Meet Mary, a Goat-Cheese Pioneer

The origin of Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog is truly an American Goat Tale. Here’s the story of Mary Keehn, a pioneer of artisan goat cheese in the U.S.

The origin of Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese is truly an American Goat Tale.  In the 1970s, Californian Mary Keehn wanted a source of healthful milk for her children, so she began raising Alpine goats.  Soon, Mary’s talent for breeding award-winning goats left her with an unexpected problem: surplus milk.  She began concocting cheese recipes on her kitchen stove, and quickly realized she had a flair for creating creamy goodness.  In 1983, when the only goat cheese available in the United States came from France where it’s called chèvre, Mary launched Cypress Grove Chevre and became a pioneer of artisan goat cheese in the U.S.

Humboldt Fog takes its name from the location of the dairy in Humboldt County in rural Northern California, on a hill where the redwoods meet the Pacific Ocean.  It’s rugged, a place where the legend of Bigfoot is celebrated annually, and where agriculture is still a mainstay of the economy.  Mary’s mantra is “clean milk makes clean cheese.” And we agree—healthy animals produce high-quality milk. While Mary doesn’t raise goats anymore, Cypress Grove sources goat’s milk from small agricultural-based family businesses in the area, and rewards its seven dairies by paying a higher price for the cleanest milk around.  Mary believes that culture is not only in the cheese but also in the commitment that you have to the farmers, the community and the team of employees.  They’ve even started encouraging some smaller cow dairies in the area to switch to goats, providing an alternative to rural families that might have been forced off their land by market pressures.  Mary believes it’s a winning situation for everyone—dairies get to continue doing what they love, and she gets more high-quality goat’s milk.

In the early days of Cypress Grove, it took several years before consumers were attracted to the smooth, delicate flavors of Mary’s cheeses.  At the time, Americans had become accustomed to stronger and tangier French goat cheeses.  But she persevered, working with other goat-cheese pioneers to develop the U.S. market.  Watch this video of Mary talking about those challenges opens in a new tab.Her commitment to quality paid off with a loyal following, and many international awards for an innovative range of fresh, aged and ripened cheeses.  We’re proud to have a longtime relationship with Mary that ensures a competitive price for the terrifically versatile Humboldt Fog—from cheese tray to entrée a little of this fantastic cheese goes a long way.

Go Behind the Rind opens in a new tab for goat-cheese recipes and serving tips, and follow our Global Cheese Buyer, Cathy Strange on Twitter @WFMCheese.Have you tried Humboldt Fog yet? What do you think?

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