by Sabine Rhyne
Barbara Fingold and Gary Schaefer are—dare we say it? —“partners in cream.” They met back in the late ‘70s, when both of them were family therapy social workers, and they shared a love of the creamy wonder that fuels many of our summer memories. Barbara was by far the most intrepid: though she lived in West Hartford, she and her roommates traveled New England looking for the best scoop shops. One such nirvana was found in Northampton, MA, at Bart’s Homemade Ice Cream, created and opened by Hobart D. Smith (“Princeton class of ’65,” Gary chuckles). Hobart, it turns out, was an entrepreneur of the creative variety, not one of the stay-with-it variety. So, within a couple of years, he was looking for a buyer. Meanwhile, Barbara and Gary had met, and had just returned from a vacation in which they acknowledged being open to something new, something different. Within a few weeks, there they were, looking at the ice cream shop’s books on the hood of a car out front, and with the blessing of their accountant, they were on to their new adventure, one that has taken them well into the freezers of co-ops and stores all over New England. They never intended to spend most of their adult lives growing the ice cream business, but life is funny that way.
They were in on the ice cream revolution, where artificial and cheap ingredients were anathema and premium and super premium ice cream began delighting scoop-shop connoisseurs. But as you know, ice cream is highly seasonal, so they began to pack their ice cream in pints, delivering it to co-ops and specialty stores around the area. An opportunity opened up in Greenfield, MA, when they purchased Snow’s Ice Cream factory, to make a sizeable quantity of ice cream. They still produce both Snow’s premium and Bart’s super premium out of this factory on School Street. What is the difference? “Premium” has 12 to 14% butterfat, and more air, or is lighter. “Super Premium” has 16% butterfat and less air, or is denser. They gradually modified the Snow’s formula to include better ingredients, while the Bart’s brand continued to explore many inspired and inspiring flavors. Note that all flavors of both brands contain non-GMO sugar!
Barbara and Gary have always been about local economics. They sourced an “ice cream mix” (which is milk, cream, nonfat dry milk powder, and natural stabilizer) made by New England Country Dairy. This was directly made from local farms’ milk. That company grew too fast, closed almost overnight. Then, they sourced the mix from Weeks Dairy, another local milk consolidator, but that dairy was ultimately bought by Hood. They hoped for a similar arrangement with another small dairy, but that one decided to close in favor of alternative land development. Now, they have an arrangement with a farmer-owner co-op dairy in St. Albans, VT. Their journey sourcing milk from small family farms has followed the ever-narrowing path of the dairy industry, fraught with consolidation and the destruction of those family farms. They have resolutely followed this path because for them, supporting local business is a committed choice. They were co-founders early members and board members of CISA, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture in western Massachusetts; the River Valley Market Co-op started in their living room; they helped launch and managed Our Family Farms milk co-op from eight local dairies; and they constantly look for local products with which to make ice cream. So, the “Strawberries From Here” flavor comes from Whately and Sunderland, MA, the local Blueberry Lavender flavor includes product from Heath, MA, and from the Northfield Mount Hermon agriculture programs, the peaches from Franklin County orchards, the ginger from Old Friends Farm in Amherst, MA, which is then shredded by Real Pickles Co-op, etc. The Community Kitchen in Greenfield is the site for all their fruit prepping. And then, they use the leftover juice from the various fruits to make sorbets!
Clearly, Barbara and Gary have lived a life that is community-values based. They are sponsoring our own BFC Board’s Ice Cream Social this month, to sweeten the experience! They know what a difference co-ops make in their communities, and they go out of their way to support cooperative activities. So, stop into the Co-op and get to know some of the amazing flavors in our freezer under the Bart’s and Snow’s labels. Know that in doing so, you will support their endless web of community projects. For this, and for them, we are grateful. Now, pass the scoop!
Join us at the Co-op on Saturday, July 11, between 11am-2pm, for a delicious demo of Bart's Homemade Ice Cream!