Happy Trail

Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail boosts visits to dairies and creameries in the state each summer.

By Marilyn Cummins | Photos By Edwin Remsberg

There’s just something special about getting a hand-dipped cone of your favorite ice cream right on the farm where it was made. And if that weren’t enough, you can win prizes for doing so. At least that’s the case in Maryland’s dairy country.

Emily Oberg contemplates her cone at Broom’s Bloom Dairy in Bel Air, Maryland, a stop on Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail.

Emily Oberg contemplates her cone at Broom’s Bloom Dairy in Bel Air, Maryland, a stop on Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail.

Ice-cream enthusiasts and local-food fans can head out each summer to sample fresh-from-the-cow flavors along Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail, guided by a passport provided by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA). Those who get a stamp from all nine creameries along the 290-mile route have a chance to be named “Maryland’s Ice Cream Trail Blazer” for that year.

And what are the prizes? A $50 gift certificate to their favorite creamery, a “Dishing Up Maryland” cookbook and a DVD of the “Maryland Farm & Harvest” public TV series. That makes sense, as the May-to-September promotion is designed to boost the dairy industry in the state as part of the Maryland’s Best Agriculture program.

While dairy contributes 10% of all farm cash receipts in the state of Maryland, the number of dairies in the state continues to decline—down from 500 in 2011 to 415 today. A 2015 analysis of the Maryland’s Best programs shows MDA’s marketing program has returned about $7.6 million in value to specialty crop growers overall.

The mission of the Maryland’s Best program is to link consumers with Maryland’s farmers and farms through its interactive website map and search engine, as well as special events and promotions like the ice cream trail, which began six years ago. On the website, www.marylandsbest.net, consumers can look for local Christmas tree and U-pick farms, farmers markets, wineries and, of course, dairies that make and sell their own ice cream and other products.

“Demand for local ag products remains high in Maryland, with more than 78% of consumers saying they want local,” says Mark Powell, chief of marketing and agribusiness development for the MDA. “The ice cream trail is a great way for us to meet that demand while giving much-needed support to the state’s dairy industry.”