Credo: Peggy Smith 

Peggy Smith, co-founder of the Bay Area’s Cowgirl Creamery, known for its artisan cheeses, tells us about the women who have influenced her career, the friends she depends upon, and how good food contributes to a good life.

Who has had a big impression on you in your life?
I know it sounds like a cliché, but I do think that Alice Waters had a big impression on me. I worked with her for 17 years. Her vision carried through to every single person she worked with at Chez Panisse. I admire her vision and her principles.

What book or piece of writing has had a big impact on you?
I read a lot of cookbooks in my time. But probably the one I found most memorable was Madeleine Kamman’s “When French Women Cook.” It was a book about traditional cooking, and looking at ingredients and knowing where they came from and where they were raised. It really tackled those issues in a really simple way and was simply written and talked about ingredients with reverence.

Is there a “golden rule” by which you live?
Try and be respectful of what we have and appreciate things to their fullest.

Where or to whom do you turn to in tough times?
I would turn to my friends. I have a really close group of friends, and we meet daily so it would be a natural thing to turn to them. If there were hard times, we would all be in it together.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration on my way to Pt. Reyes [the location of their cheese-making facility]. I look at those farms. ... At the farmers market, through books I read, mostly through people I talk to.

What is something about you that people would find surprising?
Well, looking at me now people would be surprised that I used to be athletic. I swam in college.

What would you want most to hear your colleagues say about you?
I think I’d like to hear them say that we have an honest business. That we’re really trying to work with people and sustainable agriculture. That it’s more than just a catch phrase.

What led you to start Cowgirl Creamery?
We [co-founder Sue Conley and I] thought it could be a good vehicle to promote sustainable agriculture in Marin County. Ellen Straus and Phyllis Faber founded Marin Agricultural Land Trust, which focuses on agricultural preservation. Ellen said it wouldn’t do any good to save the land for agriculture if the farmer can’t make a living selling the products he produces. My business partner and I decided that we’d make cheese from local milk. Not a new idea, but new to us.

How do you see your role in the world?
I just feel I’m part of a group of people that really care about what people eat, and in return that could help everyone have a better life. I’m not really that complicated. I like to have fun.

About The Author

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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