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The warm weather may be months away, but Farmer's Cow has Connecticut residents who love to buy local looking forward to summer.
The Eastern Connecticut dairy cooperative expects to begin making ice cream by Memorial Day, expanding the business that began just four years ago by selling milk.
"We get a lot of requests for ice cream," said Robin Chesmer, managing partner with the company. "Everybody's really looking forward to it."
The ice cream line comes just a few months after the launch of heavy cream, which goes hand in hand with the frozen treat. The company has added several products as it has grown, including eggs, lemonade and cider.
"I like to say, you don't go shopping at the supermarket and say, 'I wonder what's new in the dairy case today,'" said Chesmer, who runs Graywall Farms in Lebanon, one of those in the cooperative. "But when people understand what we're all about, we gain customers and have been gaining steadily."
The Lebanon-based company focuses on producing an all-natural product with no preservatives. It also believes in protecting farms and open space.
"So many people are interested in where their food comes from. They visit the farm and talk to the farmer that grew it," Chesmer said.
He hopes that idea can be tied into the ice cream flavors, which were narrowed down to 10 with the help of close to 1,500 people who voted online and at various events Farmer's Cow attended. The company is now asking for residents' help with the hard part - coming up with names for the flavors.
"It'd be neat to tie in that local aspect... it means different things to different people," Chesmer said. "But we want it to be fun, too."
Farmer's Cow is consulting with flavor companies and finalizing the ingredients and package design for the ice cream, but Chesmer said it will feature the company's signature drawing of a cow in a rural setting.
As with its other milk products, the ice cream will made from milk blended together from the six farms in Woodstock, Coventry, Hebron, Thompson, Franklin, Lebanon. Together they milk 2,300 cows and manage more than 6,000 acres of Connecticut farmland.
The company hopes retailers that already carry their products - grocery stores, coffeehouses and restaurants - will add the ice cream to their offerings.
"We're investing in the future and want to stay in business and this is one way we can do that," Chesmer said. "You can eat ice cream and help preserve farmland at the same time."
Farmer's Cow's new ice cream will feature these flavors: vanilla, chocolate, chocolate chocolate chip, mint chocolate chip, strawberry, cookies & cream, black raspberry chocolate chip, peanut butter cup, cherry vanilla, and coffee.
Suggestions for names will be accepted from Feb. 1 to Feb. 14 at www.thefarmerscow.com/icecream. One lucky entrant will receive a summer's supply of ice cream.