Photo and words by Sage Miller
A red, barn-like building with a little paved driveway loop leading up to it, sits in the town of Pittsford. As you move towards the building, there is a little shed in the middle of the oval beneath the trees. That shed keeps calves during the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. People are able to visit them, as well as purchase trees and wood carvings from a local lumberjack. To the right, is the house that the head owner, Mr. Charles Corby’s, father and mother live in. Samuel Hildreth built this house in 1820, where Mr. Corby grew up with both of his parents. As you look further down, there is a red building that looks like it keeps cows or horses. The barn was rebuilt in the spring of 1972, where they milked cows for the next 18 years. Mr. Corby says that they have plans to milk cows again someday. Approaching the entrance, you come across a beautiful garden and wooden benches. The smell of cinnamon, honey, and sugar pulls you in, making you wonder what this old-fashioned place has to offer. It seems to draw many in, whether those people are local or tourists. The place is welcoming, open every day of the week from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM, and offers unique produce. With some food made from scratch and some received locally, the Pittsford Dairy has a plethora of items that are not mainstream. Being a well known and popular place for a treat, the Pittsford Dairy offers many options for those of all ages.
The Pittsford Dairy was established in the 1860s. It was a Shetland pony farm in the early 1800s. Mr. Corby states, “The Shetland pony farm was a great importance because there was a large amount of revenue generated that enabled the owners of the farms at the time to build a wonderful group of buildings and clear well over 200 acres to start farming and support much of the feed to the growing herd.” In 1880, it became an established dairy farm; around that time, there were 50 to 100 cows at the farm. There used to be a white shack outside that the family owned in 1888. In the 1900’s they did home delivery, transporting the milk by horse and buggy. In addition, there was a retail store that sold dairy items such as eggs, cheese and milk that was around in the 1900s all the way up until 2012. Eventually, they decided to build a new building, which is now the current Pittsford Dairy.
I visited the Pittsford Dairy twice; the first time, I talked with the owner’s daughter, Ms. Emma Corby; and the second time, I had a conversation with the owner himself, Mr. Corby. As I entered, I saw pies, bread, muffins, maple syrup, canned honey, maple herbal tea, apple sauce, plum butter, grape topping and filling, pasta, maple coated dog biscuits, almond butter and much more all set on wooden shelves or boxes. Charles said that the majority of their produce is from local businesses, or homemade. For example, they have “Ithaca Hummus;” the maple syrup is from Merle Maple, which is in Attica, NY; the bread and rolls are from St. Bakery on Park Avenue; the fried cakes, and apple cider is from Shutt’s Apple Mill in Webster, NY; and the pasta is from Flour City Pasta, which is in Rochester. There are also some select items that they carry from local suppliers that are vegan-approved.
Opposite the entrance are freezers with different types of milk, such as fat free skim, 2% reduced fat, whole, and chocolate. There is also eggnog, and creams. They have glass bottles for milk which is a $1 deposit; however, when you bring the bottle back, you get your $1 back. They are then put in a bottle washer, and reuse it. This is a great way to keep the custom of using milk bottles, as well as being resourceful.
Next to that, is a bakery section that is made up of the following: frosted cookies, fried cakes, coffee cake, ganache brownies, raspberry linzer tarts, coconut macaroons, chocolate mousse, raspberry almond tarts and much more. Mr. Corby mentions how most of the baked goods are for vegetarians. As you go down the line, there is an ice cream, milkshake, floats, banana split and sundae section. Here, there are many options to choose from like butter pecan, cherry vanilla, chocolate almond fudge, maple walnut, raspberry sorbet, strawberry, among others. As you exit, there is a café where you can order brewed coffee, tea, espresso drinks, frozen lattes and non-coffee drinks.
There were many workers at different counters to help customers purchase different items. Next to the counters, or hanging from the ceiling were chalkboards with the prices listed on it. I sat down to eat my glazed doughnut and saw there were freezers along the back that held orange juice, apple cider, eggs, greek yogurt, buttermilk, unsalted and salted butter, cow milk yogurt and an array of different types of milk. Around me, there were a variety of people there who were of different cultures, ages and dress. There were families with little kids, elderly people and couples socializing in the dining area. Next to me were milk can seats that are set up along the table. Mr. Corby says that they used to use them to transport the milk from the dairy barn to the bottling area, where they would bottle the milk into containers.
Above me, was a milk glass chandelier. Mr. Corby says that the glass bottles were used for about 120 years, and raw milk was put in the bigger glass jug in the middle. On top of freezers, there are painted wooden cows, milk jugs, milk crates and milk bottles. There are also long and short sleeve shirts that come in blue or red that say “Pittsford Farms Dairy, Pittsford, New York,” with a cow in the middle. There is definitely an old fashioned and traditional feel to this place. With the wooden floors, food holders and chalk boards, the place seems to continue its history.
Ms. Corby is a junior at Sutherland High School. She said how she likes the place, and that it’s mostly homemade out of wood, with the family’s design. In addition, it is local; everything is made there, and all the employees are friendly. Mr. Corby states, “We get our milk from three to four local farms, and we pasteurize it here.” When talking with Mr. Corby, he said they pasteurize their milk differently compared to other businesses. Instead of heating it at 180 degrees for 15-16 seconds, they heat it at about 145 degrees for half an hour. They do this process in the “milk processing plant in the back,” he says. This is called “vet pasteurization,” and is the old way of doing it. He states the benefits of doing this is that “the sugars in the milk get a more caramelized flavor, and going to a lower temperature doesn’t denature the proteins.” He also mentioned how they have cream topped milk, which is just pasteurized. Meaning, it is not homogenized, or uniformed milk. It is called “old fashioned cream milk.”
Ms. Corby’s job is scooping out ice cream, and refilling the freezer with the variety of ice cream flavors. She says they have “90 or more different flavors.” The ice cream is in quart sized containers. There is pumpkin, caramel apple, cookie monster, maple walnut, cow tracks, peanut butter and banana, blueberry banana sorbet, and several more. There are also unique flavors like blue moo, which is vanilla cake batter flavored ice cream with rainbow sprinkles. Overall, she says the place has gotten a lot bigger, there have been more customers and more people have asked for the wholesale, buying produce in larger quantities.
Visiting the Pittsford Dairy was a worthwhile experience. From walking around the store to see the variety of produce, to learning about the unique way they pasteurize milk, the place carries its traditions and continues to please people with its local, homemade and non-commercial assortment of produce. As one can imagine, the Pittsford Dairy offers copious choices for those of all ages.