The story of Marshfield Farm Ice Cream is one of passion, hard work and the freshest farm ingredients. The ice cream business began in 1988 when Will and Dawn Hawking diversified – so as well as continuing to farm the land and milk their herd of Friesian cows, they began using some of the cows’ milk to produce and sell ice creams.
The story begins when Will’s parents first came to Marshfield Farm in 1971. Times were hard, but they were young and enthusiastic. Will’s father would milk their small dairy herd of 50 Friesian cows out in the field in a mobile milking parlour. On cold mornings it would take him several hours just to defrost the pipes before milking could even begin!
By the time Will came home from college in the mid 1980s the farm was pretty well established. Will needed something to keep him busy on the farm … he had an idea. The herd had doubled in size and there was plenty of fresh milk about. Will had always been mad about ice cream. When he was at school he set up his own ice cream business, selling ice creams to his friends. So he decided to combine his two life-long passions – farming and ice cream. How hard could it be?
Things didn’t start too well. The first problem was that Will had no money. The second was that he didn’t have the first idea about food preparation, let alone ice cream making! But with some help from his mother, a few books and a health & hygiene course, he slowly started to realise his dream and production got under way. Will married Dawn in 1991 and together they ran the ice cream business as a hobby in their spare time. He was farming full time and she was a full-time physiotherapist so there wasn’t a huge amount of time left to dedicate to their ice cream business. But they squeezed in as much time as they could, and gradually they started selling to more and more local shops. When they were chosen to supply ice cream to The Pump Rooms at The Roman Baths in the City of Bath Will and Dawn realised that they had something really special and they could make the business a viable one. In those early days Will drove up to London in an old farm truck with a freezer strapped to the back to deliver ice creams to outlets in the city.
The very first flavour they made was vanilla. This was followed by strawberry and chocolate. And these flavours are still the most popular out of Marshfield’s current range of 28 ice creams and six sorbets.
A lot has changed since then and this year Marshfield Farm Ice Cream is celebrating 25 years of ice cream making. At full capacity 2,500 litres of ice cream is made every hour – that’s enough to fill 30 bathtubs every hour! 28 different flavours of ice cream are produced, all in a converted cow shed on the farm, and all made with fresh organic milk produced by the cows. In fact the ‘cow to cone’ process is so speedy that you can be enjoying a scoop of ice cream on the same day as the cow was milked! These days you’ll find Marshfield Farm ice creams in some really unusual places – in staff canteens at the BBC, on-board cruise ships in the Norwegian fjords, on beach resorts in Portugal and at tourist spots such as Kensington Palace, The Barbican and Bristol Zoo. But while Will and Dawn have tweaked and improved their flavours over the years, they still stick to their original ethos of creating pure ice creams made with fresh milk and all-natural ingredients sourced as locally as possible. There are now 300 cows on the 1,000 acre farm and a third of the milk they produce goes into the ice creams. In 1999 the farm became organic, certified by The Soil Association. This means they look after the environment and aim to be as sustainable and self-sufficient as possible. Today more than 20 staff now help it all running smoothly.