Valley Bounty: Cook Farm and Flayvors of Cook Farm
Daily Hampshire Gazette, May 29, 2021
By Jacob Nelson
FOR THE GAZETTE
In speaking with members of the Cook Family of Cook Farm and Flayvors of Cook Farm in Hadley, it’s evident how many stories are behind each cone of homemade ice cream, jug of raw milk, or cut of beef they raise. Across 5 generations and 112 years of raising cows, the tales just add up.
For instance, how did “Flayvors of Cook Farm,” the farm’s store and ice cream stand, get its unique spelling? Like most things sold there, the story starts with a cow.
As farm patriarch Gordie Cook tells it, “Back in 1985, I bought this cow named Herronholm Elevations Fayvor from Don Herron and Sons in Leyden, MA. They’re no longer in business, but they bred some great cows, this being one of ’em.” She proved a wonderful breeding cow, and at one time 85% of their herd traced their lineage back to her.
They almost called the store Seven Sister’s Ice Cream, after the peaks in the Holyoke Range. Then a friend of Cook’s wife Beth, making a play on words with the cow Fayvor’s name, wrote to say ‘good luck with Flayvor’s new ice cream stand’.
“And as soon as we saw it,” says Cook, “we thought ‘Jesus Christmas! Flayvors of Cook Farm – that’s it!'”
The farm is a family affair, powered by the hard work of several generations of Cooks. Beth Cook was the force behind Flayvors ice cream from the beginning, pitching it as a way to expand the business as their son Hank returned to work on the farm.
“I knew she’d always envisioned an ice cream stand,” says Cook. Their grand post and beam building went up in 1998, and somewhat to Cook’s surprise, “It was like that movie Field of Dreams – ‘if you build it, they will come,’ and they have.”
Often, what ‘they’ come for is Flayvors’ homemade ice cream. Cook Farm lacks the expensive infrastructure needed to pasteurize their milk before making the ice cream, so they send it out ot a processor and receive back an ice cream base that’s a blend of theirs and other local producers’ milk. After that, from recipe formulation to taste-testing to making each batch, “every bit of our ice cream is made in house,” says Cook.
Theirs is a rich, “premium” ice cream with 14% fat content and bold flavors, including some novel ones like “Hadley Grass,” a seasonal asparagus flavored ice cream available now that’s gained some local fame. The two cows on the Flayvors sign each have a flavor named after them too. Inez, the black and white Holstein, shares her name with a coconut ice cream with chocolate chunks and almonds, while the brown Jersey, Ginger, inspired a ginger flavor.
Quality ingredients are important to their process, says Cook. “Our feeling is if people get a great ice cream cone, they’ll appreciate it, but if they get a cheap ice cream cone, they’ll forget about it. Our quality is what people travel out here to enjoy. And we use a very consistent recipe, so if you like our ice cream, you’ll like it the next time too.”
Customers can find lunch items, the farm’s own beef and raw milk, and products from other local farms at Flayvors as well. Currently the store is configured for ordering safely in-person or online at www.flayvors.com.
Cook Farm’s cream-on-top raw milk is bottled on-farm in clean plastic jugs without pasteurization or homogenization. It is richer than most store-bought milk, owing to the 25 Jersey cows among their dairy herd of 70.
Their beef is available in the store year-round. “Come the fall we’ll start selling some Wagyu beef we’ve been raising,” says Cook. This breed of Japanese beef cattle are prized for their deeply marbled meat.
For many years, matriarch Beth Cook was the public face of Flayvors, the store she founded. But the guard is changing, with her daughter-in-law Deborah taking over the reins, assisted by her own children.
“Deborah is the mother of five kids, a fulltime public school teacher and department head, and she manages Flayvors,” explains Cook. “She’s an unbelievable mainstay for our family business.”
Out on the farm a similar transition is occurring, as Deborah’s husband Hank, the son who returned, takes on more from his father Gordie. These days, Hank is primarily responsible for taking care of and growing feed for their combined herd of 200 cows. Says the elder Cook, “When I say ‘we’, more often than not I mean Hank.”
As Hank Cook himself explains, almost all their cows’ feed is grown on 200 acres they own or rent from neighbors, including parcels rented from Hampshire and Amherst Colleges. Using primarily no-till practices and a calculated rotation of crops, they raise corn for silage and a wheat-rye hybrid known as triticale.
This season is a busy time in the fields, as triticale needs to be harvested and corn planted. The younger Cook shared his thoughts on a break from bailing triticale hay.
Gordie Cook is adamant in acknowledging the roles that other family members have played in Cook Farm over the years. Each of his four children have contributed in some way, as have many of this 11 grandchildren, especially those raised by Hank and Deborah on the farm. It seems there will be Cooks in the kitchen and in the fields for several years to come.
Flayvors of Cook Farm is open every day from 11 – 8 on South Maple Street in Hadley. Learn more about them and find more local farm stands and ice cream options near you at buylocalfood.org/find-it-locally.
Jacob Nelson is communications coordinator at CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture).