Founded in 1865, Marin French Cheese is celebrating 150 years of fine cheesemaking in its historic Hicks Valley location. To mark this milestone the company has held events throughout the year for trade partners, loyal customers and friends in the community. The coming event on Saturday August 15 is set aside as a celebration and remembrance of Jim Boyce. Boyce purchased Marin French Cheese Company in 1998 and operated it until his untimely death in 2010. Boyce catapulted Marin French to international fame with a first-time gold medal award for an American Brie in a prestigious 2005 European competition.
The August 15 tribute event will be open to the public at no charge. The full-day event takes place outdoors on the grounds surrounding the creamery from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The event features a few of Boyce’s passions – art, music and great cheese. Central to the event is the exhibit and sale of contemporary local art curated by Art Contemporary Marin, a nonprofit contemporary arts organization that Boyce helped found. Original works from 12 featured artists will be on display and for sale through Sunday the 16th. On Saturday, guests can enjoy market-style samplings of artisan cheese and beverages while music from the Copeland Creek Jazz Quintet and John Burdick Band plays outdoors on the lawn.
Founded by Jefferson Thompson in 1865, Marin French was owned and operated by Thompson family descendants until the family sold the business in 1998 to Jim Boyce, an organic cattle rancher, architect and land developer from Bishop, California. He appreciated the unique Hicks Valley “terroir” of the cheese and the burgeoning growth in artisan cheesemaking across the U.S. in the early 2000s. He increased the number and types of cheeses being made, improved and expanded the factory and retail store, energizing the brand, Rouge et Noir, with national marketing and distribution. Under his leadership, Marin French became the first U.S. cheese company to win a gold medal and best of class award in a European competition – the 2005 World Cheese Awards in London.
Beyond his contribution to the resurgence in cheesemaking, Boyce and his wife, Kris Otis, created a nonprofit organization with local arts leaders, Art at the Cheese Factory, now known as Art Contemporary Marin. The exhibits featured art they loved – contemporary painting and sculpture by artists from the North Bay. Thousands attended the exhibits, expanding the experience of visiting the Cheese Factory to an elegant, educational celebration. Following Boyce’s death in 2010, Marin French Cheese was sold to Rians, a respected French family cheesemaking business. Rians completed Boyce’s expansion activities, updated the production areas with state-of-the art equipment and is committed to the future of this venerable 150-year-old local institution.