Marshall Home Ranch Dairy
Marshall Home Ranch & Dairy supplies us with 100% of our jersey cow milk, and around 50% of our sheep milk. Bleating Heart's creamery is also located in the same building as the dairy, so the milk only travels about 20 feet before reaching our cheese vat.
The property on which our creamery is located, the Thornton Ranch, already had a rich dairy past long before we showed up in 2013. This land in West Marin was originally settled by the Marshall brothers, who left Ireland in 1852 to establish a dairy on their new "Home Ranch" property, milking Irish Shorthorn cows. The ranch name changed from Marshall to Thornton through marriage. The dairy was in operation for several generations, eventually moving from Shorthorns to Holsteins, until 4th generation patriarch Gordon Thornton passed away in 2001. The Thorntons continued to raise pasture-fed beef and lamb on the lush rolling hills of this historic coastal ranch, but sadly, the dairy had shuttered.
In 2014, 6th generation rancher Marissa Thornton, along with help from her father Gary Thornton, revitalized the family's old dairy on the bucolic 1,013 acre ranch. In the reincarnated dairy, jerseys are the cow breed of choice, along with a new addition - dairy sheep. Marissa named the dairy portion of the ranch "Marshall Home Ranch & Dairy" in honor of her Irish ancestors. It is the only dairy in California - probably in the nation - that milks both sheep and jersey cows side-by-side in the same facility. All of the sheep milk, and most of the cow milk, is sold to Bleating Heart Cheese. We are right next door in the same building as the dairy, so the milk doesn't travel very far before we transform it into cheese.
The Marshall brothers probably could not have imagined this partnership 150 years ago when they were dairying on the property, but we like to believe that they'd be delighted! Aside from managing her dairy cows and sheep, Marissa is also a talented artist, who hand-painted the logo for her new dairy (shown above).