Experience “Farm to Spoon” Delivery in World’s Ice Cream Capital
These days consumers are interested in tracking where their food products originate. Visitors to the newly renovated Wells Visitors Center and Ice Cream Parlor in Le Mars, Iowa, get a “farm to spoon” view from an interactive display that shows how fresh milk is delivered from local dairy farms to Wells Enterprises where it is turned into ice cream.
Wells collects and processes more than 20 tankers of milk daily, 365 days of the year. It makes nearly 1,000 different products like Blue Bunny® Peppermint Stick Ice Cream and the original Bomb Pop.® In fact, more ice cream is made in Le Mars than anywhere else. That’s why in 1994 the Iowa Legislature officially declared this Northwest Iowa community the Ice Cream Capital of the World.
During National Ice Cream Month in July, I got the pleasure of touring one of the local dairy farms that supplies milk to America’s largest privately held, family-owned ice cream and frozen treat manufacturer. Plymouth Dairy is aptly named as it is located amongst the beautiful hills of Plymouth County. Owned and operated by the Feuerhelm family, this dairy farm is a mere 10-minute drive from Wells’ ice cream plant.
Plymouth Dairy was founded in 1999 to diversify income because crop prices were extremely low. Scott Feuerhelm, who graduated from Iowa State University in 1995 had returned home to farm with his father, Alan. They milked their first cows in August 2000. Scott’s older brother, Brad, joined them in 2002. Kurt Weirda serves as general manager of Plymouth Dairy. While Weirda focuses on managing the dairy herd and its 35 employees, the Feuerhelms focus on crop and forage production.
In addition to their day-to-day duties, they believe it’s important to be involved with the industry. Alan Feuerhelm is a past board member of the Western Iowa Dairy Alliance and serves on the Midwest Dairy Association. Kurt Weirda has served as chairman of Dairy Iowa. Plymouth Dairy owners and managers also have hosted Breakfast on the Farm during June Dairy Month, plus they host numerous tours for school groups and other organizations throughout the year.
“We want to show consumers that we care about producing a high-quality product and the way to do this is by making sure the cows are well taken care of and comfortable” says Scott Feuerhelm.
Understanding consumer preferences and viewpoints is especially important to Scott’s wife, Jill. She grew up on a Central Iowa row crop and cattle feeding farm and majored in Agricultural Business. Upon graduating from ISU, Jill began working at The Meyocks Group in West Des Moines where she was an account executive for food and animal health accounts.
Developing strategy for marketing and communicating agricultural products served Jill well as she began her career at Wells and has held various roles within marketing, brand management and sales.
“I enjoy working for Wells because it is a family-owned company with a commitment to manufacturing high-quality ice cream and novelties,” says Jill. “I have been able to grow in my career at Wells by holding various positions within the company.”
The Feuerhelm family is working hard to live a legacy that allows their children to become fifth generation farmers. In 2019, they expanded their farming operation to include Perry Creek Dairy. The new facility, also in located in Plymouth County, includes 7.5 acres of under-roof freestall barns. These barns allow for maximum cow comfort, safety, and environmental stewardship. As many as 3,600 cows can be milked three times daily in the 80-stall parlor.
“The comfort of our cows is of utmost importance,” explains Scott. “Our cows all have sand beds. Fans and sprinklers keep them cool in the summer and the barns keep them warm during the winter. They are given plenty of fresh water and food.”
Milk from Perry Creek Dairy supports the Agropur mozzarella cheese production facility in Hull, Iowa. Today they’re sharing with us a family favorite recipe that makes use of the products they produce. Why not top off a great homemade meal with a dish of Blue Bunny Peppermint Stick ice cream?
6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
½ small package Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix
¼ c. butter
Arrange chicken in pan or casserole dish so pieces are touching. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top. Pour one can cream of chicken soup over cheeses. Roll Pepperidge Farm stuffing to fine crumbs; sprinkle over everything. Drizzle melted butter over dressing. Bake 1 ½ to 2 hours at 300 degrees.
Chocolate Bar Ice Cream Dessert
5 almond chocolate bars
½ c. butter
3 beaten egg yolks
½ c. powdered sugar
3 stiffly beaten egg whites
2 ½ c. crushed vanilla wafers
48 fl. oz. Blue Bunny vanilla ice cream
Gently melt chocolate bars and butter. Combine with beaten egg yolks & cook a few minutes over low heat. Add powdered sugar and let cool. When cool, fold in beaten egg whites. Line 9 x 13 pan with wafers to make layer ¼ to 1/2” thick (2 cups). Cover with layer of softened ice cream, then pour cooled chocolate. Cut through several places to mix. Sprinkle top with 1 cup crumbs.