these small towns, please contact me directly. We’d like to hear from all of our neighbors.
The Valley Ford Cheese & Creamery now has its very own store front! Doors opened on May 2nd, although the shop was purchased in early 2016. Karen Bianchi runs the distribution out of their new location along with the front of house. She is excited because it’s “good to build relationships with the consumer.”
The Sonoma-Marin Dairy Belt has undoubtedly transformed due to increased costs and consolidation of the market. The business is not what it used to be. Fourth generation farmers like Karen have to think outside the milk box to survive and continue their family legacy.
Karen’s great-grandparents came here from Northern Italy. Since 1918, the family’s 640 acre dairy farm has consisted of pure Jersey cows that produce milk high in protein and butterfat, which makes great value-added products.
They currently make five cheeses: Highway 1 (Fontina style); Estero Gold (Montasio style) & Estero Gold Reserve, which won the Best of Show in California; Grazin’ Girl (Gorgonzola style), which won 3rd place in the U.S. Cheese Championship; and a new release, Farmer’s soft, lightly herbed, cultured, creamy cheese.
Both of Karen’s sons had a young passion for farming, starting with 4H and FFA. Her oldest son, Joe, graduated from Cal Poly in 2010 with a Dairy Science-Products Technology major and returned home to join the family business as the cheese-maker. Her other son, Jim, graduated from Cal Poly in 2013 with a major in Dairy Science-Husbandry, including the genetics and nutrition of cows. He then spent a year dairying in New Zealand and learned from their advanced innovations. In 2014, Jim came back to work on the family dairy. With his new skills, he’ll be starting his own dairy late this fall!
Karen is on the Valley Ford Fire Board. With a grant from the Goldridge Conservation District, they built a rainwater catchment system that fills a 45,000 gallon tank, feeding a fire hydrant, sprinkler system and irrigates their herb garden and trees.
On site they have a private room for an intimate 24-person meeting and a banquet room for bigger events up to 75 people. There is a publicly visible cut and wrap room along with an aging room with 2,500 wheels of cheese. The theme is “rustic” with recycled tin chairs and redwood countertops.
It’s worth a trip to Valley Ford to see what they’ve created - a full cafe with everything cheese and then some! Loaded menu with hot or on-the-go items, pastries, espresso, soft serve, gift shop with clothes and cheese accompaniments, beers on tap and an extensive wine list, either by the glass or by the bottle.
You can find their cheese at Farmers Markets on Friday night in Occidental or Saturday morning in Healdsburg, or of course their new storefront and restaurant:14390 Valley Ford Rd. Open Wed-Sun, varied hours.(707)875-7073. Also, nearly 80 locations @www.valleyfordcheese.com/find-local
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