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A food blog from NHPR news, digital, & programming staff, exploring food & food culture around the state & the New England region. On-air features air Thursdays on All Things Considered and Saturdays during Weekend Edition.

Foodstuffs: The New Hampshire Ice Cream Trail

There are plenty of trails that lead to scenic vistas.  Up mountains, down into valleys.  But there's only one that leads to ice cream: The New Hampshire Ice Cream trail. 

Somewhere in a New Hampshire field, a cow, fawn colored, like a big deer, lifts her head from the tall grasses...

A Jersey cow, she has no idea that the milk she makes from the grass and hay and grain she eats is high in butterfat - about 5%, which makes her milk ideal for ice cream.

In barns and stalls, by hand or machine, sometimes under the coaxing sway of classical music, her milk is drawn.  6 to 10 gallons in a good week. 

Her milk is trucked away to be filtered and pasteurized and then trucked off again to packagers and distributors, ice cream parlors, yogurt makers. That's the milk trail - from grassy field to corner store refrigerator.

So New Hampshire dairy farmers, their milk can be found in Cabot, in Hood and Chobani you name it. So it all gets pooled together.

That's Amy Hall of the Granite State Dairy Promotion.

We are New Hampshire's version of the milk mustache campaign.

The promotional wing of local dairy. 

Started by the USDA in 1983 to give milk a fighting chance against the hard selling soda brands that had steadily eroded milk's market share since the 1960s, the Granite State Dairy Promotion has just begun the fourth year of its most successful campaign so far - The New Hampshire Ice Cream Trail.  Amy Hall unfolds the trail map.

New this year is a passport program. So it's "Eat like a cow and conquer the trail." So if you are able to hit all 43 ice cream shops and this goes from Nashua all the way up to Pittsburg you will be entered into a drawing to win a basket of New Hampshire made items and goodies.

Jim and Barbara Quinn own Bishop's Homemade Ice Cream in Littleton. They pay the yearly fee of $125 to be one of the stops on the Trail.

Best idea, I think. It's a tool to bring people into the shops.

Jim Quinn makes the ice cream in small batches.  Mocha Oreo.  Maple Walnut, Raw Deal.  The milk and special ingredients swarm together in the cold chamber of the stainless steel churner.

It takes 15 minutes to make ice cream.

While the trail is meant to drive business to ice cream shops like Bishop's, Amy Hall says the deeper goal is to support our declining local dairy farms—which went from 699 farms in 1970 to just 124 today.

They survive and thrive because it's in their blood, because it's what they do, they are hard workers, and there's nothing else they'd rather do with their lives.

You can see the official NH Ice Cream Trail map right here. Or, check out our map below, and let us know where your favorite ice cream stand in New Hampshire is. Send us an email with your pick, or leave a comment on our Facebook page

Sean Hurley lives in Thornton with his wife Lois and his son Sam. An award-winning playwright and radio journalist, his fictional “Atoms, Motion & the Void” podcast has aired nationally on NPR and Sirius & XM Satellite radio. When he isn't writing stories or performing on stage, he likes to run in the White Mountains. He can be reached at

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