Q&A with Jack Rudolph of Stepladder Creamery
–We are very fortunate here on the Central Coast to have so many farms and ranches producing amazing goods. Stepladder Creamery in Cambria is one such farm. Jack Rudolph is the manager of Stepladder Ranch and the third generation of his family to serve as such.
Q & A with Jack Rudolph of Stepladder Ranch and Creamery
Who is behind Stepladder Creamery?
I am the manager of Stepladder Ranch and am the third generation of my family to manage the ranch. We also have a longtime staff of ranch hands, as well as Sophia Stephens our Guest Services Manager, and Michelle Angell our Director of Sales. Farrah Johnson is the Creamery Manager and resident goat whisperer.
Have you always been farmers/ ranchers?
No, my grandfather, Jack Russell, purchased the property in the 70s during his retirement. I studied economics and worked at a Silicon Valley tech startup before moving to Cambria take over the management of the farm when it was struggling to make a profit after my grandfather passed away.
Are you from this area originally? If not, where are you from?
I grew up in the Bay Area, but came down to visit my grandfather at the ranch frequently when I was a child. I always enjoyed my time on the ranch with the open space and room to breathe.
What did you do prior to Stepladder Creamery?
I studied economics and worked at a Silicon Valley tech startup before moving down to manage the farm. I was always into bread making and cheese-making from home, as a hobby. I enjoyed the challenge of it… and grew to love goats in the process. I started caring for and milking two goats that lived on my friend’s family farm in the Bay Area – when I moved to Stepladder Ranch I brought the goats with me and expanded the herd to what is now, a herd of 50 LaMancha goats.
What products do you offer and where can they be found?
We sell avocado-citrus blossom honey, farmstead handcrafted cheeses from our goat milk and pasture raised cows milk, avocados, passion fruit, and heritage pork that is coined “forest raised and avocado fed pork.” Our cheeses can be purchased at Di Raimondos in Paso, Fromagerie Sophie in SLO, 15 Degrees C in Templeton, and our honey is available for sale at the General Store in Paso, Jack Creek Farms in Paso Robles off the 46W and a Matter of Taste in Cambria, The Station in SLO, Shine in Morro Bay. Our products can also be found on the seasonal menus of Thomas Hill Organics, Artisan, McPhee’s, Luna Red, Novo, Robins, Madlines and Linns to name a few. We are so thankful for the support of our local retailers and restaurants!
Do you offer tours? If so, how can people contact you about those?
Yes! We offer private tours daily that are 1-hour long and will give you a unique and personalized opportunity to see what’s happening inside of the creamery as guided by one of our Stepladder Creamery staff members, learn about and witness cheese-making in action, and conclude your tour with a tasting of the seasonal goat cheese that we have available – and right now is baby goat season so we have a handful (over 14) of baby goats that would love to meet you. If you do an early morning or noon tour you can likely help us with bottle feeding the kids. You can send an email to email@example.com to book a private tour, or visit www.stepladdercreamery.com
What kind of animals do you have on the property and how many of each?
We have 60 heritage pigs (breeds include large black, Gloucestershire old spot crosses and more) 50 LaMancha goats (and counting! Each year we grow our herd), and 5 dogs.
You have a vacation rental on the ranch, how long has that been going?
We started our vacation rental in 2014.
Is it open to rent year round?
It is open year round for rent, and has stunning views of the coastline as well as the Santa Lucia mountains.
How can people contact you about that?
Take a virtual tour of the home at www.cambriaranchrental.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. The home is also listed on Airbnb.
What do you think separates your ranch from others?
Our ranch has unique diversity of farming operations along with the most picturesque setting imaginable. We have meat production, dairy, creamery as well as fruits and vegetables. We try to keep our operation diverse and as integrated as possible, for example, the whey bi-product from our cheese-making makes up an important part of our pigs’ diet, and fallen avocado fruits from our orchards get fed to the pigs as well. I think it is rare to find a farm that has operations in so many different categories.
Do you have any plans to expand or add new things?
We are not planning to expand or add anything new in the near term, but we do want to increase the intensity of our subtropical fruit plantings, and add some new cheeses to the lineup. We are also excited to announce Stepladder Ranch as a unique farm wedding venue for those looking for an intimate and picturesque place to celebrate their special day on the Central Coast.
What is your favorite aspect of the farm/ ranch life?
Being active and outside every day and sharing a connection with the animals and the land. It is amazing to watch sun and water create plants that either fruit, or feed animals that feed us with their milk or meat.
How many acres do you have?
The ranch itself is 740 acres, with 40 acres planted with fruit orchards, and about 3 acres in dairy pasture.
Do you have a certain farming philosophy?
Nothing with a specific label. We try to imagine the best possible lives for our animals and create them for them. If a pig was in heaven what would it have access to? Probably avocados, whey, room to forage and burrow, acorns and mushroom to eat and open pasture. What about goats? Free choice grass and clover, oak leaves, sprouted sunflower seeds and barley and sweet carrots for dessert after milking hour.