Meet a Farmer: Michelle & Jack Rudolph of Stepladder Ranch and Creamery
Jack Rudolph is a third generation farmer, but he didn’t start his career on the ranch. While working a tech job in the Bay Area, Jack began to make cheese from goat’s milk as a hobby. Surprisingly, Jack found himself more interested in cheesemaking than anything else. He set a plan in motion to move back to his grandfather’s ranch in Cambria, California to take over operations of the existing avocado ranch and begin a creamery. It was around his time that he met Michelle who was working in event planning in the wine industry. Luckily for Jack, Michelle fell in love with him and farming, so Stepladder Ranch and Creamery was born.
Happy Goats = Delicious Cheese
Stepladder Ranch and Creamery is a farmstead operation, and their goats are raised, grazed, and milked on the property in the same little barn where the cheese is made. Today, the Rudolph’s have a herd of about seventy, playful LaMancha goats, a gentle, American breed with naturally small ears. The goats breed each fall, and the kids (baby goats) arrive in the spring.
The team at Stepladder milk the goats twice daily, seven days a week! And the full cycle, from milking to cheesemaking, and aging to packaging all take place right in their 100 year old barn. The goats are milked for 8 months out of the year. During the off season, they buy fresh cow’s milk from other local sources to keep cheese production going. Not surprisingly, their cheeses made with cow’s milk are so popular that they now produce them year round to keep up with the demand!
Stepladder Ranch – Sustainability in Action
Over the past several years, Jack & Michelle have worked to expand operations on the ranch. Today, there are 40 acres of avocados; about 95% of them are the Haas variety. They also added specialty citrus crops, as well as subtropical fruits such as passionfruit and cherimoya. At Stepladder Ranch, they focus on reducing their carbon footprint and following the most sustainable practices possible to ensure that the land stays beautiful and productive.
To take full advantage of California sunshine, Jack and Michelle added a 50KW solar array that produces about 90% of their electricity. They also have a water and rain catchment to source water for their creamery and orchards and use manure to fertilize their crops. In addition, they feed excess avocados to their pigs, who also enjoy whey from the creamery. And of course they ensure that their packaging is both recyclable and made from recycled ingredients.
But true sustainability goes beyond stewardship of the land and livestock. It also means being an economically viable business, and taking good care of your employees – commitments that Jack and Michelle take very seriously. Of course, profitability of their business depends on Stepladder’s growing base of loyal customers who share rave reviews about their cheeses, citrus and avocados.
If you want to try some of the delicious offerings from Stepladder Ranch and Creamery, you can find their cheese online, as well as specialty shops throughout California. They also sell their cheese, avocados, citrus and tropical fruits at farmers markets in both Northern and Southern California. Check their website for more information about events and tours.
California’s Central Coast has a lot to love. Here are a few more of our favorite things to sip, savor and see on your next visit!
Richard & Myrna Meisler of San Miguel Olive Farm
Nestled in the hills of San Miguel, located in the Central Coast of California, is a picturesque 10-acre olive grove that is the home of “The World’s BEST Olive Oil“. The trees at San Miguel Olive Farm are all planted, tended, and harvested by hand! Tours are offered at San Miguel Olive Farm, but by appointment only. Summer and Fall are the best times to see the trees filled with olives, or you can join them for a fun-filled harvest experience in late October and November.
The Heart & Soul of California Wine Country – Paso Robles
Though wine tasting is on the minds of most who travel to Paso Robles and the Central Coast, the region offers a vast array of other delicious adventures for you to discover in between tastings. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite places to taste, experience, and see on your next visit!
This article was written by Alison Needham, photos by James Collier.