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Video: Heroes of American Manufacturing – Sweet Grass Dairy

sweet grass dairy

People who really want to know where their food comes from often turn to small food manufacturers. Jessica Little, co-owner of Sweet Grass Dairy in Thomasville, Georgia, realized this during the pandemic. Her challenge was figuring out how to meet the quality standards and food traceability required to expand into retail markets and get the company’s products out for more consumers to appreciate.

A new video in the Heroes of American Manufacturing series featuring Sweet Grass Dairy highlights how this food manufacturer in south Georgia uses the milk produced from a unique, barn-free rotational grazing style. This style of dairy production sequesters carbon back into the soil, helping to mitigate the farm’s environmental impact. This results in healthier cows, healthier land, and a sustainable lifestyle for the farm workers.

The family farm’s milk is the fresh, high-quality raw ingredient used in Sweet Grass Dairy’s cheeses. The farm employs about 60 people across its cheese production and manufacturing facility, restaurant, retail cheese shop, and e-commerce business.

Sweet Grass Dairy turns to Georgia MEP

The company’s sales plummeted 78% during the COVID-19 pandemic. It had trouble expanding to nationally distribute their cheeses because the retail markets have much higher food safety standards compared to selling through food service channels. Sweet Grass Dairy turned to Georgia MEP (GaMEP) for help with compliance.

Sweet Grass Dairy has worked with GaMEP on multiple projects including food safety training, customer audits, and marketing projects when the company pivoted to e-commerce to expand into new markets during the pandemic. Its e-commerce sales soared by 400%. “GaMEP really does feel like they’re in our corner and they want to see us succeed,” said Jessica Little.

Small food manufacturers are challenged to create value for their products when trying to connect directly with consumers. It’s not always easy to do, but Sweet Grass Dairy has found the sweet spot. Its mission is to try to change the way people view the American food system through its cheeses. That’s what makes Sweet Grass Dairy a hero of American manufacturing.

Heroes of American Manufacturing Video Series

The Heroes of American Manufacturing video series attempts to capture the hearts and minds of the public and celebrate the small and medium-sized manufacturers succeeding in the U.S. with the help of their local MEP Centers. We want to shine a spotlight on what’s happening in plants across the country, the leaders and workers who are making things that improve our daily life, and the jobs and contributions these manufacturers provide their communities and the nation’s economy. Heroes videos also showcase the relationship between the MEP Center and client manufacturer – helping to tell the story of the MEP National Network™, a unique public-private partnership that includes MEP Centers in every state and Puerto Rico. With more than 1,450 trusted advisors and experts at approximately 430 MEP service locations, the Network can provide any U.S. manufacturer with access to resources they need to succeed. The MEP National Network can help your company become a hero of American manufacturing!

About the author

Katie Rapp

Katie Rapp is a writer/editor for NIST's Manufacturing Extension Partnership where she helps NIST MEP staff use plain language so their readers can understand what they write the first time they read it. Before that, she was a librarian at the NIST Research Library where she learned and wrote about many cool NIST history stories.

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