by Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff
A year ago when Sarah Wilder lost her job as a biology teacher at John Bapst Memorial High School, her family’s income was cut in half. Fortunately, her husband Ryan Cowan still had his job at the University of Maine Department of Biology where he does curriculum design, inquiry learning, media interface and other tasks for the department.
“We like to say when life gave us lemons, we made lemon ice cream,” Wilder said. They also made lime, mint, vanilla, blueberry and as many as 25 other ice cream flavors as they established their Wild Cow Creamery business — all in less than a year after Wilder found out that budget constraints at the school meant her contract would not be renewed.
After losing her job, Wilder and Cowan, who grew up in Belfast and were high school sweethearts, talked about how best to deal with the situation. Now is the time, they decided to start a business — they would never again be as young and have as much energy. Both are in their mid-30s and are the parents of a 5-year-old daughter, and a 2-year-old son.
Once the decision to make ice cream was on the table, Wilder and Cowan rented kitchen time at Coastal Farms and Food in Belfast, where they could make ice cream commercially.
“Now we have two young kids and a business,” Wilder said. They named the business Wild Cow Creamery, an amalgamation of their last names. They converted a small trailer to serve as a portable ice cream stand they park at the Bangor Waterfront where customers can find them easily.
The ice cream Wild Cow Creamery makes, Wilder said, is made of milk and cream, and has no artificial colors or ingredients. Whenever possible, organic and locally sourced ingredients are used.
“It was interesting to solve the problems that came up,” Wilder said — such as making enough ice cream to keep up with demand — a good problem to have. Then they learned, earlier this year, that the future of Coastal Farms and Food was in question, meaning that renting kitchen time there also was in jeopardy. They decided to build their own kitchen.
“We had to scramble to make our own commercial kitchen at our house. My dad, who is a builder, and Ryan built it between April and July,” Wilder said.
Wilder said the help of their parents, Bruck and Dorrie Wilder, and Ron and Cherie Cowan, all of whom live in the Belfast area, are invaluable to her her and Ryan. They help take care of the children and assist in many other ways with the running a business, she said.
Wilder’s and Cowan’s days unfold in a predictable way — Cowan goes to his job each day, Wilder goes to the ice cream stand on Bangor’s waterfront where they sell their ice cream products. They make ice cream at night after the children have gone to bed. Sometimes they make ice cream until the wee hours of the morning to keep up with demand.
“We work well together. It has brought us closer together. We get to work together and we enjoy spending that time together,” Wilder said.
So far, Wild Cow Creamery has a rotation of nearly 30 ice cream flavors, with eight on the menu board at any one time, Wilder said. Among the flavors are Lemon Heaven, Wild Cow Creamery’s most popular flavor. It is made with the juice of fresh, squeezed lemons and fresh grated lemon zest. Limey Joe, made with fresh limes, and which contains vanilla cookies sourced from Trader Joe’s, is also a customer favorite. Other flavors are, but not limited to, S’Mores ice cream with homemade marshmallows; Mint made with organic mint extract; Raspberry Swirl made with organic locally sourced raspberries and Wilder’s homemade raspberry jam; Chocolate Walnut Brownie made with almost flourless brownies; Blueberry, made with Maine blueberries; Old Fashioned Vanilla; and Chipped Cup O Joe — coffee ice cream with chunks of dark chocolate.
“We try to use Maine ingredients — local and organic — raspberries and blueberries — whenever we can get them,” Wilder said.
Wild Cow Creamery also offers ice cream cookie sandwiches, floats, single cookies without ice cream, all of it homemade.
Ice cream is sold in cups, cones and as sundaes — with homemade hot fudge and fresh homemade whipped cream — and in pints and quarts.
Last winter, after the summer ice cream season was over, Wild Cow Creamery took special orders through its website, wildcowcreamery.com, during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. “We expect to do that again this year,” Wilder said.
The long-term goal for the business, Wilder said, is to open a permanent storefront in Hampden or Bangor.
“One reason I like doing this is that it’s still biology and chemistry,” Wilder said. “I like figuring out the chemistry of it.”
Summer hours for the Wild Cow Creamery ice cream stand are 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. On Tuesdays, the stand opens at 6 p.m., one hour before the Bangor Band Concert and until after the concert is over.
For information, go to wildcowcreamery.com or stop by the ice cream stand on the Bangor Waterfront.