Paso Robles is located halfway between the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles on the Central Coast of California and is about 25 miles from Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo. The city is formally known as El Paso de Robles (the pass of the oaks) but is commonly referred to by locals as simply, "Paso." The area is known for its hot springs, its abundance of wineries, and production of olive oil. However, the area also has an important history in the dairy industry, and the hills around the county are dotted with abandoned dairy farms.
The area is located along the historic Camino Real trail. In the late 1700s, Franciscan monks from nearby Mission San Miguel constructed the first mineral baths in the area and introduced wine grapes, milk, and cheese to the region. During this period, the area began to attract pioneer settlers who would establish cattle ranches, apple and almond orchards, vineyards, and dairies. Most of the dairy products at the time were created for personal consumption by the pioneer families who carried their livestock overland while migrating from the East Coast of the United States by covered wagon.
In 1848, the state's history took a dramatic turn with the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill. Encouraged by the high price of dairy products during the Gold Rush, entrepreneurs imported milk cows to increase local production to supply the miners. In 1860, California had about 100,000 milk cows, and by the end of the 1890s there were over 260,000. The cool temperatures and long grass-growing seasons of the state's coastal areas, including San Luis Obispo County, drew more people into the dairy industry locally. Throughout the Gold Rush years, the area's dairy production rose steadily.
The dairy farm boom resulted in the building of wharfs, lighthouses, and railroads to transport butter and cheese to San Francisco and Los Angeles markets. In this way, the early dairies helped to create industries and infrastructure for the future of San Luis Obispo County.
Around the turn of the century, due to public demand for safe food products and improvements in machinery and manufacturing methods in the industry, commercial creameries began to emerge. This created a separation of the production and processing of milk. By 1930, much of the area's milk processing had moved to San Luis Obispo to be near Cal Poly and the most populous part of the county. After several years of operation, Foremost Dairy in San Luis Obispo, the last commercial creamery in San Luis Obispo County, was deemed too old and too costly to operate and closed its doors forever in 1972 - effectively ending the era of the dairy industry in the county...or did it?
As the Central Coast continues to gain notoriety as a destination for food lovers, many dairy artisans are entering the market. The local dairy industry is seeing a resurgence by way of artisan creameries producing products such as cheese, gelato, and ice cream.
Our area has an important dairy heritage and at Central Coast Creamery we are proud to inherit even a small part of this legacy and intend to honor it by continuing to produce great tasting cheese!