Celebrating the quality and diversity of artisan cheeses produced in California through partnerships, outreach and education.
We credit Clark Wolf, a renowned food consultant and former Bay Area cheese professional, with developing the original idea for a California cheesemaker’s guild. He realized there needed to be an organization that represented the plethora of cheesemakers across the state. It was 2006 when he reserved a URL (cacheeseguild.org) and gathered the forces of several local visionaries including Jennifer Bice, Jill Basch, Lynne Devereux, Juliana Uruburu and Laura Martinez. The group created bylaws, a website, and started soliciting memberships. Non-profit status came in 2008. John Mackey provided enormous support as a pro bono attorney. Maureen Cunnie provided enormous support in getting cheesemaker education off the ground in partnership with College of Marin.
As we celebrate more than a decade of service to California’s artisan cheese community, our Guild has blossomed into the foremost cheese organization in the State. Our hundreds of members represent the breadth of California from northern coastal counties to the southern border, from the Central Coast to the San Joaquin Valley. We form a collaborative community of makers, mongers, distributors, food writers, and food safety experts. Our cheeses are sold across the State and beyond. We host and participate in dozens of events and educational forums each year.
After a 30 year accounting career, Valerie Miller left her position as the C.F.O. for a Non-Profit to become Co-Founder and Cheesemaker for Orland Farmstead Creamery. Valerie taught herself how to make cheese in her home when her daughter’s 4H goat project was producing more milk than her family could consume. Eventually she began teaching home cheesemaking classes through the local recreation department. During this time, a dairyman from a nearby town contacted her about teaching him to make cheese. He had built a cheese plant on his dairy and needed help getting his company up and running. Four months later they formed their partnership and Orland Farmstead Creamery was born. Due to unforeseen circumstance, the dairy and cheese company were closed in 2020. Valerie has been a member of the California Artisan Cheese Guild for many years, and is excited to now serve as the Executive Director.
2023 Board of Directors
Sarah Hendrix is the chef behind Los Angeles cheese shop and cheese board delivery service, Lady & Larder, which she founded together with her twin sister, Boo Simms in 2016. Sarah was raised with the notion that the dinner table was a sacred place and today, maintains that the only thing bigger than her love of food is her love of sharing it with others. Over the past 15+ years she has developed a profound respect for American-made, seasonal ingredients and a deep appreciation for the role beautiful food plays in creating moments for people to connect and enjoy time together. Lady & Larder has become the go-to for Southern Californians looking to celebrate and entertain with their artistry and memorable cheese, cured meat and crudité displays. Their brick and mortar shop is located in West Los Angeles.
Born in Phoenix, raised in the Wasatch Mountains of northern UT, and currently residing in Southern California for the last 20+ years, Candace has had a love affair with cheese her whole life. While going to school for sound engineering, her life changed when she was put in charge of the cheese section of a local store and her budding cheese career began. Currently she works for Beehive Cheese heading up their California sales. On her off time she enjoys surfing her local break, hiking and traveling with her husband and dog.
Caroline DiGiusto, bio coming soon!
Kelley Levin, Communications Manager for sister brands Marin French Cheese Co., Laura Chenel, and St. Benoit Creamery
Kelley is the Marketing Communications Manager for sister brands Marin French Cheese Co., Laura Chenel, and St. Benoit Creamery. She has been in the food and hospitality industry for about 10 years and has been involved in the cheese community for much of that time. She has traveled both domestically and internationally, visiting dairies, cheesemakers, and specialty shops across borders. In her consumer-facing role she gets to share her passion for artisan cheese and dairy through digital and print outlets, in-person events, and community outreach. She is a Northern California native who loves bringing people together over good food and drinks.
Jane Lyon-Holt, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company
Eric Patterson, Marin French Cheese
Eric Patterson’s passion for great food, organic farming and dairy led him to a career in cheesemaking, first at Cowgirl Creamery and now at Marin French Cheese.
His career in food production began as a small organic vegetable farmer. Growing organic vegetables taught Eric many lessons that he has applied in cheesemaking. A community to help spread expertise and knowledge has been a critical component of each step in his journey. The community around organic and sustainable agriculture really taught him how big an impact changing our food systems can have on the environment we live in, the people who grow the food and the society in nourishes.
Eric’s 20-year career at Cowgirl Creamery gave him the opportunity to grow with the company and have a part in many facets of cheesemaking: fixing boilers, working with dairy farmers, mentoring great people and making lots of cheese of course. As part of Cowgirl, he has been active in supporting education for cheesemakers for over 20 years. Cowgirl helped establish the College of Marin program that helped cheesemakers, cheesemongers and cheese enthusiasts broaden their knowledge. The courses were taught in English and Spanish and included everything from sanitation to flavor analysis.
Recently moving to Marin French Cheese has given Eric the opportunity to keep building and expanding the community of cheesemakers that has helped so much in his career path.
Christina Strategos, Nugget Markets
Marlene Velasquez, Rumiano Cheese Company
Previously, Marlene was employed at Andersen & Sons Shelling as a health and safety manager for nearly three years. She oversaw health and safety for the shelling and hulling operations, of almond and walnut production. She implemented training through policy and procedure, leading to safer practices and lowered worker’s compensation rates, while building relationships.
Marlene graduated from Maxwell High School in 2008. She later joined the food processing industry and worked her way into management at a young age. She volunteers in the community with events, sports and FFA contest judging.
Marlene was born and raised in Maxwell. Her father, Rafael, a heavy equipment operations foreman, instilled his love of agriculture in his children. Marlene continues to reside in Maxwell with her children, Levi, 13, and Liv, 5. They keep her busy with sports, dance, 4-H and snack bar duty.