WHERE THE CHEESE COMES FROM
FireFly Farms Creamery & Market in Accident, Maryland
THE VOLUME About 2,100 pounds of goat cheese per week is shipped to restaurants in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.
THE CHALLENGE Sweetgreen’s founders came across FireFly in 2007 at Washington’s Dupont Circle Farmers Market, which is outside their second restaurant. FireFly buys its goat milk from seven family farms near the creamery, still makes its cheeses by hand, and has made a firm commitment to paying its workers a living wage. But the initial relationship was rocky: Sweetgreen didn’t always get its forecasts right, so unexpectedly large orders sometimes left FireFly scrambling.
THE SOLUTION It took about three years for Sweetgreen to fine-tune its forecasts—which FireFly waited out, occasionally running out of milk for other cheeses. “I didn’t like that, but we did what we needed to do,” says co-founder Mike Koch. Even now, FireFly can’t provide enough volume at times, sending Sweetgreen to a temporary supplier. Keany picks up orders directly at the creamery, saving the cheesemaker on transportation costs.
THE PAYOFF Koch says Sweetgreen has been a significant driver of revenue growth for FireFly since 2010 and, as of June, accounted for 34 percent of FireFly’s revenue in the previous year. “My margin with Sweetgreen is as thin as I can let it be, but the tradeoff there is volume and efficiency,” Koch says. Plus, “our ability to service a customer like Sweetgreen is like a résumé gold star when we go to other large buyers.”
Employees at FireFly Farms Creamery & Market making goat-milk cheese.
Dan Porter (bottom photo, left) oversees FireFly’s team of artisanal cheesemakers.