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California Cheese Trail

 

Lafranchi Ranch

Lafranchi Ranch

477 Acres MALT-protected Since 1986

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Roll through the rural village of Nicasio any sunny weekend, and you’re likely to notice a crowd gathered at a tidy grey building near the center of town. Visitors come by car, bus and bike to the tasting room at the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, lining up to sample each of the cheeses made here. Since 2010 the Lafranchi family has produced organic cheese in a historic dairy barn, using milk from cows that graze the slopes behind the barn. 

Nicasio Roots

The family’s history in Nicasio Valley stretches back to the early 20th century. Swiss emigrant Fred Lafranchi and his wife Zelma Dolcini Lafranchi established a dairy in Nicasio Valley in 1919. Eldest son Will carried on the family business while raising six kids on the property. In 1986, Will worked with MALT to purchase the development rights on 477 acres adjacent to the home ranch, ensuring that the rich, productive soil of Nicasio Valley would remain in agricultural use forever. 

In 2005, the current generation of Lafranchis took over operation of the ranch. Today, each have a stake in the ranch and creamery. Randy Lafranchi is now in charge of the day-to-day operations; Scott and Rick Lafranchi manage the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company business. Sisters Jan, Dee and Kim are partners as well. 

The Lafranchis began to convert their pasture to organic in 2006, and in 2010 they opened a modern creamery and tasting room in a historic dairy barn on the property. Their herd of 425 dairy cows graze for much of the year on the gentle walls of Nicasio Valley. Each morning, fresh milk arrives at the creamery, ready to be made into one of the company’s distinctive, Swiss Italian-style cheeses. Lafranchi Dairy also supplies milk for Clover Organic Farms.

On the Farm

Nicasio Valley Farms pumpkin patchThe Lafranchis' productive ranch supports more than award-winning cheese.  Janet Brown and Marty Jacobson, husband-and-wife farmers and owners of Allstar Organics, lease 8 acres on Lafranchi Ranch to grow more than 150 varieties of organic produce for restaurants and farmers’ markets throughout the Bay Area.

The front field of Lafranchi Ranch is transformed every autumn into a colorful pumpkin patch. Local, organic gourds – some grown on MALT-protected farms like Paradise Valley Ranch in Bolinas – dot a scenic pasture and draw pumpkin hunters from all over the Bay Area. The Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch presents a fun opportunity for families from urban areas to explore a West Marin ranch, learn about local farming, and take home the perfect pumpkin to carve.

Protecting Diversity

Lafranchi Ranch is one of three properties that make up a 1,345-acre block of MALT-protected farmland in Nicasio Valley. This broad swath of well-managed land supports three farming families, along with native plants and wildlife. It also protects water quality in tributaries to Lagunitas Creek, which is an important stronghold for spawning coho salmon along the California coast.

Photos and More

View a slideshow of images from Lafranchi Ranch»

MALT Day at the Pumpkin Patch, our annual celebration of harvest and community, is held each October at Nicasio Valley Farms. View photos of the fun or sign up for our monthly eNewsletter so you can be among the first to hear about MALT events throughout the year.