While a steady stream of traffic winds it way up to the central coast to Hearst Castle, nine miles south there’s an entirely different experience to be had. Beautiful scenery gives way, not to the glitz and glamour of a by-gone era but a historical ranch, thriving with new purpose as they produce nationally recognized award-winning cheese.
Stepladder Ranch & Creamery is home to a 35 Lamancha goat dairy and creamery just outside the town of Cambria. The creamery’s focus is making traditional and innovative, small-batch cheeses, one of which, aptly name Ragged Point was nominated for the 2019 Good Food Awards and the 2018 American Cheese Society, winning third place.
Stepladder Creamery was started roughly five years ago when Jack Rudolph returned home to run his grandfather, Jack Russell’s ranch, which was established in 1871. What started out as a hobby farm for Jack while working in the Palo Alto Tech industry launched into a full-fledged business. Today, Jack, his wife Michelle and a small, passionate staff manage the farm and the booming success of the creamy which began with only a handful of goats and a third-generation rancher teaching himself to make cheese in his kitchen.
“It is absolutely majestic,” said Jill Hammond, Business Development Manager for Stepladder Creamery. While the goats are the main attraction, a climate, which facilitates citrus and avocado groves, adds to the idyllic setting of the farm. “I think because it’s run by a new generation of people, it’s younger and has a hip vibe about it. It’s not like a petting zoo, it’s a working farm with a lot of young interesting people who are all really passionate, it’s rad.”
Stepladder Creamery opens it home to the public through guided private tours, for a special behind-the-scenes look at the goats, and people who are creating award-winning cheese for restaurants and shops up and down the coast of California.
Once you book your tour online and receive directions via email, you’ll be met at the gate by your tour guide who will then lead your caravan up the hill to the farm. According to Hammond, the three-minute drive alone will elicit, and “Oh my God, this is amazing,” from guests.
The guests will learn about the history of the ranch, as well as the goats as they meet the herd in the goat barn. From there they will continue to the milking parlor to enjoy a demonstration, as well as follow the process of creating cheese from milk in the creamery; ending the tour with the tasting room and farm shop as well.
Open year-round for tours, aspects of the tour change with the seasons. “You’ll learn what’s going on this season. We’re about to have babies in the spring so there’s a lot going on in the world of the goats,” Hammond said. “It’s awesome, it’s different from a lot of other farm tours in that it’s fairly structured and structured because its such a private family farm. It creates a more intimate experience.”
Stepladder Creamery is open to corporate and group events, on a ranch that also features an Air B&B, which overlooks the farm and wedding venue as well.
“I would love for people to know that it’s a place to spend an afternoon if you’re looking for something to do in Cambria,” Hammond added. “It’s a special place, off the grid which offers a very different experience from the madhouse of visiting Hearst Castle. That’s not the experience here but its equally as cool.”
Private creamery tours are one-hour long and give visitors a unique opportunity to see the herd of LaMancha goats, see the inside the milking parlor, peek into the creamery and learn all about how we make our cheeses. Every tour ends with a tasting of seasonal cow and goat milk cheeses. Due to staffing limitations on our working farm, there is a $100 minimum for tours. Group Creamery Tours are offered on select days and have a 2-person minimum at $20 per person. Children under the age of 5 are free and do not require a ticket. Book online at www.stepladdercreamery.com, (805) 395-3015.
–Story By Katie Marchetti, Photo Credits: Mike Larson