Folks entering Delaware on Rte. 404 pass by Vanderwende’s dairy near Bridgeville, and, if they’re lucky, have indulged in ice cream from the Vanderwende Farm Creamery. The Vanderwendes have been farming at that site since 1954, when William Vanderwende and his bride, Ellen Ann, purchased land there for $35 an acre. Starting with 50 acres and six cows, the farm has grown to about 4,000 acres, with some 300 milking cows.
Dairy farming has become less profitable in recent decades, so farmers often diversify in order to support their families. Some of the Vanderwendes’ 10 grandchildren opened a produce stand years ago.
In 2012, William’s son Jimmy and his wife, Donna, opened the creamery where ice cream is made right on the farm. People raved about the ice cream at the beach, which enticed others to stop by on their way home. The website, www.vanderwendefarmcreamery.com, now displays some 40 flavors, including sugar-free or dairy-free and seasonal favorites.
In addition to ice cream in cones, cups or homemade waffle cones, the creamery offers milkshakes, floats, sundaes, ice cream sandwiches, banana splits, or pints and quarts frozen solid to “grab and go” from a freezer in the back of the shop. The shop also carries milk, butter and several delicious types of cheese. Ice cream cakes are available and can be personalized with 24 hours notice.
In 2014, an ice cream truck was launched, now one of two which can be booked for public or private events by calling 302-349-5110.
Taylor Vanvorst, who married Jimmy’s oldest son, Jesse, in 2015, was instrumental in the opening of the shop and made most of the ice cream. She and Jesse opened Vanderwende’s at Dewey LLC in Dewey Beach in 2015.
There are now shops in Greenwood and Fenwick Island, with a new shop opening in Old City Philadelphia this summer. Vanderwende ice cream is also carried by a few vendors who make wholesale purchases.
While Taylor and other family members take care of the ice cream, Jesse, who began working on the farm at age 10, farms more than 700 acres, growing corn, soybeans, wheat, peas, sweet corn and watermelons, as well as chickens with four poultry houses. He was involved in several farm and community organizations before being elected to the Delaware House of Representatives. He represents the 35th District, which includes Greenwood and Bridgeville.
His parents’ most recent endeavor was to purchase yet another dairy farm at 22304 Atlanta Rd. in Seaford and turn it into a wedding venue, “The Barn at Vanderwende Acres,” just before COVID shut down all such events. Nevertheless, the remodeled barn, which accommodates 110 people, and beautiful adjacent covered pavilion, which provides room for up to 250, are fully booked for weekends this summer. Some midweek days are still available. Visit vanderwendeacres.com for more information.
Taylor still helps with the ice cream business but also now has their sons, Bennett, 17 months, and Brooks, two months, to care for.
Jesse commented, “Even though I’m a legislator, I’m still a full time farmer. That’s where my family and I make our living, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. It’s more than making a living; it’s a way of life.”