Our Story

Our Farmstead and Cheese Factory, located in Santa Rosa, California was established in 1979 by Joe and Mary Matos after immigrating from the small, lush, volcanic island of  Sao Jorge, Azores during the 1960's. Still owned and operated by Joe and Mary, the Joe Matos Cheese Factory legacy continues with the 7th generation of the Matos family who bring you a taste of our Portuguese traditions, heritage and pride through handmade artisan raw milk St. Jorge cheese and Heritage Raised Beef.

Joe and Mary both grew up on the island of Sao Jorge, Azores and had been acquainted their whole lives. Joe worked along side his father, as part of the fifth generation of the Matos family to milk 40 cows and make St. Jorge cheese at their home in Urzelina, Sao Jorge. He was the first generation to recieve a formal education and attributes this fact to his father. "We had to have shoes and clothes to go to school. My father worked very hard for us. Other people's fathers could not buy shoes." One of seven children, his dedication and drive are what led to his father encouraging Joe to immigrate to America where there was opportunity to successfully continue the family business.

After Joe's first visit to America, Mary saw the chance for adventure and a new life not possible on the island and asked if she could join him. They were married in Sao Jorge and Joe's father taught Mary how to make the Matos family cheese before their immigration. Growing up, Mary was in the middle of 11 children. She was responsible for her younger siblings and making bread for her family, as evidenced by a burn scar on her left shin from an accident with a brick oven when she was 10 years old. 

 When their plane finally landed in San Francisco in 1965 Joe recounts that he had $20 in his pocket and when they left the city he had $3. They immediately found employment and housing on a dairy in Petaluma and Joe began milking cows that afternoon and found additional employment at the brickyard and a moving company. Mary worked at Petaluma Poultry Processors and raised their two daughters while they saved enough money to buy the ranch on Llano Road in 1975. 

When purchased, the ranch was an old chicken farm comprised of 50 barren acres, a small farmhouse, settlers dwelling and one barn. With only help from other immigrant family members, the Joe Matos Cheese Factory was built from the ground up. All structures related to the Cheese Factory, including the cattle barns, milking barn and aging and make room were built to the specifications of Joe and Mary Matos. In 1979 the Milk Product Plant license was issued to the Joe Matos Cheese Factory to produce and sell Matos St. Jorge raw milk cheese. 

To be continued...