Chris & Wendy Pope
Like many farm diversifications, Barford Farmhouse Ice-cream was conceived out of need rather than desire. Chris and Wendy Pope realised that to leave their son a profitable business with a bright future they needed to start adding value to the raw commodity produced on their farm.
In May 2006 the Popes gave themselves just five years to build a sustainable business. As dairy farmers with a herd of 200 high-yielding Holstein Friesian cows milk was the commodity they had to work with.
Today Barford Farmhouse Ice-cream manufactures a wide variety of ice-creams and fruit sorbets for the retail and wholesale markets. But as with many others who have pursued new and alternative enterprises, getting the business started was not a straightforward process.
Gaining the necessary planning permission was the biggest hurdle the Popes faced. Achieving it within a restricted time frame was also critical should the process be delayed it would have meant missing the deadline for grant assistance through the Rural Enterprise Scheme.
However, the Popes persevered and after six months, two planning applications and a personal visit from the county council planning controller, planning permission was granted, albeit with a number of restrictions.
Turning milk in to premium ice-cream, however, was not a process familiar to them. Several training courses later and having gained the necessary accreditation under the relevant food preparation and hygiene legislation the business was under way.
To establish the business the Popes invested over £100,000 in suitable equipment and machinery. With the business now ready to increase production, new equipment has been purchased to facilitate continued business growth.
In addition to 10 farm shops, Barford Farmhouse Ice-cream is used by over 70 pubs, hotels and restaurants all guaranteeing regular custom. It also supplies a Thai restaurant with a made-to-order coconut ice-cream. “No one else makes it, so we said we would,” said Chris Pope.
And they have made good progress in grasping the tourist trade. On the Kingston Lacy estate with the popular Stourhead House attraction, it enjoys good promotion from the Trust and a regular flow of visitors throughout the summer months.
Efforts to sustain growth through the development of stable markets have also proved successful. If a market for ice-cream or sorbets exists in the locality the Popes have plans to target it. As a result the business is on course to deliver a three-fold increase in profits over the next five years through greater penetration of the tourist market, festivals and special events and the catering sector.
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