I just couldn't resist. When I got invited to a tour of Turkey Hill ice cream plant in Conestoga, Pennsylvania with a few fellow bloggers, I just could not resist going - I mean honestly, who could resist the promise of free ice cream?
I rose early on Sunday morning to get a timely start. The teenage foodie daughter grumbled, but her urge for frozen treats eventually won out over her desire to sleep until noon.
After about an hour’s drive we crossed the Susquehanna on Route 30 and drove south about 15 minutes south of Columbia to the Turkey Hill ice cream factory.
The plant is located on rolling farmlands of Lancaster County. On the property lies a ridge which was referred to by the Susquehannock Native Americans as "Turkey Hill" due to its reputation as good turkey hunting ground.
The term “Turkey Hill”, which lent the company its name, was such a significant landmark it is referenced in the original sheepskin Deed from William Penn.
We entered the corporate office which is located right next to the original farmhouse and were greeted by the friendly staff. After donning a lab coat, hair net and steel toed shoes, we started our tour of the plant.
I could write extensively on some impressive statistics about Turkey Hill we learned on the tour - for example - Turkey Hill buys all its milk from Pennsylvania Farmers and will soon be designated a Pa Preferred Company.
After packaging, the products are fully frozen and stored in a freezer the size of a warehouse in subzero temperatures.
At the end of the tour we briefly walked through that section, and I experienced a temperature I could only imagine exists in the arctic. As we made our way to lunch, I rubbed my hands to stave of the cold numbness in my fingers!
After our tour, we were treated to lunch with the president of the Turkey Hill Dairy, Quintin Frey. I felt honored by the respectful way we were treated and we had a very nice interactive conversation with Mr. Frey and the staff.
Quintin Frey, grandson of the founder of the company, has worked for the company for 22 years and noted that there are many long time employees (such as our guide, who had worked there for 19 years) and there are employees of several generations who work for the company. He noted that the company has an excellent relationship with its vendors because they treat them with integrity.
Turkey Hill is now owned by the company Kroeger, but he noted that Kroeger has similar values and has given Turkey Hill wide berth in following its values.
For example, the company buys milk from farmers that pledge not to use hormones.
The company also offers a line of Natural ice cream which uses only basic ingredients and excludes complicated ingredients.
After lunch we were invited to the Turkey Hill Experience.
The Turkey Hill Experience is a kid friendly museum, with interactive exhibits. There is a fee charged to participate.
We entered the bustling museum and it was crowded with people of all ages enjoying the day.
To me, the ice cream was the showcase. Free samples were offered upstairs. I tried coconut ice cream, a flavor I would not normally try, and I was wild about it.
But the best part of the Turkey Hill Experience is the Taste Lab.
I mixed, stirred, tasted, experimented. I ate the candies and pretzels as I stirred them into the mix.
At the end of the exhibit, the treats are fast-frozen for a final product. But I had tasted my mix so much there wasn't much left to take home.
As we headed for the car, I was temporarily sated of my desire for ice cream. But I knew that wouldn't last. And when that happened, I would be on an obsessive search for Turkey Hill French Vanilla and the ever elusive limited edition coconut!