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Meet Jill Hammond of Stepladder Ranch & Creamery in Cambria

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jill Hammond.

Jill, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I had been working at Good Eggs in the Bay Area when Jack and Michelle were looking for help growing their business in Cambria, CA. Their small cheese company, Stepladder Creamery, was starting to make a name for itself across California and they were gearing up for more growth. I came down to look at the property – a sprawling landscape of 750 acres with spectacular views in every direction- and I was immediately swept off my feet. The ranch is spotted with orchards of tropical fruit and avocado trees of all shapes and sizes, all wrapped around a phenomenal 100-yr-old red bard which houses the goat dairy and active creamery. Right outside are 100 goats, all cared for by a handful of staff.

It didn’t take long to decide to leave my job in bustling Oakland to head for the hills to join them in their venture. I searched high and low and found the perfect tiny house on wheels to be my home, bought it off craigslist in Joshua Tree and plopped it down on the ranch within a month of my first visit.

In the past year, we have expanded our social media presence, focused on weddings and creamery tours, and aggressively extended the reach of our cheese distribution. It’s been a wild adventure to join a family-owned small business and be a part of this exciting chapter of growth for Stepladder. As with many small businesses, each person is an integral part of the success of the company and it takes incredible teamwork every day to keep moving forward. My current job ranges from booking weddings to outbound sales and everything in between- and I get to wake up in an avocado orchard every morning. The shift of environment has been a huge gift.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It feels as though the needs of the company change daily, so you have to be quick on your feet to step into any role. With food production and herd management, there are no days off (for the animals)… so if someone is out sick, the animals still need to be milked and cared for and the cheese still needs to be made and packaged. We work as a team and value the flexibility and passion of our small staff.

Some struggles along the way have been environmental issues which impact the cheese, which can lead to big losses. You are forced to stay positive and keep moving forward, despite losing thousands of dollars in cheese over a shift in temperature. We are constantly working to streamline and produce the best possible product and there are always hurdles along the way as you scale.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Stepladder Ranch & Creamery – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Stepladder Ranch & Creamery is a third-generation farm and a complete labor of love. Jack and Michelle Rudolph took over the farm in 2014 and have built a creamery from the ground up. We are now known for our small-batch goat and cow-milk cheeses, most notably our Big Sur and Ragged Point triple cream cheeses.

I’m proud to work for a company with so much passion and gusto to succeed. Each person on the team is essential and the products we create together are incredible. We offer tours daily which give people a peek inside this magical place and we continue to develop the story as we grow our community and brand.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We hope to maintain our growth in the short term and have a presence across the Domestic cheese industry, especially in California. Jack is a dreamer, so you never know what will happen in the coming years, but I’m confident Stepladder Creamery will continue to be successful as long as we continue to scale thoughtfully and stay focused on creating an outstanding product.

As far as my path, I am focusing on bringing in more weddings and events and creating a name for ourselves as a ranch wedding destination in California. Once you see this place, you’ll understand how phenomenal the location is for bringing people together.

Pricing:

  • Our Group Creamery Tours are $20/person year round
  • We have a Cheese Club! It’s $250/year
  • Weddings at Stepladder are $6,500, accommodations included

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photos by Mike Larson

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