Being profitable making cheese, let alone breaking even, is no easy task. Especially when you’re small.
Audrey Hitchcock of Ramini Mozzarella has had even more to contend with.
Following her degree in Architecture she designed houses in the Bay Area for nearly two decades. But she’s a farming and cheesemaking newbie. Her husband Craig Ramini, who started and ran Ramini Mozzarella, passed away suddenly after a battle with cancer less than two years ago. Until then, her full time design career helped support Craig’s dream to make fresh buffalo mozzarella with water buffalo milk. Buffalo Milk Mozzarella is a rare and difficult product to make for many reasons and RaminiMozzarella is one of two or three U.S. creameries making buffalo mozzarella.
Left with dealing with her grief and a herd of buffalo that she’d fallen in love with – each named after a rock star – she put her design business on hold and devoted herself to the farm to keep the dream they shared alive.
She now works 15-hour days, caring for the animals, making cheese and delivering it to the handful of restaurant customers who covet the rare product.
She’s an energetic and determined force. She’s making a cheese which is known to be one of the most difficult to properly craft. Crazy as it sounds, she told me that until six months ago, she’d never been on another farm.
Audrey is charming and honest in the spectacular tour that she gives of the 25- acre farm she’s rented which is just a mile or so from the small town of Tomales (an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge). During the tour, she relays the journey of the creation of Ramini and the struggles of running the business. She explains how she keeps the calves with their mothers, a rarity when it comes to a milking herd. She’s figured out how to get the animals, who can be on the stubborn side, into the barns to be milked.
These water buffalo produce one-two gallons of milk a day, a fraction of a cow’s supply. However, this milk has more fat and less cholesterol than cows milk, 11% more protein, 37% more iron and 9% more calcium.
On the tour, everyone gets to see the animals and the barn. You’ll get a generous taste of the mozzarella and can buy some on the way out. You’re free to bring your own picnic to eat within view of buffaloes Janis Joplin and Linda Ronstadt. The highlght of the tour is when she gives everyone a wire brush to massage the animal’s backs until they curl their tails in pleasure and collapse on the ground in pure happiness.
Book a Saturday tour that starts at 2pm or request a private tour by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.