by Laura Rodley
If you look closely, you might just see Elvis Presley at the Flayvors of Cook Farm ice cream store and restaurant on 129 South Maple Street in Hadley, MA, checking out their latest flavor, Elvis Remix. It is made with chocolate peanut butter ice cream and bananas, because — as Elvis would quickly tell you — besides his music, he is famous for eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches — sometimes with bacon, which wouldn’t work very well with ice cream. Elvis Remix is just one of 24 flavors now served at Flayvors, brainchild of owners’ Beth and Gordon Cook, made from the milk of their Jerseys and Holsteins, which are among the top 100 classified Holstein herds in the nation.
Cook Farm won Premier Breeder for 18 consecutive years at the Mass State Show.
Other latest flavors are Mixin’ Chips, comprised of peanut butter and chocolate chips in vanilla ice cream, or Beethoven’s Fifth, full of bananas. One flavor not currently offered is Asparagus Ice Cream, since asparagus is out of season.
“Asparagus put Hadley on the map in the 40s and 50s; it’s a long standing crop on the Connecticut River Valley land,” said Beth Cook.
They invented this particular flavored ice cream to honor the already locally known iconic crop. They also offer their own rendition of Peach Ice Cream when peaches are in season.
The Cooks currently have 65 milking cows on their 200 plus acres; they rent out about 50 acres. The milk is sent to Garelick Farms in Lynn, MA since the milk has to be pasteurized and homogenized, and returns as an ice cream mix to which they add their ingredients. They make everything, even their own frozen yogurt, but not the sorbet, sherbet, or no-sugar-added varieties.
“We’ve come up with other flavors. A lot of them have the same name as others, but with a different twist,” notes Beth. Their Sweet Cream might taste different just because of the mix, or their ice cream making technique. “I feel that even the machines that you use are specific to ice cream taste. All these little trade secrets make yours unique.”
Selling ice cream makes up 50 percent of their total business. People purchase it hand-packed, in cones and frappes year round at the store where they sell their own raw milk, and pasteurized milk from another dairy that’s combined with their restaurant, open since 1998, serving freshly made soup and sandwiches, decorated ice cream cakes, and in-season local sweet corn. “You can sit at picnic tables, watch the cows, and watch sunsets eating the best ice cream around,” said Beth.
The farm has been in the Cook family since 1909, started by Joseph and Ethel Cook, continued by Gordon and Marjorie Cook, and now Gordon Cook Jr., and Beth. Gordon III land his wife Deborah have five children: Mary, Kirsten, Annalise, Gordon IV, and Juliet.
“We’re grooming the fifth generation,” Beth said.
They have four full time workers and employ 15 people part time, including their daughter-in-law Deborah.
Farming runs in Beth’s blood also. Her great-grandfather Sydney Cromack was a dairy farmer, owning farmland in Colrain. Her father’s family owned a farm in Sunderland. Her father, Scotty Hepburn, raised Ayrshires until she was five years old. He was the “go-to person” for fixing machinery. Weekends were spent at his uncle’s farms fixing balers, and anything broken for both sides of the family, recalls Beth.
At Cook Farm, calves are being born all the time, she said. Some pictures of their latest adorn the restaurant walls, but there’s not room for them all. One of their Holsteins, Silverado’s first calf, was named Cook Farm Sizzler due to it being born on July 7, during the intense heat-wave. Another one, a Jersey, named Shooting Star, was birthed June 6, by its mother, Stole the Show.
They bought their first Jersey when their daughter Kimberlee, who is now in her 30s, was 12. “We bought a Jersey cow and calf to try to have her be a little more enthusiastic about being in the barn. She wanted to be in the kitchen,” said Beth. While failing to increase her enthusiasm for working in the barn, it increased their own enthusiasm in Jerseys, and they’ve kept them ever since.
Her husband, “Very much enjoys working with registered cattle,” she said. They offer cows with good genetics, selling embryos, live animals, live bulls, lots of bulls at bull stud. “We sell them outright or lease them.”
A list is available at their website, www.cookfarm/sales
What does Beth like best? She answered, “Ice cream. Who doesn’t?”
Of course, Elvis likes Elvis Remix best. He’s still in the building, asking for more.
by Laura Rodley