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POTASH FEATURED ARTISAN: Sweet Grass Dairy, Thomasville, Ga.

The fourth Potash Featured Artisan is a veteran cow’s milk cheesemaker from Southern Georgia. While Sweet Grass Dairy might not be a household name in the Midwest, it is a growing, second generation business that has won numerous awards, and is highly regarded as one of the most consistent makers in the surprisingly rich south-eastern cheesemaking community.

If you are new to Potash, or have gotten fuzzy on the details about the Featured Artisan Program, I can fill you in. We started doing this a couple years back as a way for our gourmet cheese department to spotlight even more cheesemakers and their products—particularly smaller artisans from distant regions. We carry hundreds of cheeses regularly from dozens of cheesemakers coast-to-coast and around the world. But in the U.S. alone, there are hundreds of artisan cheesemakers, and some are located in places that aren’t necessarily know for cheese. We started the Featured Artisan showcase with Consider Bardwell Farm, a well-established maker that is well-known in Vermont and the Northeast.

We then featured two newer farm-based makers, Sequatchie Cove Creamery, of Tennessee, which makes excellent cow’s milk cheeses, and Green Dirt Farm, of Missouri, one of the country's leading sheep milk cheese specialists.

Sweet Grass makes six cheeses in its regular rotation, most of them based on old-world classics. Potash customers love bloomy rind cheeses like Brie and Camembert, so I am certain that Green Hill, an award-winning Camembert-inspired cheese from Sweet Grass, will become a favorite with our customers. Its golden paste and delicate snowy (edible) rind reflect the excellent milk from Sweet Grass’s own dedicated herds, and the care and craft of its cheesemakers.

Thomasville Tomme is an aged, pressed, semi-hard cheese similar to those from the Pyrenees range where France meets Spain. The Tomme is also the base cheese for one of the best pimento cheeses I have ever tasted. The Sweet Grass Pimento Cheese is made with mayo and Spanish peppers and pimenton, and has spicy/smoky flavors and a creamy texture. It will be in the Featured Artisan rotation too. If you buy enough of it we will keep it around. Many Potash customers love blue cheese, and Asher Blue, one of two blue cheeses from Sweet Grass will probably join our broad selection of blues.

Sweet Grass is a family-owned independent business. Current owners Jessica and Jeremy Little have been at the helm since 2005. The creamery (and the farm that supplies all of its milk) were started by Jessica’s parents, with the first cheeses being produced in 2000. Jessica’s brother operates three farm locations within a few minutes of the creamery. Sweet Grass cheeses are made only with the milk from those family-owned herds.

In the past two years the Littles have implemented a growth plan that includes expanded utilization of the milk from its farms, a new larger creamery that will ultimately triple production capacity, and expanded sales efforts that will increase penetration in key markets coast to coast.

Please try these wonderful cheeses, and ask myself or cheesemonger Aleks if you would like to know more about Sweet Grass and the Potash Featured Artisan program.

You can learn more about Sweet Grass at its website. And I recently contributed an article at The Cheese Professor website about the creamery expansion and the dairy's brand makeover and expansion efforts.

--David Phillips


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