The mixing room at Bart’s Homemade Ice Cream in Greenfield, Massachusetts, isn’t large–just spacious enough for machinery and a few people. Three of them were manning the machines on September 10. All eyes were on “Little Tommy Snow,” the silver-and-blue cylinder that mixes the ice cream for both Bart’s and Snow’s ice cream.
On this special day Tommy was blending a new flavor. Into the creamy basic ice-cream formula “he” was whipping air and an orangey-yellow mixture made with peaches from Apex Orchards in nearby Shelburne.
The other people in the room were Barbara Fingold and Gary Schaefer, the mom-and-pop owners of Bart’s and Snow’s ice cream; their Flavor Maven, Bob Jaros of Shelburne; and yours truly, a longtime fan of both ice cream and peaches (with the hips to prove it!). All eagerly awaited the first taste of Bart’s new CISA Local Peach Ice Cream.
Barbara is the president of Bart’s so it was only fitting that she was given the first creamy spoonful. As she sampled the still soft custard she widened her eyes and then smiled. Gary, Bob, and I tasted the next cups. The judges’ unanimous verdict came swiftly: the new flavor was peachy keen.
The ice cream’s intense peach flavor hits the tongue right away. The little chunks of peach distributed throughout complement the custard–and reinforce the taste of peaches and cream in every mouthful.
After our initial tasting we repaired to Gary’s office with a pint of ice cream. There we discussed the genesis of Bart’s latest product as we noshed.
Barbara and Gary explained that both the peach ice cream and the CISA Berry Local Blueberry Ice Cream that debuted this summer stemmed from Gary’s involvement in the board of CISA, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture.
Gary celebrated the peach ice cream as “a collaborative community event.” The peaches came from Apex. The Franklin County Community Development Corporation food processing center blanched, skinned, pitted, and pureed the peaches.
Barbara and Gary try some peach ice cream.
And of course the ice cream was mixed right in Barbara and Gary’s small factory on School Street.
The pair have been involved with CISA for most of the nonprofit entity’s existence. “We’re crazy, passionate about local food,” said Gary. If all goes well, he added, Bart’s is “going to think about an apple [ice cream] and then whatever other crazy fruits grow around here.”
I asked Bob Jaros about his role at the ice-cream plant. A retired physician, he works on quality-assurance programs for a number of companies. It was clear from his contented demeanor that Bart’s and its products have a special place in his heart and mouth. “You need a palate for ice cream,” he told me. “I’ve learned with the tutelage of my friends.”
Gary explained that Bob’s work is important to Bart’s quality and reputation. “If you work in your kitchen and you mess up your cake, you mess up A cake,” he told me. “If we mess up our formula, we mess up a whole batch of ice cream.”
“Everything is tested,” Bob Jaros added, “and if it’s not right we find out before it’s sent out.”
Like Gary and Barbara, he is a firm believer in local production and supports the idea as well as the flavor of the new ice cream. “In essence the whole circle is one that supports the community in local products and local manufacturing,” he said.
Gary interrupted Bob to remind him that the milk in Bart’s and Snow’s is not yet completely local: it is processed in a small farming cooperative in New York State. He said that one of his dreams is to establish a local dairy-processing plant. “It’s this winter’s project … along with our roof,” he remarked with a wry smile.
Bob declared that one of the reasons he likes Bart’s and Snow’s ice cream so much is the high quality of the product.
“We make it the same way we did 15 years ago, which is not the case with big multinational ice creams,” explained Gary Schaefer. “They’ve all change their formula to make it less expensive.
“We didn’t have to do anything to get better,” he said. “We simply had to not change. That’s kind of a symbol of what’s going on in the whole industry. All that corporatizing of America has been really good for us.”
Bart’s CISA Local Peach ice cream is available at local stores now–until this year’s crop runs out!
Bart’s lists all the locations that sell Bart’s ice-cream pints on its web site.
“Not all [of these] will have the peach,” Barbara Fingold told me, “but most will since we’re mentioning it to all our customers and everyone seems very excited about it.”
Tags: Barbara Fingold, Bart's, Bart's Homemade, Bart's Ice Cream, Bob Jaros, CISA Local Peach Ice Cream, Gary Schaefer, Ice Cream Companies, Local Ice Cream Flavors, Small Businesses in Western Massachusetts