January 1, 2011

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Around Utah
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Michael Farr

Bringing Innovation to Family Tradition

Tom Haraldsen

January 1, 2011

Like any young boy, Michael Farr wanted to be a lot like his father—following in his footsteps, emulating his job. But unlike many of his childhood friends, Farr’s aspirations were coupled with a passion for something almost everyone loves—ice cream. He and his younger brothers, Darin and Nathan, grew up as part of the Farr’s Ice Cream family, a business that recently celebrated its 90th anniversary as a manufacturer of the frozen treat. And like his family before him, Michael Farr has never been content to rest on the company’s laurels. “We’re constantly adjusting,” he says. His great-grandfather Asael Farr began harvesting ice during the winters at the turn of the century (about 1895). As summers arrived, blocks of ice were sold from horse-drawn wagons on the streets of Ogden. In 1920, the Farr family constructed the first commercial ice plant in a five state area, and introduced “Farr Better Ice.” Seven years later, when GE introduced the world’s first refrigerator, the market for ice began to dwindle, and the Farr family converted their ice plants into ice cream plants. “I started working at the plant when I was 12,” Farr recalls. “That summer, my dad offered me a chance to do some yard work. So I cut the lawn, weeded the flowers and hosed down the parking lot. I’d go to work with him every day from 8 a.m. to noon, and my ‘pay’ was usually an ice cream cone of my choice, plus $1.15 an hour!” As the business grew, Farr also grew more involved. “It was not a given that I’d stay working in the business,” he says, but after finishing a college degree and serving a two-year LDS mission, Farr found himself returning to the factory. “The assumption was that I’d come home and go into law,” he says. “By the time I came home, I decided I wanted to stay in the family business.” Today, he serves as president of the region’s top ice cream manufacturer. Brothers Darin and Nathan, both vice presidents, work hand in hand with Farr as they continue to grow the Farr’s Ice Cream brand, which is distributed to retail outlets throughout the west. Last year, the company started a new venture—Farr’s Fresh Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt Cafes. The franchise business, which has five locations in Utah with three more under construction or design, will also be expanded throughout the country in the next few years. “We offer our Farr’s Fresh ice cream, non-fat frozen yogurt and frozen custard, all in a self-serve concept,” Farr explains. “We watch our industry and know that for regional manufacturers like us to be valid and stable, we have to also turn to retail. We’re very excited about the cafes—how they’ve performed and how they will continue to grow.” Will there be a fifth generation of Farrs running the operation? Farr says neither he nor his brothers know for sure what their children will do. “I do know that we have a sense of legacy here that many businesses don’t have,” he says. “I think we all feel like it has to continue to be done the right way. Ice cream is happy—it’s consumed for happy occasions like birthdays, weddings and family nights…in our own small way, we shape what will be fond memories for people. When you do that, it makes going to the office fun.”
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