Ask anyone, and you might be surprised to discover that I’d choose pickles over ice cream any day, even when I’m not 7.5 months pregnant. I’m the gal that used to win pickle juice drinking contests as a kid while I watched my friends gag over the salty, tangy goodness of a chilled vinegar drink. That said I’m not one to discriminate against sweets just because my taste buds prefer salty, so I can throw back a bowl of ice cream like no other.
I’m not sure if that makes me an ice cream connoisseur. But, it does mean I have an opinion about the best ice cream around Lake Superior and that’s Tetzner’s.
Tetzner’s Dairy Farm is located just outside of Washburn, Wisconsin. The family farm dates back decades—in fact 82-year old owner Philip Tetzner has been in-charge of the family affair for 64-years. He took over the farm after his father’s passing. Today, he and his two sons run the farm with several grandkids and his daughter-in-law Jackie helping out. The 80-acre farm is home to 100 dairy cows, with 80 milking at anytime. While modest by today’s dairy farm standards, Tetzner says he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I don’t see us getting any bigger. We’re really happy with the size,” he explains. “If we got bigger, it’d come with a whole different set of problems we don’t want.”
By limiting their size, Tetzner’s has instead focused on perfecting their retail line. It first started in the late 70s when the state started pressuring farms to not sell raw milk. By 1976, the farm had purchased a bagger and was selling pasteurized milk. By 1986, they were taking the cream left over from milk and making ice cream.
“Nobody will tell you how to make great ice cream,” Tetzner says. “We perfected our ice cream through experience and now make some of the best ice cream around.”
That’s a bold statement to make. But, consider this. Currently, the farm provides milk to three local stores in the Chequamegon Bay region—all of which pick up the milk on their own since Tetzner’s won’t get into the delivery business. In addition, the farm has a self-serve store where customers from all over come to pick up milk and ice cream and leave the money in an envelope. The packaging is simple and non-descript. Marketing has primarily been through word of mouth, but when your product is good, Tetzner says that’s all the farm needs.
“We sell fresh milk with nothing added to it,” Tetzner says. “We don’t use hormones.” If you glance at one of their ice cream labels, the ingredients are simple, creating a fresh from the farm ice cream you can’t just get anywhere.
Perhaps I’m just a simple girl with a simple palette. But, to me, if you’re going to really enjoy the rich, fatty creamy goodness of ice cream, simple is better. You might as well savor the flavor of icy cold sweetened milk versus trying to make ice cream taste like a snickers bar, random pieces of fruit or a s’more. If I wanted something pumpkin, I’d make a pumpkin bar.
Plus, there’s something extra enduring about pulling up to a farm after a long hot day of hiking, digging out 6 quarters and reaching into a freezer for a super fresh, handmade vanilla ice cream sandwich that’ll easily replace a meal. If you’re lucky, a friendly team of hounds and the gentle mooing sounds of cows living the good life in Wisconsin will greet you. Or, you might see a family member pass by, more focused on whether you’re enjoying the sweet treat then making sure you’ve paid.
It’d seem this self-serve honor system would open doors to those wanting a free ice cream. But, Tetzner says that’s not an issue. “The system works,” he says. “If it didn’t, we wouldn’t be here.”
Thank goodness that isn’t the case.
To get there: Tetzner’s is located off WI-13 between Washburn and Ashland on Nevers Rd. From WI-13, go 1.5 miles down Nevers Rd and turn left at Tetzner’s Dairy. A small sign is located near the mailbox. The address is 30455 Nevers Rd., Washburn.