Can you imagine a time when goat cheese wasn’t popular in the United States? It seems difficult to believe, but a mere twenty-five years ago virtually all the goat cheese sold in the United States was imported from Europe. And that’s where our story begins, with a few enterprising Americans — mostly women — who made small batches of goat cheese in their kitchens and began selling it to discerning restaurant owners and retailers. One of those enterprising Americans was Mary Keehn, and that’s where the story of Cypress Grove begins.
Wanting a source of healthful milk for her children, Mary began raising Alpine goats in the 1970s. She quickly discovered that she had a natural talent for selectively breeding goats. Her herd began winning numerous awards and before she knew it, Mary was recognized as America’s premier breeder of Alpine dairy goats.
As Mary’s goat stock continued to improve, she was faced with an unexpected consequence: surplus milk from fifty goats! And so, armed with her kitchen stove and a knack for inventing unique and delicious recipes, Mary began dabbling with cheese making. It soon became clear that selective goat breeding was only one of Mary’s many talents; she had a natural flair for cheese making as well. Thus in 1983 with the help of family and friends, Mary made the move from kitchen hobbyist to cheese making entrepreneur… and footwear aficionado! (Often entrepreneurs talk about wearing many hats. Mary remembers footwear: rubber boots for milking goats, sterile clogs for making cheese, comfortable shoes for office work, and relative to the rest, uncharacteristically high heels for sales and marketing!)
From the outset, Mary strove to make the highest quality, best-tasting artisanal cheeses. Market acceptance, however, was slow. Americans, it seemed, had become accustomed not only to the strong, tangy goat cheeses made in France, but also bland, sliced “cheese” wrapped in plastic. It took quite a few years before consumers developed a palate for the smooth, delicate flavors of Cypress Grove cheeses. Mary used this period of slow, steady growth to take special care of her customers and to work in conjunction with other goat cheese pioneers to develop the American market. Patience, hard-work and a commitment to quality paid off and over time, a large, loyal following began to seek out the Cypress Grove label. Today, renowned for its innovative range of fresh, aged and ripened cheeses — many invented by Mary — and internationally awarded for excellence, Cypress Grove is a leader in the domestic goat cheese market.