Vermont is a beautiful state, especially if you like the changing of the leaves in the fall months. I recently had an opportunity to travel to Vermont for one night and I took full advantage of the limited time I had there. That included enjoying a short walk along the waterfront of Lake Champlain and tasting their delicious namesake chocolates!. This was just a few blocks from the Church Street Market Place, reminding me of a quainter version of Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade. I also spent time at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, drinking apple cider, eating warm apple donuts and watching a big machine squeeze apples for cider with the remaining apple pressed into snacks for local pig farms. But I saved the best for last, a tour of the original Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, located in Waterbury, Vermont. This was about a 30 minute drive from where I was staying in Burlington but well worth the effort.
Ben and Jerry, friends since Junior High, started their ice cream business out of an old gas station in Burlington after spending a whopping $5.00 on a business course about ice cream making. The two are still best of friends today, even after becoming a global ice cream phenomenon. Who hasn’t heard of Cherry Garcia or Chunky Monkey? Tours run every 30 minutes and are a reasonable $4.00 per ticket. Our tour guide escorted us into a small theatre where we watched a short video outlining the Ben & Jerry’s history. We then went into an observation room high above the production floor. There was no ice cream being made at the time, in fact lots of employees just standing around pointing and chatting. One of our tour guides’ funniest lines was “Know how many people work here? About half of them!” He talked us through the process, pointing out massive pieces of equipment and what each one did. There are three Ben & Jerry’s factories in the US, including two in Vermont and one in Henderson, NV that produces for all of the west coast. I learned that their top selling flavor is Half-Baked, with Cherry Garcia coming in second and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough rounding out third. I was somewhat relieved to hear that America’s favorite flavor, vanilla, did not even make their top ten!
The tour price includes a sample of the flavor of the day, and I was disappointed to find out our flavor offering was Cotton Candy. It wasn’t bad, but I was really hoping they would have had one of their seasonal flavors on offer. So after the tour I went out to The Scoop Shop and splurged on a cone of Maple Walnut, made with real Vermont maple syrup. That’s more like it. After perusing the small but cute gift shop, I viewed the vintage ice cream scoop display and then headed out to the Flavor Graveyard. I kid you not. They have grave markers in a small “cemetery” for some (but not all) of the flavors that have been discontinued over the years. All told my visit to the Ben & Jerry’s Factory lasted just over an hour. I could have easily stayed longer but I had other things on my to-do list. When visiting the beautiful green state of Vermont, be sure to plan a visit to the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory!
By Trish Procetto