All Vol Cheese: Made in Tennessee, Enjoyed Everywhere

By Patricia McDaniels

Checkerboard Mild Cheddar, Game Day Sharp Cheddar, Smokey’s Smoked Gouda and Torchbearer Jalapeno.

If you’re a fan of cheese and familiar with UT Knoxville, there’s no need to explain the iconic references. Others just need to know that the cheese is available for purchase and perfect for game-day festivities or for any other culinary celebration—like lunch.

All Vol Cheese is the vision of Food Science and Technology students in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and is part of a new public-private entrepreneurial program called AgInnovations.

Bill Brown, dean of UT AgResearch, says the UT Institute of Agriculture launched AgInnovations to help new technologies, ideas and products move from concept to market. Through AgInnovations, an entrepreneur pairs with inventors to identify whether an idea or
technology may hold value for targeted customers. The program explores the concept’s financial viability and manufacturing and distribution options. The communication between researchers and industry is expected to heighten market-directed research and to generate new grant opportunities for research and development.

Ultimately, AgInnovations may also help fuel Tennessee’s economy with new commercial products and may even help the university discover nontraditional and nongovernmental funding sources.

"Game Day" Sharp Cheddar and All Vol Cheese packaging
“Game Day” Sharp Cheddar and All Vol Cheese packaging

To develop All Vol Cheese, student interns partnered with Sweetwater Valley Farm to learn cheese making from start to finish from UT Knoxville alum John Harrison (’81). At Sweetwater Valley, located in Loudon County about an hour from Knoxville, Harrison operates a successful family-owned dairy and processing business and sells his own traditional farmstead cheeses and other products. He jumped at the chance to help future alumni gain hands-on experience in everything from raising cows to milking and cheese making, packaging and sales.

“We are excited about this UT project,” Harrison says. “It fits right into our new strategic plan, which is to develop employees and leaders to help drive our business model and lead to more fulfilled lives for the people we serve.”

Mark Morgan, head of the Department of Food Science and Technology, says the experience makes
students attractive candidates for employment in food industries. Both undergraduate and graduate students were involved in the inaugural year of All Vol Cheese, which began sales late in 2015 and was on display at UT Day on the Hill at Legislative Plaza in Nashville in February.

Morgan says he expects student participation to grow in 2016 and 2017.
All Vol Cheese is sold in 10-ounce blocks and in four-block gift boxes. It’s perfect
for game day, for holidays and for people who want a locally sourced snack with
their crackers. You can buy it online at and during certain campus events. Proceeds benefit student and research programs.

“It’s the most delicious way to show your support of our students,” Morgan says. So, rather than taking a selfie at the game, it’s time for all Vols to unlock their smartphones, type in the URL and say, “Cheese!”