various types of cheese on rustic wooden table


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 2007. 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 a decade and a half of service to California’s artisan cheese community, our Guild has blossomed into the foremost cheese organization in the State. Our 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.


Valerie Miller

Executive Director

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.

Sarah Hendrix


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.

Candace Allen

Vice President

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.

Karen Sims


My name is Karen Sims, I am an ACS Certified Cheese Professional®. My career has spanned over 30 years in distribution and the retail industry. I currently work for Tony’s Fine Foods, located in West Sacramento as an Inside Category Specialists, focusing on Cheese and Specialty items. I grew up in Marin county where I spent most of my life until taking my role with Tony’s over 14 years ago. My passion for cheese developed early in my career and has led me down an amazing path that I continue to grow and enjoy every day.

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


Agriculture degree in hand Jane pondered the question; how do I combine my love of all thing’s food with my passion for agriculture? The answer was and always will be CHEESE! After graduation Jane sought to immerse herself in cheese. From that time on, she was introduced not only the world of bloomy rinds, cheese wires and affinage but also to the most amazing community of people, the California Cheese peopleand her cheese life exploded! She first dipped her toes into the proverbial fondue pot back in 2011 as the first intern at the Cheese School of San Francisco. She then hopped over to Maui for some time on a goat dairy. Upon returning to Oakland, CA she landed a job as a cheese monger (and eventual cheese department manager) at Market Hall Foods. Five years at Market Hall were spent filling her brain and belly with all things cheese! Days passed quickly behind the counter where she shared tasty morsels with customers and regale them with the stories behind the cheese. The cheese counter is where she first learned about Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company (PRFC) and their story. From then on, she was hooked, even using Toma on stage to introduce herself at the 2015 Cheese Monger Invitational! She yearned to work for a dairy and creamery and have her own part in the cheeses’ story. In 2017 she joined the PRFC team, where she has been fortunate to help with sales, lead farm tours and tastings, serve as part of the quality assurance team, logistics and operations and is now the Direct-to-Consumer manager. Jane and her husband live in Petaluma and are part owners of Civilization Brewery in Santa Rosa. To this day Jane’s favorite thing about cheese, is swapping tasty tidbits, finding a perfect pairing with a California wine or beer and sharing the stories and histories of California’s rich cheese tradition.

Eric Patterson


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.

Brandon Wood


Brandon Wood worked at Whole Foods Market from 2009 to 2022, ten of those years spent behind a cheese counter. He has written, traveled, studied, read, grown, and developed in and for cheese. From Cheese Camp, to multiple CMI’s to getting his CCP certificate in 2016, and tons in between. On February 11th, 2022 Brandon opened his own cheese shop in Livermore, CA called the Cheese Parlor. Cheese is literally now his life!

Kate Walker

Board Member

Kate Walker, a newcomer to the cheese industry, hails from a deep-rooted farming background in South Georgia. Growing up on a 640-acre farm, she gained early experience in agriculture through her family’s peanut buying business. Since relocating to coastal Northern California 28 years ago, Kate has forged a diverse career. Notably, she founded a ghee company sourcing organic butter from Rumiano Cheese, later joining Rumiano to expand their product line. Her commitment to ethical food production aligns with Rumiano’s values as a vertically integrated ghee company focused on true grass-fed dairy. Alongside this role, she contributes to the organic offerings at the local North Coast Grower’s Farmers Market. Kate cherishes her involvement with Wild Rose Farm, where she admires their pioneering cultivation of quinoa, showcasing her passion for innovative agriculture. Embracing California’s natural beauty, she indulges in outdoor activities and appreciates the region’s artistic landscape.

Alyssa Gilbert

Board Member

Alyssa Gilbert is the owner and founder of Ollie’s American Cheese + Provisions, an artisan cheese shop and catering company located in Downtown Oakland that specializes in 100% American-made cheese + charcuterie. She has dedicated herself to continuing her education of the American artisan cheese industry, and is currently preparing for the ACS CCP exam in 2024.

Alyssa was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She now lives in Oakland with her husband and two very cute dogs, Cash + Cooper. When she’s not behind the case slinging cheese, she enjoys playing volleyball, cooking with friends + family, and a good game night.


Membership  in the Guild is available to anyone who cares about great cheese – whether you’re a professional working in the industry or a consumer passionate about California cheese. Membership is available to Cheesemakers, Trade members, and Enthusiasts.