Most of us don't think much about the supply chain; grocery stores and restaurants just put the food out for us and we buy it. But every once in a while, something happens to remind us that there are farmers, ranchers and living plants and animals at the beginning of that chain. Bad weather or syndicated crime in Mexico can cause the price of limes to jump tenfold. Or, as is the case with Em's Ice Cream, whose mobile carts can be found on the 16th Street Mall and at farmers' markets around town, drought conditions in California mean that ice cream-maker Andrew Silverman may have to halt production because his milk supplier has cut off shipments.
Many ice cream manufacturers whose milk and cream come from standard sources would never encounter a problem like this, but Em's is certified organic and has been working with the same California dairy farm for four years. Switching suppliers is almost out of the question, according to Silverman. "Everything is formulated around the milk and cream," he says.
The cows that provide his dairy are pasture-raised and grass-fed; with no rain, the cows aren't able to produce enough milk for the farm to sell, so it's suspended shipment until more rain comes. "It's well beyond the scope of anything we could imagine," adds Silverman.
Em's generally makes ice cream at the end of each month, so the shortage comes at the worst time for Silverman, who says he has about a week's stock of ice cream left in the freezers. An immediate consequence has been that Em's is pulling out of Westword's DISH event on September 7.
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At this point, Silverman says he's just hoping for rain in California -- his supplier says the milk will flow again if it rains. But since Em's generally wraps up for the year in October, Silverman is worried that he could lose the last two months of this year's sales before Em's wraps up business until late April or early May of next year.