116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
ELY — Dan and Debbie’s Creamery bestselling ice cream flavor was made as an accident.
Josie Rozum, who oversees operations and is the daughter of owners Dan and Debbie Takes, notes that Purple Cow Pie came about after her mother had forgotten a key ingredient in the ice cream flavor she was supposed to be crafting and instead grabbed ingredients from the freezer that would pair well together, birthing the vanilla ice cream with black raspberries and pie crust mixed in.
“It’s just one of those that everyone’s like, ‘When is Purple Cow Pie coming back?’’ so that’s just funny how that works out,” Rozum said. “It was a flavor that she wanted to toss and we’re like, ‘no.’”
Debbie and Dan Takes began operating a dairy farm in rural Ely in 1997, expanding from an initial 30 cows to about 150. In 2013, the family bought a former lumber business on Ely’s Main Street and — after a three-year renovation and thousands of dollars in investments in new equipment — opened Dan and Debbie’s Creamery five years ago this month. The creamery sells milk, flavored cheese curds and ice cream — all made in the building
Guided tours of the creamery were suspended in March 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic spread to Iowa. But now the pandemic is waning, tours of the production process are making a comeback.
“I think with everything going on, we were just ready to get people back in our store, continue educating because that’s such a big component of what we do,” Rozum said. “A couple weeks ago we rolled out the tours again. You know, obviously they can’t be exactly like they were. We’re trying to accommodate smaller groups just to help with spacing out and making people feel comfortable, but we’re so excited to have all the people back in here and learning about what we’re doing.”
Growing up on a dairy farm and assisting with the storefront for five years, Rozum has a personal connection with teaching visitors farm-to-table education and awareness.
“I think the reason why tours are so important for me is I want, especially our youth, to understand food just doesn’t land on our table,” Rozum said. “I think there’s such a huge disconnect between farmers and consumers that I really want to bridge the gap, too. So that way people can trust their food again and know it’s coming from a good place.”
While farm-to-table awareness is valuable, Rozum feels that older generations appreciate the nostalgia that come with the tours.
“I think that age group of retirement-age and older, the creamery takes them back to their childhood because a lot of people are used to cream-top milk and a lot of people grew up on farms then,” Rozum said. “It sort of takes them back to their childhood and that’s really special, too.”
While the tours take place only at the storefront, at 1600 Main St. in Ely, expansions to the farm will make it possible for groups to visit it gain the true farm-to-table experience.
“Last year we started building a viewing area on our milking farm, so that way we can welcome tours,” Rozum said. “We’re hoping to wrap up construction by the end of the year, then we’ll be able to make the tour component full circle by seeing the farm side and the production side.”
Tours occur three days a week, at 10 a. m Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Admission cost is $4.50, with tax and includes a private creamery tour as well as a single scoop of ice cream. Small and medium-sized groups can schedule tours up to two months in advance.
Since tours resumed in mid-June, spots have been filling fast.
“It’s clear to me that people crave things to do right now and if they get a learning opportunity and some ice cream at the same time, that’s a pretty cool thing,” Rozum said.
Compared with a large dairy corporations that typically focuses on one facet of the dairy industry, Dan and Debbie’s smaller-scale process allows them to exercise control over products they produce and how they produce it.
“We have control long before the milk arrives here, basically what the cows eat,” Rozum said. “We grow all of the crops on our family farm and harvest them ourselves. We tailor our cows’ diets to really provide high-quality flavor to our milk and our products. So every little step we do in the processing farm-to-table, affects how it tastes. I also think a really unique thing is being a small organization and operation, we can get a little bit more creative and experiment with flavors.”
The local creamery rotates 30 to 40 ice cream flavors on a monthly basis, with seasonal flavors such as peppermint, pistachio, coconut cream pie and peaches and cream making appearances within the display case.
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