All hail the humble cheese, unsung hero of the pasture. With only four modest ingredients at its disposal—milk, salt, rennet, and cultures—one might assume that the cheese would find itself bound by the limitations therein, but oh, how very wrong one might be. Within the deceptively simple layers of wedge and rind lies an entire universe to behold: the unique terroir of a region, the genetic blueprint of a centuries-old tradition, and the unassuming delight of a cow well-kept.
Therein lies the secret to success for any formager worth his curd, but it’s especially so for the good folks at Thomasville’s Sweet Grass Dairy, a standard of boutique cheesery nestled in the rolling green pastures of southern Georgia. By balancing the art of cheesemaking with the science of sustainability, they’ve created an unrivaled recipe for success.
It all started when Al and Desiree Wehner—fifteen-year veterans of the northern Florida dairy industry—were struck with a radical idea: that happy cows might make better milk. They set about the task of proving it so by moving their herd of jerseys from beneath the dank and dusky lee of the barn and leading them, blinking, into the bright and open sunshine. The Wehners settled on something called rotational grazing, a process which—thanks to the cool mist of a Floridian Aquifer and pastures that spun on a center axis—allowed the ladies of the herd to dine al fresco on a fresh supply of sweet Georgia grass 365 days a year.
The result was nothing less than extraordinary: not only did the newly crowned queens of the pasture produce milk that was extraordinarily high in protein and butterfat, but in their wake they left happy soil, happy bugs, and the perfect opportunity to showcase it all in cheese.
You just can’t help good things from catching, and it wasn’t long before the Wehner’s daughter and son-in-law, Jessica and Jeremy, had caught their parents’ enthusiasm and joined the team, eventually purchasing the Dairy and vaulting their cheesemaking to the next level. While Jeremy buried himself in the love-song chemistry of old-world cheesemaking, Jessica set about finding an outlet through which they could share their passion for sustainable agriculture and humane practices with the city they loved.
Sweet Grass Dairy’s downtown shop is the perfect marriage, as it were, of the two. Part neighborhood pub, part local retail, and 100% unabashed showroom for their spectacular cheese, the Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese Shop is the perfect place to grab a pint or sample one of a stunning quintet of core cheeses—from buttery rounds of their camembert-style Green Hill to pungent crumbles of their Asher Blue.
With twenty ribbons of national recognition under their belt and diehard fans across thirty-eight states, it would be easy to assume that Sweet Grass Dairy has reached the sweet-spot of success that would usher in the arrival of warehouse orders and mass production, but to assume so would be to miss the point entirely. To the folks at Sweet Grass, the phrase “handcrafted” isn’t just a buzzword. One might say, in fact, that it’s the anti-buzzword, the culmination of centuries of tradition, of nature as nature herself intended, and of the simple truth imparted when the entire creation of a product can be traced in a single line from heart to hand.
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