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Delaware farmers add retail sales with frozen treats

A farm family in Bridgeville is diving into the frozen food business in a big way by folding its small-market produce into sorbet and ice cream.

Evans Farms, in its third generation of family ownership, launched the Frozen Farmer line of chilly concoctions this spring – slowly at first from its farmstand on Seashore Highway.

On Thursday, Frozen Farmer opened a storefront at the golf course at Heritage Shores, the Bridgeville residential development.

The ice cream, sorbet and "nice cream," a sorbet-ice cream combo, are all made in Bridgeville using locally grown fruit and produce, says co-owner Katey Evans, 28.

"I think the industry's going to this, as far as finding new avenues of retail. It's a competitive industry," Evans said about modern farming. "You've got to get creative with what you do with your product in order to stay on top."

 

Like many large farms, Evans is paying increasing attention to the retail side of its income ledger. The majority of its trade is in bulk sales to grocers, wholesalers and farmstands; Evans said they tend to 2,000 acres in Kent and Sussex counties. It deals directly with more than 40 supermarkets, often getting them produce the same day it's been picked from the field.

But along with other well-known southern Delaware farms like T.S. Smith and Sons, Evans Farms reaches consumers directly through several channels: Its farmstand, where vegetables, fruit and icy pints of Frozen Farmer products are sold; farmer's markets around the region; the Heritage Shores storefront; and, soon, a custom-built food truck for the ice cream, sorbet, popsicles and smoothies.

Frozen Farmer is a family partnership. Evans' husband, Kevin Evans, oversees farm operations; her mother, Jo Ellen Algier, runs production of the frozen treats.

Delaware farmers add retail sales with frozen treats


Frozen Farmer turns farm produce into tasty treats

After Katey Evans and Jo Ellen Algier spent months planning a unique business called The Frozen Farmer, a banker told them the late restaurateur Matt Haley had the exact same idea before he died in a motorcycle collision in Nepal last August.

“She said if we weren’t going to act on this, somebody else would,” Evans said. “The fact that Matt Haley had been so successful in everything that he did made us think we might have a really viable idea.”

Either way, the mother-and-daughter entrepreneurs were moving forward. They had already attended Ice Cream University. They were shopping for a food truck with a custom wrap. They had partnered with a nutritionist. They were hunting for a commercial kitchen to lease.

The Frozen Farmer, which will open in two Bridgeville locations this month, will turn farm-fresh fruits and vegetables into sorbets, smoothies, juices, popsicles, and crème ices with no added sugar.

“I’ve always seen the demand for a healthy, refreshing treat that people can grab and go,” said Evans, who runs the produce stand at Evans Farms in Bridgeville. “They want their watermelon cut up and to go.”

“This is a sweet treat that’s also healthy. As a new mother of two, I wanted a healthy treat for my kids,” Evans said. “It’s a lactose-free, gluten-free, fat-free, all-natural product that we can make using our own local produce.”

They will have five signature juices, but will juice to order for customers.

Evans and Algier will stick with local in-season fruits and vegetables except for a few tropical offerings. Evans’ husband, Kevin, has accounted for the new business in their farm’s planting schedule, so there will be extra fruit and vegetables.

Their motto: “We’re the coolest in the field.”

The business idea had its roots in the sorbets Algier concocted whenever there were strawberries that were a little too soft to sell at her daughter’s and son-in-law’s Evans Farms produce stand. The sorbet is so popular, one young girl wanted it instead of a birthday cake.

Still, dishing frozen treats to strangers takes permits and workplaces and planning — and a stint at Ice Cream University, a culinary school in West Orange, N.J. That’s where they learned that their original idea of making the products in their new food truck wouldn’t fly.

Plan B is a commercial kitchen and retail shop at Heritage Shores, a well-appointed 450-home, 55-plus golf course community that will be larger than the core town of Bridgeville when it grows to its planned size of 1,800 homes. The treats will be made there and sold to residents from a lakefront shop with a custom awning.

Their $78,000 food truck with a farm-to-fender motif will be parked at Evans Farms on Seashore Highway, just serving treats and juices.

“For the beach traffic, we’ll have the food truck. They will be drawn to the farm because they don’t see this every day,” said Evans, who has a marketing degree. “Local people will be drawn to the Heritage Shores location because it’s got such an upscale feel there. It almost feels like you’re in a very luxurious resort area because of everything they’ve done with their landscaping and the atmosphere.”

The Frozen Farmer solves a problem all farmers face: “It gives us another avenue to do something with the produce that we don’t sell. We’ll be freezing a lot of strawberries. If you get a really wet year like we had last year, you’ve got a nightmare on your hands with the low-lying vine fruit,” Evans said. “For sorbet, we want the soft strawberries because they have the highest sugar content. The best kind of produce to use in smoothies, sorbets, and popsicles is ripe fruit.”

