As Britain’s dairy farming stands on the brink of collapse over low milk prices and rising production costs, a Denby Dale couple are challenging the market with new products. ANDREW BALDWIN reports.

‘Louise and I wanted a modern twist to the business and to reflect changes in farming.’

WITH agriculture in a state of flux, it is more important than ever that farmers diversify.

Jeremy Holmes and his wife Louise are on board the revolution – with their own brand of luxury ice cream.

Their move comes as the number of dairy farms in Yorkshire and the north-east continues to fall, from 2,371 to 1,367 in 10 years.

The decline is escalating as dairy farmers rapidly leave the industry due to low milk prices and soaring production costs.

Jeremy and Louise, who have 250 acres of grazing land at Delph House Farm on the outskirts of Denby Dale, are determined to be among those who survive.

Increasing numbers of visitors are making the trip to the farm or delicatessens to sample the wares of their Yummy Yorkshire Ice Cream Company churned from the farm’s own herd of 150 Friesians.

The couple, both 37, are part of a new breed of Yorkshire farmers, who are finding exciting ways to add value to their traditional products. And in an increasingly tough industry, creative thinking is becoming the only way to make a living from the land.

Jeremy is delighted with the success so far and is expecting business to rise with a new ice cream parlour due to open in the summer for customers.

He says: “Representing the third generation of farmers at Delph House Farm, my wife Louise and I wanted a modern twist to the business and to reflect the changes in farming.

“We are delighted with the response that our ice cream has attracted so far and being enjoyed by customers who appreciate its fresh ingredients and creamy taste.

“The milk used is processed from the cow to the bottle within 90 minutes and then used in our ice cream, so you can’t get much fresher than that.”

He’s certainly not the first to branch out into something different, but it is become more of a necessity nowadays as farmers say they make a loss of 3p on every litre of milk they supply.

Wife Louise was instrumental in coming up with the decision to add ice cream to their activities.

Thirteen flavours have been introduced including midnight mint, caramel fudge made with clotted cream, marmalade cheesecake and banofee pie.

The couple describe their product as a traditional ice cream with a silky smooth texture and creamy taste which uses fresh local ingredients wherever possible.

They have forged links with other Yorkshire suppliers for the fresh strawberries, lemon curd and liquorice they use.

Plans are in hand to sell their ice cream at the forthcoming Honley and Emley shows and the Huddersfield Food Festival.

But Jeremy and Louise are not banking their hopes on ice cream alone.

Louise says: “We also produce our own fresh fruit, chocolate and vanilla milkshakes via our other venture, Jem and Ju’s Milkshakes.

“Yummy Yorkshire ice cream is just another example of our commitment to evolve and expand our product ranges.”

For the last five or six years, farmers have been getting 18p a litre for their milk, when it can cost up to 21p a litre to produce.

In reality, they need between 23p and 25p minimum – the gap resulting in up to three dairy farmers a day going out of business in some area.

A new report published last month highlighted the precarious condition of British dairy farming and called for a ‘fair trade’ price to be paid to farmers for their milk.

Peter Humphreys, chief executive of First Milk, a co-op with 2,600 members says: “For many dairy farmers, we are at a pivotal moment.”