Thomasville, GA – Sweet Grass Dairy, an award-winning cheesemaker and one of the largest Southern artisan cheese brands, announces a new focus on bringing access to its handcrafted cheeses made with milk from barn-free cows to retail customers. Co-owners Jessica and Jeremy Little, who purchased the dairy from Jessica’s mother in 2005, continue her family’s legacy, remaining committed to their independent family–run business while producing premium handcrafted cheese honoring the company’s mission and unique sense of place in South Georgia.
Since its founding, Sweet Grass Dairy has had a mission of showcasing the flavor of milk from cows who graze on fresh grass year-round. Sustainable rotational grazing practices, the unique climate of South Georgia, and a relentless attention to quality have been critical to this mission, and secrets to the success of the cheesemaker over the past 20 years.
“It was my mom and dad’s vision that if you take care of the grass, the grass will take care of the cows, and the cows will produce extremely high-quality milk,” explains Jessica Little. “Our cheeses became a way to showcase the amazing flavor and richness of the milk. We focus on simple recipes that let the flavors of the earth shine through, and people can taste the difference, and they can get excited about our mission and our cheeses.”
While Sweet Grass Dairy remains faithful to this focus on quality and sustainability, the Little family is looking toward the future. Sweet Grass Dairy has seen a dramatic increase in demand for its cheese over the past ten years, and has responded to this demand by building a large new production facility, still in the Little’s hometown of Thomasville.
This new facility, scheduled to open this year, also allows them to serve the demands of larger retail customers and introduce their cheeses to new customers. “My mom started just making cheese and selling it locally to customers in and around Thomasville 20 years ago. It is a humbling and exciting experience to now have our cheeses available in stores as far away as California and Hawaii,” says Little. “We are proud of the uniqueness of milk and cheese we are able to produce here in Georgia, and we know that people all over the country share our values.”
As part of the retail sales expansion, Sweet Grass Dairy is also launching new packaging designed to better convey the brand story to the retail customer. The new packaging emphasizes the “barn free” and “year-round grazing” attributes that are vital to the unique flavor of Sweet Grass cheese, and grass has been emphasized in the design elements from the texture to the prominent grass green color. The Sweet Grass Dairy logo has always featured a cow, but now the cow has been updated to be shown moving through a field, representing the creamery’s ongoing commitment to keeping their cows barnfree.
“We are trying to help the consumer better understand our story and our values at a glance. Most consumers picture all dairy cows roaming freely in pastures, but it unfortunately isn’t the case. Our family’s focus isn’t on quantity, but quality… both the quality of the milk and the quality of life for our cows. This farming method means that we may get less milk from them daily, but instead we get extremely high-quality milk with a high butter fat content.” explains Jessica.
Less than 5% of dairy cows are raised the way the Sweet Grass Dairy cows are, with access to fresh grass year-round through sustainable rotational grazing. This method was introduced to Jessica’s parents, Al and Desiree Wehner, when they went to New Zealand. When they returned to South Georgia, the Wehners realized that they were living in a compatible climate to practice what they saw working so well halfway around the world.
In this intensive grazing management farming style, Sweet Grass Dairy cows are moved every twelve hours to a fresh pasture, and are kept cool under a large pivot watering system. A large aquifer and mild winters in South Georgia mean that the cows can graze on fresh grass 365 days a year. This connection between the land and the milk gives the Littles and Sweet Grass Dairy a unique sense of place, which they showcase in their cheese.
The Sweet Grass Dairy cheese is now available in 49 states. The Littles have developed a product line of six core cheeses, including its signature Green Hill and Thomasville Tomme, as well as its Pimento cheese spread, which is a unique take on a southern staple.
“We are producing handcrafted, artisan cheese, but the most important thing to us is that they are accessible to consumers, so that we can truly inspire people to think more about what they eat and its connection to the earth,” says Little. “We want as many people as possible to taste the milk, the grass, and the sunshine in every bite of our cheese. We keep things simple, and trust that our cheese will speak for itself.”
Sweet Grass Dairy, located in Thomasville, Georgia, was founded in 2000 by Al and Desiree Wehner.
Sweet Grass Dairy is now a second-generation family business owned and operated by Jessica and Jeremy Little. The creamery produces handcrafted cow’s milk cheeses, which have won over 30 awards, including for its popular Green Hill cheese, which is a ten-time award winner at the American Cheese Society Conference, and its best-selling Thomasville Tomme.