2017 Georgia Small Business ROCK STAR: Sweet Grass Dairy
Monday, March 20th, 2017
Sweet Grass Dairy is a landmark in downtown Thomasville, where it operates both a cheese shop and a full-service restaurant. Their success stems from their commitment to producing high quality, flavorful cow’s milk cheeses that are a true expression of their unique terroir.
Sweet Grass purchases milk from the family’s dairy farm located 30 miles from historic Thomasville. The Little family is dedicated to farming sustainably, utilizing a New Zealand rotational grazing method and upholding the highest level of humane animal husbandry.
Thomas County is located in the only area of the United States where cattle can graze 365 days a year due to mild winters and water from the Floridian aquifer. The climate is so ideal that the Little’s do not even have a barn to house their cows.
Their goal as cheesemakers is to make cheeses in an old-world style to let the true flavors of the grass-based milk shine through to the final product. And it is working. Bit by bit, they are changing the American perspective on food and are dedicated to educating the American public on the importance of knowing how foodstuffs are grown, raised or made.
Continued growth at Sweet Grass has become the norm; they experience an increase in revenue of 12 to 15 percent annually. And the jobs have followed. By opening the Cheese Shop in downtown Thomasville, the company was able to add 20 new jobs, bringing its total employment to 45 people.
Sweet Grass has definitely put Southern cheeses on the map. Chefs and specialty buyers enjoy being able to show their customers what makes the South a wonderful place for dairy products. Cheese critics are also excited about Sweet Grass Dairy and have bestowed a number of awards on their cheeses, including:
Asher Blue: Bronze Medal 2009 World Cheese Awards; Bronze Medal 2015 World Cheese Awards
Green Hill: Silver Medal 2010 World Cheese Awards,
The American Cheese Society Competition – 1st Place 2007, 2008 & 2015; 2nd Place 2004, 2005 & 2006; 3rd Place 2010, 2012 & 2013
Lil Moo: 3rd Place 2015 The American Cheese Society Competition
Pimento Cheese : 1st Place 2015, The American Cheese Society Competiton
Thomasville Tomme: : 1st Place 2002, The American Cheese Society Competition
Georgia Gouda : 1st Place 2002 , The American Cheese Society Competition
Like so many entrepreneurs, Jeremy and Jessica Little know that they could not succeed by working alone. They reached out to groups within the community, including the Thomasville-Thomas County Chamber of Commerce and the Development Authority of Thomas County, which helped in connecting the Littles to resources at the local and state level to provide assistance.
“It takes a village to raise a business. There’s no way we could have done this on our own. I can’t recommend high enough the Georgia Mentor Protégé program.” – Jessica Little, Co-Owner, Sweet Grass Dairy
They also received help from two of Georgia’s Centers of Innovation – Manufacturing and Agribusiness. Unique to Georgia, the Centers of Innovation help companies solve specific problems in the areas of aerospace, agribusiness, energy technology, IT, logistics and manufacturing.
Sweet Grass Dairy was also selected to participate in the Georgia Mentor Protégé Connection, which connected the Little’s to resources and expertise, including FoodPic, the food lab of the University of Georgia.