CHESTERTOWN, Md. — Just in time to beat the summer heat, a new farm creamery has opened its doors.
Lockbriar Farms Ice Cream Barn opened a week ago, offering ice cream enthusiasts their pick of strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, apple, peach and other fresh flavors made with fruits grown on the farm and local organic cream from Jersey cows.
Wayne and Marcella Lockwood and their daughter, Jacqueline, 16, and family friend, Susannah, 19, were awarded a $20,000 Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corp. (MARBIDCO) grant last year. The Lockwoods will match the grant dollar-for-dollar and put the funds toward their ice cream building and kitchen supplies.
Before digging in to the ice cream business, Lockbriar Farms has been a pick-your-own farm and fruit stand just east of Chestertown, Md., since 2006. They sell their wares at five farmers markets a week and send their fruit to Pennsylvania to be processed into ciders, jams and apple, peach and tomato butters (That’s right, tomato butter.)
Jacqueline and Susannah are busy creating mouthwatering ice cream flavors, and they said coming up with the names is half the fun. Jacqueline may make a career out of it; she is looking to attend college for food science in Maryland or Delaware.
Who knows? She and Susannah may follow in the footsteps of ice cream greats Ben & Jerry, who learned the art of the decadent dessert at the Penn State Ice Cream 101 class, which Jacqueline and her father attended in February 2011.
“Everybody loves ice cream,” said Wayne. “It’s a good move for the farm.”
Wayne said he hopes the ice cream business will someday cover the cost of Jacqueline’s university fees.
“It’s really not that hard to make ice cream,” Jacqueline said.
For each flavor the girls will decide if the fruit is whole or mashed into syrup and for how long it is whipped. They also want to experiment with making gelato and sorbeto — cutting calories by using water in place of dairy.
All of this fresh, local ice cream is made possible by a visionary grant program only two years old.
Stephen McHenry, executive director of MARBIDCO, recognized that federal USDA grants do not fund the purchase of equipment needed to expand ag businesses, so he and his team implemented the Maryland Value-Added Producer Grant / Capitol Asset Options Program.
“It helps farmers buy equipment adding to the value-added processing activity,” McHenry said.
In the Lockwoods’ case, that meant buying the proper sanitation sinks, freezer and mixer to meet health codes.
Marcella said the project became more and more complex the further along they got. After sifting through misinformation and dead-ends, the Kent County Health Department gave her the answers she needed. The Lockwoods had to build a new septic system to deal with the kitchen’s grey water.
“It was hard to bring it all together, but I wanted to do it right,” she said.
McHenry said part of what made the Lockwoods’ proposal a winning ticket was that they would purchase cream from a local dairy.
McHenry said eight of the 13 grants awarded to Maryland farmers in 2011 were creamery related, including one sheep dairy. In 2010, there were three creamery projects awarded, so in a year the number of creamery grants tripled.
“We’re excited about that. Every state is losing dairies. Cheese, ice cream and even bottled milk is value-added to a dairy farm,” said McHenry.
In fact, at the beginning of the grant process Marcella was skeptical.
“We thought it was a long shot because we don’t have any cows,” she said.
Cows or no cows, the ice cream barn is up and running with local organic cream and freshly picked berries of all shapes and colors.
“I think we’re all going to have to get bigger pants this summer,” said Susannah with a grin, “And, I think we’re OK with it!”