by Sara Mead
If you have a tip for a local creamery, farm, brewery, or other food purveyor you’d suggest we visit, e-mail us! (e-mail in sidebar at right)
You’re probably not all that likely to visit Middletown, Maryland. And if you do, you’re even less likely to continue northeast out of town on Route 40/Old National Pike. And you’re even less likely to turn off to your left on small, unmarked Bolivar Road. But if you did all these things that you’re quite unlikely to do, you’d be in for a treat. Because you’d find yourself at South Mountain Creamery, where they make some damn good ice cream–not to mention a great example of traditional farming providing healthy, natural, locally grown food.
I visited South Mountain Creamery this weekend, because I was visiting my sister, who lives in Middletown, and we wanted to get some ice cream. (If it’s a weekend afternoon in summer, the Mead family wants to get ice cream.) The ice cream is delicious–it really tastes of cream and has the crystal-like quality of homemade ice cream, and it comes in a stunning array of flavors (various members of my family sampled black raspberry, very cherry, cookies ‘n’ cream, cookie dough, and joy of almond ice cream on our trip). And it’s an experience–you step out of the exit of the ice cream shop, cone in hand, and you’re looking directly into a barn where about 20 cows are being milked, as you look on eating the very products of those cows. (Although I must say, the natural cow farm smell–ie, manure–does not exactly enhance the taste of the ice cream.)
South Mountain sells a lot more than ice cream, however. At the same store where you buy the ice cream, you can also purchase milk by the quart and half gallon (in glass containers, and including both homogenized and nonhomogenized options), flavored milk, and homemade butter, yogurt and cheese—all produced from the milk of the Creamery’s own herd. South Mountain Creamery’s cows are hormone- and anti-biotic free and raised using traditional methods (meaning that they get to spend plenty of time at pasture in the beautiful rolling green hills that characterize this part of Maryland). The store also sells artisan cheese from other local producers; hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, pork, chicken, and lamb from local producers that use traditional, human methods; and breads from a local bakery.
Now, I realize that not everyone is as lucky as me to have a terrific sister living in Middletown, Maryland. But does that mean you can’t enjoy South Mountain Creamery’s products—no, siree. South Mountain Creamery will deliver milk, meat, and other products to your home—including pretty much anywhere in the Washington, D.C. area and as far away as West Virginia and Virginia Beach. Given the distance they’ll travel, the $3.75 delivery fee seems like a steal. Currently, South Mountain Creamery delivers to more than 3,000 homes in the region. Customers place orders via South Mountain Creamery’s website—the recommendation is to set up a standing order that will be delivered to your home once a week. Customers do not need to be home for delivery. So if you’re looking to find a more local, sustainable way of getting your dairy and meat needs met, check it out.
The area in Frederick County where my sister lives is a truly beautiful area—all rolling green hills and “mountains”—where farms have slowly faded into subdivisions over the past decades, as Washington, D.C.’s exurbs have sprawled farther west and north along route 270. The current housing bust has probably slowed that development down—at least for a few years. But in the long term, the best bet for maintaining this area’s agricultural traditions probably lies in the model of farms like South Mountain Creamery, employing traditional, humane, and sustainable methods of farming and serving a growing market of consumers who will pay a premium for food that is fresh, sustainable, humanely raised, and local.