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Food

Homemade Ice Cream Down on the Farm

MOOmer’s farm-raised ice cream. Photo: Apryl Pooley

There’s nothing more American than apple pie, unless you’re talking about the scoop of ice cream on top. Get your milk straight from a Jersey cow on a seventh generation family farm, now you’re talking red white and blue. More than farm-to-table, this is farm-to-ice-cream-cone. Firmly rooted in community, with an eye on sustainability, these family run creameries are making life just a little sweeter with every single scoop they serve. 

Way up north outside of Traverse City Michigan, Nancy Plummer was busy teaching her first-grade class, taking care of her four kids, and helping her husband run their family dairy farm. Her love for ice cream grew into a dream to invite the community onto their farm for a sundae and some down home fellowship. In 1998, the Plummer family officially opened their doors and today Moomers churns out over 160 flavors of premium homemade ice cream. Two of their kids, Jon and Becky, now help run operations, which include a booming retail and wholesale business. They make about 20 different flavors a day on the farm, so if you’re planning a visit you can call ahead in case they don’t have your favorite say, cookies in cream, creamsicle, cow tracks? — they’ll whip up a batch before the cows come home. 

There must be something about 1998 that screams ice cream, because over in Delaware, the Mitchell family decided to do the same thing, on a farm that had been in their family since 1796. One of the few centennial farms left in America’s first state, seventh generation farmer Jim Mitchell needed to find a way to keep Woodside up and running so he took a course in ice cream making at Penn State and before long, he was turning heritage cream into a revenue stream. The Mitchell’s Jersey cows are considered part of the family, and they can be seen grazing on the front lawn of Jim and Janet’s home. Apparently lawn grass is a delicacy around there, but Jim considers it a good trade off — his lawn gets premium fertilizer in exchange. Early in the calendar year their cows give birth to begin the milking season, and the Mitchells make ice cream right there on the farm, the way their ancestors would have done it, with fresh milk and farm-grown fruit.

Ice cream’s American legacy stretches back to the beginnings of our democracy. In 1744, the Governor of what would eventually become the State of Maryland began serving ice cream at fancy functions and a year after the Declaration of Independence was signed, the New York Gazette announced the rarity called “ice cream” could now be found at select locations throughout the city. George Washington loved the stuff so much, his ice cream tab is rumored to have hit $700 in just one summer. By the time we had a fourth president, First Lady Dolly Madison was serving ice cream at White House dinners. The rest is history… 

And history repeats itself at Woodside Farm Creamery each morning just after dawn when Jim Mitchell and his son Joe milk the cows and send them out to graze their 64 acres of fertile Mill Creek soil. Jim likes to say, “A couple of weeks ago our ice cream was grass!” Turns out grass tastes delicious when transformed into a high butterfat milk from well-loved Jersey cows. People come from miles for the ice cream and the company. Goats, chickens, cats and dogs roam all corners of the farm and the Mitchells are all about community. Their “Cowender of Events” currently has a Fire Department Appreciation Day with 25% of proceeds going to their local brigade and we’re coming up on the time of year when they’ll announce their annual theme for their pumpkin display which typically includes upwards of 100 jack-o-lanterns arranged in whimsical formation. They have a Little League team with special access to ice cream, and the Delmarva 4H and Future Farmers of America conduct their dairy cow judging on the farm. With a row of solar panels to power operations, the Mitchells are making sure those future farmers have plenty of clean air to carry on the family tradition. 

Over in Ohio, another Mitchell family, brothers Pete and Mike, built their ice cream dream on good old-fashioned homegrown values. They told us: “Our love has always been for our home city of Cleveland. We like to find ways to be part of the community in a special way, and hope to be a place for friends and family to celebrate all sorts of happy occasions. In everything we do, we keep firmly in mind the health of the people who eat our ice cream, the lives of the farmers who grow our ingredients, and the sanctity of the air, water, and soil that we all depend on.” Indeed, the brothers run an impressively sustainable operation out of their Ohio City Kitchen & Shop. Like the Delaware Mitchells, rooftop solar panels generate power to keep the lights on and the ice cream freshly frozen. Skylights reduce energy use and waste heat is captured to heat hot water in their building. They’ve installed an intricate rainwater harvesting system and water efficient appliances. In the shop, much of their furniture is made with local reclaimed wood, recycled steel and even plastic coke bottles. 

But what about the ice cream? With milk from Hartzler Family Dairy and a long list of locally sourced ingredients, Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream tastes like it was made right there on the farm. Fresh Peach, Pralines and Cream, Wildberry Crumble, Campfire S’Mores, Banana Cream Pie, Caramel Sea Salt, take your pick, it’s divine.

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