ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithacans prize the farm-to-table movement as if the city invented it, so if you’ve never heard of the farm-to-ice-cream movement, there’s good reason. It doesn’t exist anywhere too close to Ithaca — yet.
The owners of Sweet Melissa’s, however, are on a mission to change that with a $15,000, 30-gallon pasteurizer and the new addition of a Trumansburg cafe called How Sweet It Is.
“It’s only kind of now that the ice cream world is starting to catch up to the food world — the whole farm-to-table movement, the whole local foods,” said co-owner Melissa Kenny.
The reasons, she said, are varied but can be summed up in three points : FDA pasteurizing regulations, the readily available pre-mix used by nearly all companies, and the previously inaccessibility of factor-grade pasteurizers.
Over the past few years, though, changes to that last point are also changing the ice cream industry. A high demand for smaller, more compact pasteurizers was met with companies willing to supply them, giving local ice cream vendors a shot at trying their own hand at creating ice cream from scratch.
At Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shop, which has been located at 200 W. Seneca St. since 2009, Kenny said extra ingredients that act as emulsifiers or preservatives aren’t necessary because she makes the rotating hard ice cream flavors in gallon-and-a-half batches and uses small amounts of naturally-based guar gum to create a standard consistency.
She said she usually runs out of flavors in about a week, if that.
“I’ve loved using the mix for the last couple years but I feel like we’ve had such an evolution of sweet Melissa’s that, like, this is kind of like the natural next step for us is then to take it…all local.”
Kenny is currently working with a company called Regional Access to figure out which small dairy farms she’d be able to work with in production.
But there’s a kink in the plan. Despite being able get a loan to open How Sweet It Is, the loan wasn’t enough to cover the cost of the pasteurizer.
So Kenny launched a Kickstarter with hopes that the community might want to donate to the ice-cream-to-table cause.
“Well, we want to be able to produce our ice cream and source it locally eventually, but in the mean time…maybe the community would help us out with funding,” she said.
Kickstarter, after all, is how Sweet Melissa’s teamed up with Copper Horse Coffee to serve up both products at their soon-to-open Trumansburg cafe.
Kenny and long-time employee, turned new business partner Sarafina Payne-Stocker first heard of the company through a Kickstarter a few years ago and donated to them. After trying the coffee and meeting the owner, the two local businesses teamed up for a mutually beneficial agreement — to pair the ice cream with the coffee at the cafe.
“I would love to be able to have more control of everything going into my ice cream,” Kenny said. “I wouldn’t ask anything of anyone if I didn’t think that they would benefit from it…This is just for people who think this is a great idea.”
To donate to the Kickstarter and find out more about the project, click here.