In 1980, Bruce DeGroot, Karen Mickler and family purchased a farm on Yellow Branch Road, which they named, Yellow Branch Farm. The intention was to live in tune with the seasons, growing much of their food, earning their livelihood as artisans, and joining the community. Bruce is a skilled carpenter and woodworker and Karen set about establishing Yellow Branch Pottery. With the purchase of a milk cow, Karen learned to make cheese and within a few years, Yellow Branch Cheese was born. The business remained small until 2000 when Bruce retired from carpentry and woodworking in order to expand the herd and cheese making to a full time operation.
The dairy is pasture-based, and the pastures are managed using sustainable organic practices. The distinctive flavor of the handcrafted cheese comes from the high quality fresh milk flavored by the nutritious grasses, clover and indigenous plants. The cheese is made by hand in small batches following an original recipe that Karen developed and Bruce has refined. Whole unpasteurized milk is used along with microbial rennet, lactic culture and Celtic Sea Salt™. Yellow Branch Farmstead Cheese has a milk, buttery, full-bodied flavor and is a versatile table cheese that pairs well with many foods. The 6 different varieties are variations of the farmstead cheese, two of which include basil and jalapeño peppers grown in the garden.
The cheese is sold at Yellow Branch Pottery, in stores throughout the southeast, and is available for mail order purchase. It is also on the menu of many fine restaurants. Folks who visit the pottery are welcome to go up to the farm and small group tours can be arranged by appointment.