A scoop of cookies n cream on a waffle cone and a triple scoop cone… (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore…)
It's a beautiful Saturday at Prigel Family Creamery. The sun shines on cows ambling over the field, while parents gaze lovingly at sticky kids squealing with delight as they lick giant scoops of ice cream.
Inside the creamery, where clean-cut teenagers make ice cream floats and thick milkshakes, a board lists more than two dozen flavors of homemade ice cream. Customers peer through windows, hoping to catch a glimpse of happy cow. It's 2012, but it could just as easily be 1952.
The Prigel family has been farming in the Long Green Valley area of Baltimore County for more than 100 years. In 2007, they opened the creamery as a way to stay afloat as a family farm. Owner Bobby Prigel explains that "milk on a small scale just isn't profitable. Big dairies operate on a scale that's so much more efficient." (The decision to open the creamery is at the center of a long-running legal dispute with neighbors over land use.)
Last week, the Maryland Department of Agriculture announced the creation of the "Maryland's Best Ice Cream Trail," mapping out area farms offering ice creams to help guide visitors to this treat with local flavor. And recently, some local creameries have been reaching out beyond the farm, selling their ice creams in area stores as well.
Bel Air mother Alison Mackley takes her three children (7, 6 and nearly 1) to Bel Air's Broom's Bloom Dairy every week or two. "We love going because it feels like a step back in time. Everyone is so friendly. The flavors are written on a chalkboard — they change constantly, and they're seasonal. I love the peppermint at Christmastime."
Jamey Wolff, the ice-cream maker at Broom's Bloom, says the dairy started selling ice cream for financial reasons, but it quickly grew into more than just a way to increase profit. "The milk doesn't pay the bills," she says. "We went to ice cream just to survive, but now the business is very successful. We've been here since 2005 and grow each year. Lots of locals come to Broom's Bloom, but people also travel here from farther away, just for the ice cream."
Trickling Springs Creamery in Chambersburg, Pa., offers more than 20 flavors at its creamery shop, including a rotating flavor of the month (June's is strawberry-banana, using fresh local strawberries). Trickling Springs focuses on milk, but "everybody goes to a creamery wanting excellent ice cream," says sales and marketing manager Joe Miller. "People wanted it and now they love it."
Later this summer, Trickling Springs will launch a certified organic ice cream, sold exclusively through Mom's Organic Market. The organic ice cream will come in vanilla, chocolate, cookies and cream, and mint chip, with more flavors likely to follow. An organic product was a natural addition to the Trickling Springs repertoire, according to Miller. "People asked us why we didn't sell organic ice cream."
"There's a tremendous amount of interest in local food and organics right now," says Philip Gottwals, co-founder of Friends & Farms, a Howard County organization that bundles products from local farms (including Prigel and Trickling Springs) to sell directly to families around Baltimore. "People look for wholesome, fresh foods. When it's straight from the farm, you don't have to worry about what's in it."
For Mackley, Broom's Bloom's fresh ingredients are key. "When we drive up, we can see the cows grazing. We've seen them milked. Because of that, the ice cream feels fresher, healthier and better all around."
Mackley points out that visits to Broom's Bloom are about more than just grabbing a cone. "My kids love the ice cream, but there's also a big yard where they run around and play tag with other kids. We go for ice cream, but it's more of an event than a snack."
Even without a drive to the country, shoppers have multiple ways to get their hands on local ice cream. Farmers' markets are a popular venue. Kim Galbreath of Hawks Hill Creamery in Street, Harford County, sells her chocolate and vanilla soft-serve ice cream on Sundays at the Baltimore Farmers' Market under the Jones Falls Expressway.
When she's not at the market, Galbreath works parties, both at the creamery and on location. "We've got an ice cream truck," she laughs. "We're mobile."
Locally made dairy products are often available at specialty stores and at smaller grocery chains, like Graul's and Eddie's. At Eddie's on Charles Street, pints of Prigel's chocolate, vanilla and coconut ice creams sit on the shelf alongside national brands like Breyer's and Starbucks. According to manager Dan Schaech, "Prigel's sells as well, or even better than Breyer's."
"Customers saw that it was local," Schaech says. "They tried it, and liked it. Now they come in for it specifically."
Check out these creameries for a first-hand taste of the ice cream local farms have to offer:
Antietam Dairy: 834 S. Church St, Waynesboro, Pa., 717-762-6212, http://www.antietamdairy.com.