When Patty DiVello’s daughter, Jennifer, had a brainstorm
to sell homemade ice cream featuring the produce grown on her mother’s Mattituck farm, Patty’s Berries and Bunches, the elder Ms. DiVello wasn’t initially sold on the idea.
Along with more traditional favorites like strawberry and blueberry, Jennifer envisioned unorthodox flavor pairings like raspberry chipotle, lemon basil, sugar snap pea, and lavender — flavors her mother called “kooky” and didn’t believe would sell well enough to be worth the effort.
She soon discovered she was wrong.
“I said all that before I tried them, because I’m bull-headed and old fashioned,” Patty said with a laugh, breathless after a long day spent installing protective netting over the fruit plantings on her farm. “But it was the odd flavors that ended up being wonderful together.”
Jennifer DiVello is no longer involved in operations, but her out-of-the-box idea became one of the most attractive features at the Sound Avenue farm, across the street from where Patty, a member of the Harbes family, grew up. On a sweltering day in mid-summer, visitors to the farm were lined up outside the small ice cream stand, wiping sweat from their foreheads as they scanned the list of flavors on the blackboard attached to the truck. Colorful cones were handed down to them through the small sliding window, starting to melt almost instantly in the heat. Customers then sat down at nearby outdoor tables underneath a shade tarp, gladly pulling down their facemasks to enjoy the cold treats that were made with berries and crops grown just a few feet from where they sat.
Patty’s Berries and Bunches is one of several farms on the North Fork that make homemade ice cream from the produce they grow.
The farms get a chance to feature their crops in a new and exciting way, while visitors get to try flavors they would be hard-pressed to find in a grocery store, whether it’s rosemary or “real mint” from Patty’s, apple cider donut or sweet corn ice cream from Harbes Farm, or strawberry cheesecake and raspberry sorbet flavors from Lewin Farms on Sound Avenue in Calverton.
For all three farms, the ice cream is made off-premises and then delivered to the farm for sale, with flavors rotating depending on what produce is in season. Patty’s sells scooped ice cream only, and Lewin Farms only sells their ice cream in pints and half-pints at their farmstand, while Harbes does both.
Harbes started selling ice cream years ago, initially with soft-serve flavors made from their own produce, but recently started selling scooped ice cream. It’s been a good business move for more than one reason, said Shannon Harbes, the COO of Harbes Farm. “We grow our own peaches, watermelons, and super sweet corn, and often there’s a point in the season where we have a surplus of the ripest ones which makes it ideal to turn into ice cream.”
Harbes Farm likes to experiment with unique flavors as well, using not only their own produce but that of neighboring farms from time to time. They use their own chocolate chip cookies and donuts to make mix-in flavors, while using produce for flavors like pumpkin, watermelon and blueberry crunch. Honey lavender, a staff favorite according to Harbes, is made with honey from apiaries on the farm. “We like to get creative and try to incorporate everything that we grow into ice cream, and annually have festival weekends that we make special flavors for,” Harbes said. “For our tomato festival, we make a tomato basil ice cream using our organically grown heirloom tomatoes and locally grown basil.”
Lewin Farms is relatively new to the ice cream game, starting only this year, but fourth-generation farmer Erick Lewin said his family has been happy with the results. They started with their strawberries, selling a strawberry sorbet and strawberry cheesecake flavor, then added blueberry and a raspberry sorbet, selling all the flavors in pints and half-pints.
In the height of summer, he was delivering 20 pounds of berries weekly to the farm’s ice-cream producer, which turned them into about 180 pints of
ice cream. “You can’t get it any fresher,” Lewin said. “The first batch, they picked up the berries on a Wednesday and made it that night and delivered it to the farm the next day. Everybody that’s tried it really likes it, and a lot of them come back and buy more.”
Being able to see, first-hand, how much their customers are enjoying their products is a big positive for all the farmers.
“It really complements what I have because my crops are hot-weather crops and people are hot when they’re here, and children really love it,” Patty DiVello said. “They can go out and pick a box of berries, and having ice cream after that just finishes off the day happily.”