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Artisan cheesemaker searches for new home for buffalo herd

Tiburon resident Audrey Hitchcock, who operates Ramini Mozzarella in Tomales, is at a crossroads, with too many buffalo for her land lease but not enough to remain sustainable. (Ben Apatow)

Five days a week, Audrey Hitchcock drives from her Tiburon home to Tomales to manage the 25-acre water-buffalo dairy ranch that she and her late husband, Craig Ramini, founded in 2009.

The other two days, she’s desperately looking for a larger West Marin or Sonoma County dairy property to accommodate her 80 buffaloes so she can expand her business to make it economically sustainable.

Without a new home, she may have to shut her business altogether.

Hitchcock says there is growing demand for Ramini Mozzarella, which she sells to wineries, restaurants and to specialty and farmers markets, as well as at the dairy, which is open to the public on Saturdays. She also makes ricotta and stracciatella cheeses. Under the terms of her lease at the Tomales location, there is a 50-animal limit. Last year, she moved 30 of the 80-animal herd to a property in Nicasio to comply with the lease, but the buffaloes continue to produce more calves, and the Nicasio property isn’t an option for the full herd.

She has until Oct. 31 to find a new location, and she’s been searching high and low.

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