Faithfully Farm Fresh!

Manning Farm Dairy Puts Tradition and Excellence in the Mix

The name Manning has been synonymous with ice cream in Northeast PA for generations. Based in Dalton, PA, Manning Farm Dairy, also has four retail locations. The family’s commitment to quality goes into every product that bears their name. That means growing the crops their cows like to eat, milking their happy cows twice daily, processing the milk and ice cream by hand the way it’s always been done and delivering it fresh to customers.

“It’s a commitment to our family’s legacy and the emotional bond we have to working on the land and with the animals,” middle brother Ken, 38, explains. Brothers Brian, Ken and Kevin manage the equipment, crops and cows, dairy processing and delivery. All three brothers have Ivy League educations and are business-minded. Oldest brother Brian, 40, notes that in farming there is no separation between job life and home life. “There is only farm life,” he explains. “Even though there were opportunities to explore other careers, I always wanted to come back to be a farmer,” says Brian.  Ken and Kevin echoed this sentiment. All three have benefited from watching their parents work for their successes and power through the difficult times.

The Mannings are focused on making their almost 100-year-old family farm more sustainable and productive. “From the farm end of things, we’re working to be as sustainable as possible, reducing our purchased inputs such as feed and fertilizer. As happy cows are productive cows, increasing their comfort is essential,” explains Brian. “All of our cows are equipped with the bovine equivalent of a fitbit.”  The device provides information including how much the cows are moving and eating along with their temperature and the overall wellbeing. This enables early detection and diagnosis of problems in the herd.

What starts with the cows continues in the in the processing room. Ken processes the milk, ice cream and frozen yogurt in the same room where the family began bottling milk in 1938. “One of the coolest things is the way we make our products hasn’t changed,” he explains. “We process our milk the same way Louis Pasteur did, it produces a better tasting milk.” Manning’s ice cream base hasn’t change since 1955. This year more cows were milked than ever before in the history of the farm. Getting their 90 cows through the milking parlor twice a day everyday enables easier scheduling of processing. While he would like to expand, Ken has no desire to be a huge operation that would prevent them from having the business model that makes their products exceptional. “We’re very unique in that we’re vertically integrated so we take care of every aspect of every ingredient from crops, to cows to cones,” states Ken. Since it’s all in their hands their high quality standards are never compromised.

Youngest brother Kevin, 36, is up at 2:45 a.m. every day to milk and feed the cows, aided by his dad and brother, Brian. Kevin shares the responsibility for delivery to Manning’s five retail stores and over 25 wholesale locations. When he started working at the farm, they had three retail locations and five wholesale stores. With eyes on expanding the business, Kevin and his wife Kacey started Manning’s Mobile Ice Cream Shop, an off-site catering trailer and ice cream truck. They attends fairs, festivals and events including the farmers’ market in Wilkes-Barre.

Whether innovations in farming, fluid product processing or expanding distribution, the Manning family will not compromise their commitment to making their products from crops to cow to cone just like their fore bearers did. The brothers hope their eight children, ranging in age from infancy to teen years, share that same passion for tradition and love of farm life that will carry the Manning Farm Dairy into the next generation of dairy excellence. Visit Kieran O’Brien Kern