It solves a dilemma for the health-conscious consumer with a sweet tooth: With a nutritionist helping Algier formulate her recipes, consumers can have the best of both worlds.

It may preemptively solve a quandary that’s still two decades away for the Evans family: “Farming has changed so dramatically from what our great-grandfathers knew to what our children will know,” Evans said. “We’re trying to establish a business where, if our daughters want to be accountants, they’ll have a job here. If they want to be farmers in the field, they’ll have a job here. And if they want to do retail, they’ll have a job here.”

And it hit the sweet spot for Heritage Shores, an active-lifestyle community that had an open spot execs wanted to fill with a health-conscious retailer: “It’s a healthier approach to the sweet treats that everybody wants,” said Dorothy Harper, a vice president for Brookdale Residential, the developer of Heritage Shores. “Our need and the product they can provide made a perfect match. “

Scott Kammerer, who was a partner with Matt Haley in Highwater Management, said he never talked with Haley about a frozen treats business, but it sounds like the kind of venture Haley would have explored.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Kammerer, whose first job was at a roadside fruit stand. “Part of the entrepreneurial spirit of America is to start a business that will solve a problem and the solution will benefit multiple people.”

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Meet 13 cool companies in Delaware

Evans Farms

Employees in Delaware: 5 full time plus 55 seasonal

Kevin Evans, 37, and his wife Katey, 29, noticed older customers and young mothers with children were anxious about getting out of their cars when they pulled into their farm stand on Seashore Highway near Bridgeville. They came up with a giant red workaround.

On July 8, the Evanses opened Delaware’s first drive-thru produce stand, according to the Delaware Department of Agriculture. The large barnlike structure on the edge of their 2,500-acre farm includes a shop where customers can watch how farm-fresh fruits are turned into homemade ice cream.

Last year, the innovative couple debuted its Frozen Farmer line to turn unsold fruit into healthy treats, sorbets and homemade ice cream.  Most ingredients are local, and the pecans in the butter-pecan ice cream are roasted onsite.

The Evanses make use of the latest technology, whether they are printing their artist-designed watermelon labels or tweeting the real-time location of their Frozen Farmer food truck.

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Frozen Farmer in Bridgeville to host ice cream festival and car show

Frozen Farmer in Bridgeville to host ice cream festival and car show July 15

Division of third-generation, family farm
July 11, 2018
 
 
 

Ice cream lovers rejoice: National Ice Cream Day is Sunday, July 15, and The Frozen Farmer in Bridgeville is celebrating by hosting an on-farm festival to include a classic car show, an outdoor film and food trucks. The celebration will kick off at 3 p.m. at the on-farm creamery at 9843 Seashore Highway, Bridgeville. The facility, one mile east of Route 13, has been hosting on-farm festivals and family events since opening its doors to the public last July.

“We specialize in homemade ice cream and sorbet using the most premium ingredients, many of them sourced straight from our fields here on our own family farm,” said Kevin Evans, third-generation farmer and owner of Evans Farms and The Frozen Farmer. “For us, the National Ice Cream Day Festival & Car Show is a way to celebrate our love for homemade ice cream and our appreciation for our loyal customers by giving our community something fun to come out and do on the farm.”

Among the festivities on chart for 3 to 6 p.m., Sunday is a classic car show in collaboration with the Southern Delaware Street Rod Association. The car show is open to all car owners who wish to enter. A fan favorite will be voted on and awarded at the festival.

Pony rides, barrel train rides, bounce house, sand art, face painting and more will be offered for kids from 3 to 8 p.m. while DJ Twitch mixes up tunes for the crowd to enjoy as they eat ice cream from The Frozen Farmer or enjoy a meal from one of the food trucks – K&R Concessions and Fat Daddy’s BBQ. Also among the festivities is an ice-cream eating contest which is free to enter for adults and kids.

An outdoor family film on the 16-foot inflatable screen at 8:30 p.m. will follow the afternoon of fun. Admission is free.

For more information and a full lineup of festivals and events, including the weekly free outdoor movie at 8:30 p.m. every Monday, go to www.TheFrozenFarmer.com.

A division of Evans Farms LLC, a thirdgeneration family farm in Bridgeville, the Frozen Farmer is a provider of homemade ice cream, nice cream and sorbet. The Frozen Farmer also offers made-from-scratch waffle cones, sundaes, milkshakes, smoothies, root beer floats and made-to-order, farm-fresh juices and smoothies. 

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