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Elberton cheese maker wins 2014 Flavor of Georgia By Merritt Melancon

Elberton farmer, cheese maker and local food advocate Tim Young took home the grand prize from the 2014 Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest on March 18. The annual contest, conducted by the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, is a chance for food businesses to showcase their new products.

Young owns Nature’s Harmony Farm, and his grand-prize-winning Georgia Gold Clothbound Cheddar Cheese is made from milk produced by the farm’s herd of Jersey dairy cows. The cheese is hand crafted and aged for six to 12 months in the farm’s cheese cave.

The cheese was one of 35 Georgia products selected as finalists in the 2014 Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest. The products were selected from more than 125 entries from across the state — one of the largest contest fields in the competition’s history.

In addition to the grand prize, Nature’s Harmony Georgia Gold Cheddar took first place in the competition’s dairy category.

Gov. Nathan Deal and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black announced the category and grand prize winners as part of Georgia Agriculture Awareness Day at the Georgia Freight Depot in Atlanta.

“We had so many great contestants this year,” said Sharon P. Kane, Flavor of Georgia contest coordinator. “It really highlighted the high caliber of the food products created by Georgians.”

Young hopes that his Flavor of Georgia win will bring attention to Georgia’s burgeoning artisan cheese industry.

Georgia Gold Clothbound Cheddar Cheese is one of a handful of artisan cheeses Young makes on his farm. A marketing professional turned farmer, Young has spent the past seven years refining his farm business. He and his wife, Liz, decided to focus exclusively on cheese production shortly after the birth of their son in 2013.

Nature’s Harmony cheeses are available at restaurants and artisan food shops across metro Atlanta and at the Young’s on-farm store in Elberton.

For more information about the Nature’s Harmony Farm and its cheeses, see www.naturesharmonyfarm.com.

In addition to the grand prize, judges awarded prizes in each food product category. A people’s choice award was given based on votes cast during a public tasting Tuesday morning.

The awards are listed below by prize name, product name, company name, company representatives and town.

  • People’s Choice Award: Raspberry-Jalapeno Jam, Leoci’s, Roberto and Lacie Leoci, Savannah.
  • Adult Beverages: Richland Rum, Richland Distilling Company, Karin and Erik Vonk, Richland.
  • Barbecue Sauces: Causey’s Sweet N’Smokey BBQ Sauce, Causey Foods Inc., Wynn Causey Bakke, Smyrna. (The sauce was created in Vienna where the Causeys still operate a restaurant.)
  • Beverages: Organic Blueberry Juice, Byne Blueberry Farms, Richard Byne, Waynesboro.
  • Confections: Peachy Keen Pecan Praline, Loose Sugar, Lindsey Beckworth and her father Mike Beckworth, Harrison.
  • Dairy Products: Georgia Gold Clothbound Cheddar Cheese, Nature’s Harmony, Tim Young, Elberton.
  • Jams and Jellies: Cinnamon Honey Spread, Weeks Honey Farm, Sonja Crosby and Michele Rosario, Omega.
  • Marinades and Sauces: GA Mustard Marinade, Q Sauce, LLC, Jennifer and Chris Adams, Dacula.
  • Meat and Seafood: Pork Vidalia Onion Sausage, Ogeechee Meat Market, Matthew and Andrew McClune, Savannah.
  • Miscellaneous: Southern Sriracha Boiled Peanut Rub, Hardy Farms Peanuts, Robert Fisher and Brad Hardy, Hawkinsville.
  • Salsas, Chutneys and Condiments: Sweet Onion Confit, Preserving Place, Martha McMillin and Virginia Willis, Atlanta.
  • Snack Foods: Georgia Blues Blueberry & Peach Bar, M Chocolat, Maritza Pichon and Marlena Snyder, Alpharetta.

Food industry experts—including chefs, grocery buyers, food service personnel and agricultural marketing executives—rated Nature’s Harmony cheddar and the other products based on qualities like innovation, use of Georgia theme, market potential and flavor, said James Daniels, a UGA food business development specialist.

Showcase events like the 2014 Flavor of Georgia competition help entrepreneurs spread the word about their products. Many have landed spots in regional and national grocery chains like Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Earth Fare, Kroger and Harvey’s.

The contest is sponsored by the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in partnership with the Center of Innovation for Agribusiness, Office of Governor Nathan Deal, Walton EMC, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the Georgia Agribusiness Council and the UGA department of food science and technology.

For more information about these products, see www.flavorofgeorgia.caes.uga.edu. For more photos of this year's Flavor of Georgia contest visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/ugacommunications/sets.

(Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

38B9 FOG 2014 Nature's Harmony
FOG 2014 Nature's Harmony

Tim Young, center, receives the Flavor of Georgia grand prize for his Georgia Gold Clothbound Cheddar from Gov. Nathan Deal and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black on March 18.

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Tim Young, center, receives the Flavor of Georgia grand prize for his Georgia Gold Clothbound Cheddar from Gov. Nathan Deal and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black on March 18. Download Image
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