Specialty Food Magazine

MAY-JUN 2013

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Jessica Little, Adam Foster, Morgan Murphy, Josh Harper Sweet Grass Dairy T Cheese Shop History…When Al Wehner left his home in Western New York to study at the University of Georgia, he never imagined that his move down south would be permanent until he met his future wife, Desiree. For nearly 20 years, the couple ran a conventional dairy farm with more than a thousand cows. In 1993, they reinvented their operation after adopting New Zealand–style rotational grazing. "It was a completely new way to dairy farm in the U.S.," says their daughter, Jessica Little. "Their unyielding commitment to sustainable, earth-friendly farming results in high-quality milk, happy cows and healthier soil." After mastering the methods, the Wehners went in search of a new challenge. Desiree enrolled in a cheesemaking class at California Polytechnic State University and brought her newfound talents back to Georgia. Her vision and commitment to cheesemaking led to the founding of Sweet Grass Dairy in 2000, allowing the Wehners to share the rich, delicious milk of their pasture-grazed Jersey cows. With demand for their cheeses exploding, the Wehners turned to Jessica Little and her husband, Jeremy, for help. "Jeremy and I quit our jobs in Atlanta to move to South Georgia to make cheese," says Jessica Little. "It's not something we'd ever thought we'd do, but we saw my parents' passion and we tasted how great the cheeses were." While she managed sales and marketing, her husband worked with Desiree Wehner in the cheese room and took the reins on day-to-day cheesemaking operations. Building on their growing reputation for producing some of the highest-quality cheeses in the country, the Littles opened Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese Shop to provide customers with high quality, handcrafted products from around the globe. 66 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE ❘ specialtyfood.com he history and philosophy of Sweet Grass Dairy are intertwined. The producer's own Cheese Shop, located in Thomasville, Ga., is a family-owned and -operated establishment that lends its success to its handcrafted artisanal cheeses, high-quality product mix, dedicated staff and supportive community. Points of Distinction…Located in the heart of Thomasville, Ga., the shop carries staples like Sweet Grass Dairy's award-winning Thomasville Tomme, Asher Blue, Georgia Gouda, Heat, Lil Moo, Cyprus, Pimento and Green Hill cheeses, along with a carefully selected assortment of imported meats, wines and beers. "Each item in the shop has been carefully chosen. We know its story. We understand why that product is special and strive to communicate that to our customers," says Little. "Not only do we want to offer a great range of products and information, we want to provide incredible customer service." An ever-changing menu of prepared foods available at the shop includes cheese and charcuterie boards as well as handcrafted sandwiches, fresh salads, inventive small plates and desserts. Along with regular tastings and educational programs, Sweet Grass Dairy features products from local and Southern artisans. "I love working with like-minded producers to share their hard work, and I enjoy discovering new producers doing great work. That's exhilarating," she says. How It Keeps Innovating…The Sweet Grass Dairy team plans to expand the shop in the fall, adding more refrigerated dairy cases and a wider selection of craft beers. "We are also getting ready to launch a mail-order business within the Cheese Shop," Little explains. Sweet Grass Dairy's dedication to its community and sustainable farming practices led to the formation of a partnership with The Georgia Conservancy in June 2012. The partnership aims to increase awareness of the Conservancy's mission to advocate sustainable growth practices and protect Georgia's natural resources. "The people of Thomasville have supported us since day one—we don't forget that," Little says. "We work quite hard to make everyone in South Georgia proud."—H.O. Year Opened: 2009 Outstanding Features: Location: Thomasville, GA Extensive cheese selection from Sweet Grass Dairy, imported meats and beverages, inventive prepared foods, local offerings, partnership with The Georgia Conservancy to protect natural resources Type of Business: Specialty cheese shop Contact: Jessica Little sweetgrassdairy.com

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