“We’re the local cheese for the state of Nevada.”
That’s what David Green replies when managers at grocers, restaurants and hotels ask him why they should carry or serve his Yerington-made artisan cheeses.
Green and his wife Dawn, along with partner Charles “Chad” Turner, owner of Desert Hills Dairy in Yerington, own and operate Tahoe Cheese, the one-year old maker of blue, cheddar and Italian cheeses made daily from raw milk and the first licensed aged-cheese plant in the state.
The Greens, dairy farmers from Florida, moved to Nevada after conducting a nationwide search to find an independent dairy they could work with to produce their cheese.
“Most dairies are contracted and the milk is sold before they produce it,” Green said. “Desert Hills Dairy was the only independent dairy we found of any significant size.”
The dairy has 6,000 cows. For efficiency, Green built a 1,500-square-foot production facility adjacent to the dairy’s milk parlor, where the cows are milked round the clock. A 50-foot, 3-inch diameter pipeline connects the two so Tahoe Cheese can tap directly into the milk any time. The set-up also eliminates transportation and other overhead costs related to moving milk from dairy to cheese vat.
The cheese maker started immediately producing about 500 pounds of cheese a week and has since doubled that, now making about two tons of cheese a month.
“We built excess capacity into it,” Green said. “We could double production right now.”
The business currently employs four people.
Tahoe Cheese sells its cheeses to hotels such as the Hyatt, Hilton and Ritz Carlton and grocers and markets, including the Great Basin Food Co-op in Reno, the Blue Cow in Gardnerville and several area Raley’s with plans to go chain-wide in the grocery store soon. The company also sells it cheeses under a private label back east.
The business recently received $49,700 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which can be used for marketing purposes.
“That’ll help us buy the labels and everything we need to ship to Las Vegas, our primary market target right now,” Green said.
The business is working with a distributor there and already sells product in the Luxor and Trump hotels and is authorized for purchase by all the MGM properties.
“We have some new cheeses planned,” Green said. “But first we’re looking to expand distribution of current pipeline.”