The sweet flavour of success has overtaken a family farming ice cream business – so much so that the firm has shifted its emphasis.
Far from being a dairy farm that produces ice cream, Dunstaple Farm, at Holsworthy, has become an ice cream business without its own cows.
After 30 years of dairying the James family have finally said goodbye to their milking herd; the last of their 70 black and white cows left the farm last week.
The herd had been reduced gradually, as the ice cream business, which is run entirely from the farm, grew steadily in size, now sending produce all over the South West.
“We’re not going worldwide yet – but that’s a target,” said Tom James.
The burgeoning business produces luxury dairy ice cream which is made using fresh milk, clotted and double cream and natural flavours and colours. It is available in no less than 35 flavours and packed for the wholesale, retail and catering trade. Mr James explained they produce about 300,000 litres of ice cream annually.
Dunstaple Farm is a member of the marketing organisation Taste of the West, and last week attended the Expowest Westcountry Food and Catering Trade Show, at Westpoint, Exeter.
While it is, sadly, all too common these days to hear of the demise of family dairy-farming businesses – overcome by the pressures on forage, grazing, feed costs, spiralling energy prices and added bureaucracy – the tale is reversed at Dunstaple Farm.
With milk production having been the main source of revenue, Mr James, together with his wife, brother, sister-in-law and children, started to produce their own homemade ice cream on the farm in 1999.
From humble beginnings, they have built up a customer base of over 300 in the wholesale market, selling and delivering to hotels, cafes, restaurants and high street shops. They have also established a retail operation, selling directly to the public.
Gradually the business became the main operation – and so successful that the dairy herd was reduced and then disappeared, so the family could concentrate on their core business. Milk is now being sourced from outside farms and producers, but all from within a short distance of Dunstaple Farm.
The James’ two teenage daughters Beth, 15, and Molly, 13, are the chief tasters for all the different flavours that the family produces . . . and are in charge of quality control.
Without the dairy herd, the farmland, which is owned by Mrs James’ father, will be let.
As an indication of the go-ahead nature of the business, the farm has just invested an undisclosed sum in a new wind turbine renewable-energy programme, which provides electricity for the whole enterprise including the ice cream operation, leaving a surplus 25% that is sold to the National Grid.