Behind every ice cream at Lick are stories of how the fresh ingredients came to be. One of our favorite parts of our job is getting to know local farmers and artisanal food makers and finding a way to incorporate their narrative into our own. Together, we tell a bigger story of small central Texas businesses dedicated to providing fresh and honest food.
While Lick’s story didn’t start until 2011, the fresh chèvre and herbs we use in our Goat Cheese, Thyme and Honey ice cream comes from a dream that started in 1979. That’s when Amelia Sweethardt moved to a farm in Dripping Springs with her mom, stepdad and three sisters to start Pure Luck Farm and Dairy.
Amelia began learning the art of cheese-making under the guidance of her mother, Sara, in 1997. The farm makes a traditional French goat cheese, a slow four-day process that is rewarded with a soft and creamy product good enough to eat with a spoon. After the goat milk is pasteurized, a lactic acid is added to make a yogurt-like curd. A day later, the curd is placed into perforated cheese molds to drain. On the third day, the cheese is flipped out of the molds onto a perforated tray to be salted and drained further. On the fourth day, the cheese is packaged and taken to a walk-in. These fresh cheeses are what you find in stores and in our ice cream.
“I think, as a small producer, one of the obvious challenges is how to make a beautiful product well without compromising and it not costing a fortune,” Amelia said. “That usually equates to trying to know what we need and buy it in a larger group to cut costs along the way. Because it is a challenge, and I think in this day and age, I don’t want to make elite food – I want to make good food, but I want it to be something that hopefully a large group of people can buy if they want that.”
Amelia’s mother took care to teach her daughter the importance of food safety and day-to-day operations, of learning how to be efficient and prepared. These are some of the hallmarks to being successful.
“We never would have made it if she didn’t have that knowledge and pass that along, Amelia said. “My mother was a stickler for things. She did not have any qualms about telling you anything. So if she had a problem, she had no issue telling you. Which was important.”
Amelia was already running the cheese plant when her mother passed away 10 years ago. At that point, the daughters hadn’t even considered not continuing their mom’s legacy. To this day, all but one employee who worked under her direction carry Pure Luck on.
“My mother was a, ‘you go the extra mile’ person, as far as in what you do,” Amelia said. “So I think that was instilled in all of us. That you don’t just walk away because you don’t know what to do. You keep coming back until you figure it out or you get the help you need.”
Over the years, the daughters have taken on challenges as they come, from learning to do the bookkeeping to tackling paperwork for retaining their organic certification. While her mother was self-taught in cheese-making, Amelia later sought formal education to ensure the farm continued being successful.
Today, Amelia’s focus has shifted from cheese making to making sure her goats are healthy and happy. Anytime she walks near a group of them is like watching a celebrity approach her adoring fans. They flock to her, vying for her attention and leaning into her as she pets them.
The farm has around 87 goats – 72 milkers, a gaggle of kids from last spring and three bucks. She calls them all by name, laughing as they awkwardly trot across the rain-soaked ground from the milking parlor to their dinner outside.
“They hate the mud,” she said.
Beyond Pure Luck’s fresh chèvre from their happy goats, Lick has also started using the farm’s thyme and sage for our seasonal Persimmons and Sage flavor. Pure Luck’s culinary herbs and artisanal cheeses can also be found in the Gateway and flagship Whole Foods, two Central Market locations and Wheatsville Co-op. Houston Dairymaids and local Antonelli’s Cheese Shop also distribute the farm’s goods to local restaurants. On the weekends, you can find Amelia’s husband, Ben, setting up shop in area farmers’ markets.
Amelia’s sisters, Gitana, Claire and Hope continue to co-own and work on the farm in some capacity. As she raises her two kids on the farm, Amelia said she’d like to see them take over the farm one day, but has no expectations. It was never a pressure she felt from her own mother; she and her sisters took over because it’s what they wanted to do, and they’ve turned it into something of their own.
“I can’t do it the way [my mom] did it because I’m not her, but it’s a different thing,” Amelia said. “Same thing for my kids. It’s not me anymore, it’s them. But I do hope it goes on under the same principles – the great love and the great product.”
We hope so too, Amelia!