West Marin became one of California’s first agricultural centers during the Gold Rush. A quick boat ride from San Francisco, coastal towns Bolinas and Tomales turned into shipping ports for produce, meat, and dairy. Today, the oldest continually operating cheese manufacturer in the United States—Marin French Cheese Company—still makes the Petite Breakfast cheese dockworkers in San Francisco gobbled up to fuel their long day of labor.
Factory farming almost destroyed Marin’s once-booming dairy industry and, by the mid-90s—when Cowgirl Creamery established its artisan cheese brand, there were only six cheesemaking enterprises in Marin and Sonoma counties. Cowgirl Creamery’s home of Point Reyes Station offers an excellent starting point for a day of exploring Marin County. Local guide Alexandra Fox of Food & Farm Tours kicks off her Flavors of Point Reyes tours there, pairing Cowgirl’s famed Red Hawk and Mt Tam, among others, with Brickmaiden Bread before taking her small groups to taste oysters, drink mead, and visit an organic farm. At the time of writing, Cowgirl was no longer providing tastings due to the coronavirus pandemic, but you can head a bit north for a tasting and tour at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese—a must for blue cheese lovers. Even further north, outside the charming town of Tomales, Toluma Farms opens its goat and sheep creamery to the public on the first Sunday of the month for a tasting and tour that includes hanging out with baby goats (cute overload!).
Before you leave Point Reyes Station, be sure to experience one of the prides of Marin County—its many honor farm stands. Just outside of town, Little Wing Farm and Table Top Farm run self-service stands, which sell seasonal produce by item or weight and trust visitors to pay for them by slipping cash in a box or, available at some stands, by check or Venmo. There are too many honor farm stands in the county to list here—some tiny roadside shacks with only eggs or honey—but for a large selection, often including fresh flowers, check out Gospel Flat Farm in Bolinas and Meandering Farmers’ stand in Tomales.