As a woman-owned business, we are firm believers that supporting women-owned businesses should be a year-round practice. But we welcome the month of March as Women's History Month. It serves as a moment to highlight and support fellow women artisans. Most women-owned businesses are small, with 90% having no employees and over half having only 1-4 employees. Women-owned businesses only make up 20% of all employers, which means we still have a long way to go in regards to equal representation. (Source)
Cheese Grotto was founded with a $20k investment and a whole lot of bootstrapping. We've learned along the way that having a supportive network of both industry professionals and customers is essential to success.
For March's Monthly Cheese Subscription, we'll be highlighting women-owned cheesemaking businesses and food artisans. The March box comes complete with a printed tasting guide on the story behind these women which will bring a whole new meaning to each bite.
Want to Gift 3 Months of Cheese to the special woman in your life? Order our Gift Subscription by March 2nd (Delivers March 8th)
Which Cheeses Are in the Women’s History Month Cheese Subscription?
We'll be featuring some of the original players of the cheese industry. These women are pioneers and examples of both successful business models as well as delicious, award-winning artisan cheeses.
Mt. Tam by Cowgirl Creamery
Photo courtesy of Cowgirl Creamery
Friends Sue Conley and Peggy Smith took a trip to San Francisco in 1976 after graduating from the University of Tennessee during the beginning of the organic and farm-to-table American food revolution. Peggy spent 17 years at Chez Panisse, and Sue owned and operated Bette's Oceanview Diner in Berkeley. Through her work at Chez Panisse, Peggy was able to taste and learn from Jean Piere Mouile and master affineurs (artisans specialized to age cheese) Jean and Pascale D’Alos as well as the dynamic team from Neal’s Yard Dairy in London.
By the early 1990s, Peggy and Sue launched a wholesale distribution business, Tomales Bay Foods, to help West Marin’s farms and dairies get their delicious products into the hands of the Bay Area’s finest chefs. Their headquarters, a renovated hay barn in downtown Point Reyes, featured a small cheesemaking room. Using Straus milk, they created fresh cheeses in addition to their iconic, award-winning triple cream brie, Mt. Tam.
Toma by Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese
By the mid-1990’s, Bob had grown the herd to over 500 cows and the farm established a reputation for producing the very highest quality milk. However, a dairy of that size on 720 acres was just too big, causing stress on the land, on their limited natural resources, and on the small staff working
In 2000, with the help of their daughters, the Giacomini family reduced the size of the dairy and transitioned the business into an artisan farmstead cheesemaking facility.
Today, Jill, Lynn, and Diana Giacomini own and run Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese, which has been awarded official certification from The Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) along with a “Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB”) certification.
Galax by Meadow Creek Dairy
Photo courtesy of Meadow Creek Dairy of Ana Arguello, Kat Feete, and Helen Feete (from left to right)
Located in Virginia’s Galax mountains, Meadow Creek Dairy was originally founded in 1988 as a dairy farm by husband-and-wife team Rick and Helen Feete.
After a few years of selling their high quality, sustainably produced milk, they realized the commercial market would never be able to reward them for the cost of producing it, so in 1998 Helen started making cheeses inspired by the Alps region. The terroir of Galax and the Appalachians has striking similarities to the Alps, making it a wonderful place to produce comparable specialty cheeses while maintaining the biodiversity of the grassland through rotational grazing.
Today, Helen and Ana Arguello are the main cheesemakers, while the Feete’s daughter, Kat, operates the business.
Meadow Creek Dairy has established itself as one of the most recognized and respected cheesemakers in the country with their herd of 120 cows. Their Galax cheese is their newest experiment of a washed curd, natural rind style with notes of lemon, butter, meat, and toasty walnuts.
Which Pairings Are in the Women’s History Month Subscription Box?
Effie's Homemade Corn Biscuits
Effie's daughter, Joan, and her longtime friend, Irene, knew these oatcakes were too exceptional to keep to themselves. Professionally trained culinary experts and teachers, Joan and Irene launched Effie's Homemade to share the oatcake tradition with an eager public.
Bonnie's Peach Ginger Jam
Photo courtesy of Bonnie's Jams
Coro Agrumi Salami
Clara Veniard and Martinque Grugg are moms, makers and longtime friends who started their company 20 years ago. Their passion for food drives them to continuously taste, experiment and improve. Coro, the Italian word for chorus, is a metaphor for not only the chorus of non-traditional flavors in their meats but also the chorus of voices at Coro that come together to bring it to the world.
They start with ethically sourced pork and fat then use our proprietary double-grind technique so they get just the right proportion of fat and meat. They use their own culture and all-natural curing agent made from celery salt methodically stuffing and hanging, by hand, on their racks. The racks are moved to our state-of-the-art curing rooms which ensure an exact humidity and temperature. Here the meats ferment and age slowly because slow food is better food.
One of their most beloved new world creations, Agrumi is fragrant and colorful with cardamom, orange peel, and red chili flakes.
Ziba Foods Shakurbai Almonds
Photo courtesy of Ziba Foods
By working directly with a women-owned cooperative in Afghanistan, Ziba Foods sources this ancient heirloom variety of almonds that are an excellent source of protein. Dry roasted without oil and dusted with Afghan salt, the flavor is rich and deeply nutty and earthy, an excellent savory pairing for soft and hard cheeses alike.
Ziba Foods focuses on supporting and improving the role of women in Afghan society. Their workforce is 80% female in both staff and management positions. They provide Afghan staff with year-round employment despite the cyclical nature of the agricultural industry, as well as regular educational and training opportunities.