When Middlebury alumni Becky Castle ’91 and her husband Bob Clark ’89 came back to Vermont in 2011, they knew they wanted to start out working in agriculture. And, as ice cream fanatics, Clark and Castle knew they wanted to create their own unique ice cream business that would incorporate the berries grown on their farm. So in 2013, the couple began working towards their ice cream brand: Sisters of Anarchy.
The name “Sisters of Anarchy” was a fairly easy one to think of for Castle, as the couple had always called their three daughters by this name. “It sort of ties in with the whole women’s empowerment piece because it’s very in your face and a lot of the people that we feature and highlight are women that are really pushing the boundaries,” Castle said. She mentions how she wants her daughters to understand this messaging as well by breaking boundaries and questioning things they think are not right.
The Vermont-based Sisters of Anarchy Ice Cream boasts 22 different flavors of ice cream, and is now sold on Middlebury’s campus at MiddXpress. Their flavors include their signature “Chocolate Anarchy” as well as the Dolly Parton-inspired “Nine to Five,” the wine-flavored “Whiner” and “Beefy Blonde,” which is described on their website as “dedicated to great athletic women of substance.” This is a nod to the business’s aim of women’s empowerment. In addition to ice cream, Sisters of Anarchy also sells wellness syrups — both elderberry and aronia berry syrups.
Prior to the move back to Vermont, Clark had worked for 25 years in film and television, while Castle had long done fundraising for global health projects. But the couple wasn’t new to the agriculture industry. Clark came from a dairy-farming family in upstate New York. In 2013, the couple bought a raw, untouched piece of property. “We spent two years doing soil-health restoration with cover-cropping, like all the preparatory work to put in our first plantings, and then we planted our first berries in 2015,” Castle said.
Castle has experience running a business through consulting. “I run a consulting firm that does fundraising and partnership development for global health, and I’ve worked all over the world with that business,” Castle said. She noted how, though she had previous entrepreneurial experience, she hadn’t previously thought about working in agriculture.
Castle mentioned how her and Clark’s individual skill sets complement each other, a necessary aspect of running a growing business in the agriculture sector.
“[Agriculture] requires such a wide range of skills — you have to understand the agronomy, you have to know a lot about your specific crops, you have to understand marketing and finding markets. It requires a real renaissance person,” she said. Clark runs the overarching strategy of the business as well as the farming aspects, while Castle focuses on marketing and sales development.
Looking toward the future, the couple hopes to expand the business’s retail locations across more of the country. Sisters of Anarchy currently sells their ice cream in 26 locations across New England, including at the Skinny Pancake at the University of Vermont and now MiddXpress. “That’s probably going to double in the next 12 months. We’re really focusing a lot more on that,” Castle said.
Prior to the onset of Covid-19, the business got most of its revenue from scooping at events or at the farm.
“I think Covid made us realize that there’s a real risk in having just that one revenue channel,” Castle said.
As a result, they are looking to move the business more towards wholesale, as this would allow Sisters of Anarchy to earn much more revenue year round, rather than just during the peak scooping months of May to September. Castle predicts that their wholesale will double in the next year and then double once more in the following year.
She mentioned that the wholesale aspect of their business is dependent on being able to drop-ship to stores throughout the country, another area the couple is working toward improving. For regional orders to places like Vermont and Massachusetts, they use a Vermont non-profit Food Hub distributor called Food Connects and are planning to work with another not-for-profit food hub based in Western Massachusetts. In order to be able to fully service retail locations anywhere, the couple is exploring drop-shipping, or continuously shipping in pints of ice cream to stores across the country to keep them routinely stocked. The business currently ships small deliveries of around 6 pints of ice cream to every state in the country, but drop-shipping could allow them to ship up to 40 pints, or 40 single serves. “Then we really could service retail locations anywhere,” Castle said.
As Castle and Clark work toward building their wholesale, they share hopes that this will also bring more brand awareness. “It’s a pretty expensive gift, but I think if we have good enough brand awareness then our online sales are really going to benefit from the wholesale,” Castle said.
Through Sisters of Anarchy Ice Cream, Castle noted how she can truly explore her passion for creating something from scratch. “Everything that we use on a daily basis and that we eat, it requires somebody to make it,” she said. In her prior work, she said, her daily experience consisted of writing about doing things rather than actually doing those things.
”Now that I'm actually doing something and making a product, I think that there’s a real value in people at liberal arts colleges thinking about making something — like not just doing something in technology or writing but actually making a product,” she said.
Correction: A previous version of this article mischaracterized the distributor Food Connects. The error has been fixed.
Emily Hogan ’24 is a layout editor.
She is undeclared but is considering majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in math. She is very passionate about sustainability and enjoys learning how to be more environmentally conscious.
Hogan is from Denver, Colorado, and enjoys being outdoors skiing, hiking, and running. In addition to involvement in the Campus, she is a canoe guide for the Middlebury Mountain Club and enjoys running with MiddRuns. She also loves reading and listening to music.