Before he was a scientist or "serial careerist," Scott Harding was an "ice-cream fan and devotee."
Before Harding composed ice-cream "formulas" on computer spreadsheets and referred to dessert in terms of "solid, liquid and gas," he churned batches by hand in a wooden bucket.
Fifteen years after receiving his first ice-cream maker, Harding applies scientific precision to his home-style harbinger of summertime.
"If you learn the science part of it, it opens up the doors to the art," says Harding, 36.
Harding's artisanal approach to organic ice cream inspired the name Artik Creamery, which has been selling cones, cups and pints at local growers markets for the past month. Harding plans to add Medford's Thursday market to his lineup this week.
"Being at the market is a wonderful thing," says Harding.
His first business model closer to the "next organic Ben & Jerry's," Harding determined — like so many start-up food manufacturers — that growers markets can serve as stepping stones to larger endeavors. The venue isn't just a retail outlet but a way for Harding to procure local ingredients for his seasonal array of flavors.
"We can just tap right into that," he says.
"He seems to have that real networking knack," says Mary Ellen DeLuca, manager of the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market.
Rhubarb for last week's Artik sorbet traveled the short distance from Talent's Rogue Valley Brambles farm to the town's Rent-A-Kitchen, where Harding makes his ice cream in an Italian gelato machine several days per week. The tart treat become Artik's best seller to date despite stiff competition from chocolate, cinnamaple and Harding's personal favorite, honey-mint with dark chocolate flakes.
"It's deeeelicious," says DeLuca of the sorbet.
Customers have just a couple more weeks to sample the sorbet before rhubarb season ends. But Harding has a repertoire of 66 other flavors, from familiar vanilla bean and strawberry to the more outrageous white pepper and tomato basil.
"I think people look for something different than they find in the store," says Harding.
Using milk and cream from the Organic Valley co-op of dairy farms, Harding brags of being the only organic, artisanal ice-cream producer between San Francisco and Seattle. To make the base, Harding adds certified-organic sugar and eggs. Flavoring agents, whether fruit, coffee, herbs or spices, also are organic, Harding says, even if the source isn't certified. Many local sources of high-quality foods, he adds, are not.
Every week, Artik offers a nondairy option, either sorbet or a version from coconut milk and cream or nut milks, some of which Harding has extracted himself. A few flavors feature maple sugar and syrup, some agave syrup.
"We're not stuck with a standard formula," Harding says. "We want to hear what people want."
Because many customers want ice cream in the traditional cone, Harding started making those, too, entirely from scratch. Cookies for ice-cream sandwiches are likely to follow this summer, he adds.
"I'm billing that as the perfect zero-waste container," Harding says of his cones. "If you don't take a napkin, you've made no trash."
Cones come at no extra charge with Artik's three sizes. A "junior" scoop costs $2.50, a single $3.50 and a double $5.50. Pint containers are $7 apiece.
Apart from nondairy flavors at Gary West Smoked Meats in Jacksonville, Harding's only points of sale are the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market, Tuesdays in Ashland and Thursdays in Medford, and Wednesday's Talent Evening Market. But Harding posts the week's flavors to his website www.artikcreamery.com and announces them via Facebook and Twitter.
Harding says he will make custom flavors to order in reasonable quantities. Call 541-708-1662 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487, or e-mail email@example.com.