Skip to main content

Celebrating Women in Cheese

Hannah Abaffy
  |   March 4, 2024   |  

Meet The Ladies Who Led the American Cheese Revolution

This Women's History Month, we’re honoring the founding mothers of cheese. Commemorating the ladies who revolutionized the artisan cheese movement in America and created an appreciation for new cheeses and flavors that had yet to be embraced by the American public. From European cheesemaking traditions of the past to the American cheese renaissance of today, we’re celebrating the women who shaped our cheese- past, present, and future.

Point Reyes

A powerhouse within the artisan cheese community, if you are at all interested in food, odds are you’ve heard of Point Reyes. Based in Tomales Bay, just a few hours north of San Francisco, their assortment of cheeses has garnered the admiration of chefs, foodies, and anyone who enjoys a good blue cheese.

The trio of sisters behind Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company: Jill, Lynn, and Diana, have utilized their diverse business backgrounds to transform the family dairy into one of the foremost domestic cheese producers in the country.

Leaving their established careers to help their father achieve his long-held dream of converting the dairy into an artisan farmstead cheesemaking facility, their business acumen helped put the farm’s delicious assortment of cheeses into grocery stores and markets across the country.

While the first wheels of their classic blue weren’t rolled out until August of 2000, the story began generations earlier when the girls’ great-grandfather, Tobias Giacomini, left Italy to pursue his dream of farming, landing him in the fertile valleys of Northern California. Today, the farmstead carries on the family heritage, celebrating a longstanding passion for fresh food and sharing that with an extended family of cheese lovers across the nation. Experience the flavors of California’s only traditional blue cheese here.

Nettle Meadow

No list of fromagières would be whole without mentioning Lorraine Lambiase and Sheila Flanagan, co-owners of Nettle Meadow Sanctuary Farm and the geniuses behind over forty award-winning cheeses. Leaving behind their life in Oakland, California, and established careers in the law, these two women of vision moved to upstate New York in 2005 to start one of the most unique farms in the country.

Settling under the shadow of Crane Mountain in the Adirondacks, they took on the Herculean task of restoring and transforming their new farm into a functioning cheesemaking facility and animal sanctuary. True masters of their craft, Sheila and Lorraine's farm is now home to over 150 rescued animals, and that’s not counting the goats and cows that produce the milk they use in their cheeses.

Along with its animal welfare mission, Nettle Meadow is committed to crafting beautiful cheeses by hand. One of a dwindling number of producers who still practice the art of traditional cheesecraft, Sheila and Lorraine’s efforts have not been in vain. Winning more annual awards and accolades than they can list, their staff and facility continue to grow year after year. Offering an extensive menu, you’ll find everything from fresh chevré to washed and bloomy rind wheels, each offering a distinctive profile and aroma. Most famous for Kunik, be sure to try this prize-winning cheese and their other delicious offerings here.


One of the founding mothers of American cheesemaking, Judy Schad is recognized as one of the first to popularize farmhouse-style cheese in America. Moving from the city to an 80-acre farm in Indiana, Schad found her cheesemaking inspiration among the rolling hills of the midwestern countryside. It all started with a gifted goat, and with the excess milk came experimentation into the world of cheese.

Like Emerson and the Transcendentalists or Kerouac and the Beats, Judy found herself surrounded by the women who would come to define a new generation of American cheesemakers. Now considered luminaries in their own right, Schad honed her skills alongside Mary Kheen of Cypress Grove, Allison Hooper of Vermont Creamery, and Paula Lambert of Mozzarella Co. Learning and sharing, they created a community of artisans.

From producer to teacher, Judy, now semi-retired, continues to share the good news about cheese, judging national and international competitions and serving on various boards from the American Cheese Society to the American Dairy Goat Association and the Chicago Green City Market. Awarded the 'Maitre du Fromage', Judy continues to be honored for her outstanding work in popularizing the tangy taste of Goat cheese and expanding the American palate, an accomplishment for which we are forever grateful. Try Capriole's signature cheeses here.

Cypress Grove

A list of women who have shaped the world of American cheese production would not be complete without mentioning Mary Kheen, founder of Cypress Grove. Starting her creamery in 1983, Mary had already been keeping goats and making cheese for over a decade. An offshoot of the land movement of the 60s and 70s, her back-to-basics lifestyle quickly led to at-home cheese production. From a micro-farm with no running water and less than orthodox cheesemaking techniques to one of the leaders of the industry, Kheen has built a business that not only creates some of the most delicious chevre in the country but has changed the American perception of what cheese is.

Now retired, her legacy lives on through Cypress Grove. The enterprise employs over seventy people and one thousand goats and continues to produce some of the most iconic goat cheeses in the country. Nestled on 18 acres of idyllic countryside in Arcata, California, Mary Kheen can be considered nothing less than a pioneer who propelled the goat cheese segment of the industry into what it is today. Be sure to sample her iconic Humboldt Fog chevre or any of the Grove's other delicious offerings here.

Cooking and Recipes: Featured Gourmet Ingredients
Holidays And Seasonal: Spring and Summer


There are currently no ratings for this item. Be the first to rate this item.


Hannah Abaffy

Chef-Copywriter-Sultan of Sweets

Working in the hospitality industry for well over a decade, Chef Hannah Abaffy has held every position available in a restaurant kitchen. From line cook to executive pastry chef, she calls on her ten-plus years of work in the field and her culinary degree to write about our gourmet ingredients and craft informational articles and blog posts that will help you elevate everything from a wedge of cheese to a lobe of foie gras.

From working with food every day to writing about it, Hannah is now a contributing author for Gourmet Food Store, along with her work helping restaurants develop recipes and craft menus and running her award-nominated food history blog Milk and Honey.

Read More
My socials:
  • LinkedIn
  • facebook
  • Instagram

Questions and Answers

visit our family of brands
Steaks And Game
For steak and meat lovers.
Gourmet Food World
The chef's ingredient marketplace.