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4 years after acquisition by Emmi, founders of Sonoma County’s Cowgirl Creamery retire

Pioneers in U.S. organic artisan cheesemaking, chefs Sue Conley and Peggy Smith on Thursday announced their retirement from Cowgirl Creamery, which they started in 1997 and grew to the point it attracted the attention of a global dairy giant.

“Creating and building Cowgirl Creamery, has been the greatest adventure in our lives,” they wrote in a letter to friends and colleagues, released Thursday. It noted that their last day was Jan. 1. “The development of Cowgirl Creamery built many careers in cheesemaking, mongering, food safety, sales and distribution. We leave a seasoned team of leaders, each with their own team of passionate people working together to strengthen this artisan cheese movement.”

Noted achievements are their work with the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, or MALT, which protects rural properties for food production, and promotion of “the Northern California milkshed,” described as including dairy farmers, cheese producers and the chefs who use their products.

Swiss dairy products company Emmi acquired Cowgirl Creamery in 2016, providing an infusion of capital and operational support that helped the company expand production in Petaluma in 2017 and bring on new top leadership in training in 2019.

That executive team is going to be led by Managing Director Amanda Parker, who joined in 2018 as deputy managing director. Conley and Smith recruited her business training and cheese expertise, the company said. Parker is a certified cheese professional with an MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and has taught at Cheese School of San Francisco.

She worked eight years at New York-based Murray’s Cheese, starting as a cheesemonger and ending as vice president of business development. While there she oversaw the opening of 350-plus cheese kiosks in Kroger supermarkets nationwide.

Maureen Cunnie, supply chain director, has been with Cowgirl Creamery since 2001, starting as a cheesemaker and then working up to operations director and then her current position. She is credited with transforming the company from startup to national brand producer.

Newlyl joining is Rachel Perez , a certified cheese professional, as sales director. Perez has worked for cheese retailers, importers, distributors and manufacturers for 13 years, including Tony’s Fine Foods in West Sacramento, the French Cheese Club, San Francisco’s Canyon Market and various Whole Foods Market stores in the Northeast and London.

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