Ice Cream Empire: Young’s Jersey Dairy celebrates 150th birthday

Photo courtesy of Young’s Jersey Dairy

What’s Cow Patty ice cream? According to Dan Young, CEO and chief ice cream scooper at Young’s Jersey Dairy, that’s customers’ most common question. Folks need only glance at the pasture where Young’s Jersey cows graze to figure out what inspired Cow Patty’s name, but Young considers the question an opportunity to interact with guests.

“We tell them if they like chocolate, they’re going to love Cow Patty, because it’s double dark chocolate ice cream with cookie pieces, toffee pieces, and chocolate chips,” says Young.

Cow Patty is among the best-selling of more than 80 flavors of ice cream produced at Young’s, a leading Ohio agritourism destination visited by well over 1 million guests every year. It’s located in the countryside near Yellow Springs, but people routinely come from Columbus or Cincinnati to treat themselves to Young’s homemade ice cream and cheese and enjoy a working farm where they can feed the resident goats, visit baby animals, and watch cows being milked. “This farm has definitely become a social gathering place where family and friends meet to do fun stuff together,” says Young.

Young’s original farmstead dates to 1869, when an ancestor built the red barn along present-day U.S. 68, and Youngs have raised Jersey cows there for more than a century. Jerseys are the smallest dairy breed but give milk with high butterfat content — which, says Young, is the reason Jersey milk tastes better.

In 1958, Charles “Hap” Young and his sons, Carl, Bob, and Bill, decided to sell milk directly to the public. “The milk cost 60 cents a gallon,” says Young, “and we used the honor system. People simply picked up milk and left their money in a box.” The Youngs soon expanded to ice cream, added a small retail shop to the red barn, and in response to customers’ requests, built a glass-sided pen where children could look at calves. The growing demand for Young’s ice cream prompted the family to build the stand-alone Dairy Store in 1968, and they also replaced the calf pen with a herd of friendly and entertaining goats.

“By the late 1980s, we were not yet using the term ‘agritourism,'” says Young, “but we realized that providing a fun visit was more important than merely selling ice cream.”

Today, Young’s boasts a year-round complex of ag-tivities that Young oversees with help from his sister, wife, son, and other family members. While ice cream remains the top attraction, Young’s is also known for farmstead cheeses made from Jersey milk in the red barn’s old dairy shop. The Dairy Store, which also houses a bakery and fast-food-style eatery, features Young’s signature Cow Shakes, Bull Shakes, and Buckeye Bull Shakes, while the full-service Golden Jersey Inn serves country comfort foods such as chicken and dumplings. Young’s entertainment offerings range from farm-themed miniature golf at its two Udders & Putters courses to the Kiddie Corral with pedal tractors and a play corn pit and seasonal events, including an Easter egg hunt, ice cream charity bike tour, and pick-your-own pumpkins.

Young’s Jersey Dairy turns 150 in 2019, and the family is planning a birthday celebration from January 18 to 21. “Our birthday is a very inexpensive time for families to bring their kids and have fun,” says Young. One-dip waffle cones will be specially priced at $1.50; both the Dairy Store and Golden Jersey Inn will offer cheeseburgers and kids’ meals for $1.50; and customers purchasing a sundae, shake, or deep-fried cheese curds will receive a souvenir milk bottle. Udders & Putters will offer miniature golf games for $1.50.