Marshfield Farm sits eight miles north of the City of Bath on the edge of the rolling Cotswold Hills. The farm comprises over 1,100 acres of land on which we grow crops and rear dairy cows.
We are a working farm that also produces ice cream; every process is carried out on the farm itself and we’re proud our dairy heritage remains strong across our business.
We grow the food for the cows, the cows graze the pastures and produce the milk that goes into the ice creams. The ice cream and sorbets are all made in a converted cowshed on the farm and stored in freezers in another farm building. Finally, the finished product is enjoyed in our new ice cream parlour on the farm or transported to shops and tourist sites nationwide. We like to use the phrase “Cow to Cone” to describe this process; watch our story on the video below.
In 1987, we converted the farm to organic. The farm is run in accordance with Soil Association standards, meaning animal welfare, self-sufficiency and sustainability are our top priorities.
“For organic dairy farmers, the health and welfare of the cows is their key concern. Our dairy farmers do a brilliant job and by choosing organic dairy, you can be confident that the milk you’re buying is from healthy, well-cared-for cows.” – Soil Association
Our farm lies on classic Cotswold brash that is very free draining; this allows us to keep our cows outdoors for much longer than in other parts of the country. We have over 250 Friesian cows who graze free on the lush meadows for nine months of the year and housed indoors over the winter.
Watch our video below to see our herd going back out onto our lush meadows for Spring back in 2019.
Life on the Farm
We grow a range of organic crops including wheat, barley and oats – in fact, 95% of the food our cows need is grown on our fields. Less grass grows in the winter months and therefore if the cows were kept outside they would churn up the fields and be unable to take in essential nutrients and energy that fresh grass provides. The farmers therefore keep the cows out on the fields for as long as possible, and then they are housed across 3 cow barns where they are fed on organic silage. Silage is cultivated from grass on the farm and kept under weighted sheets; this is made from a mixture of minerals, vitamins, organic soya and our own grass, oats, barley and wheat.
Each cow drinks around 80 litres of water a day – that’s about a bathtub full! Our own boreholes on the farm (the first dug in 2008 and the second 2016) serve all their water requirements. All waste produced by the cows (aka cow pats!) is made into compost and returned to the soil to improve its fertility. The milk our cows produce is the main ingredient in our ice creams – on average, more than 50% of every scoop is made from our own organic milk. A single cow will produce up to 50 litres of milk every day. About two thirds of the milk produced goes into our ice creams – the rest is sent to local dairies to be bottled. To find out more about our organic milk please see our News article ‘Real Dairy Ice Cream with No Compromise’.
We endeavour to keep our herd of cows healthy and disease free. Organic guidelines stipulate that farmers minimise their use of antibiotics, therefore ‘blanket’ treating a herd of cows with antibiotics is prohibited. The outputs in organic farming are lower than conventional farming – in our case this means lower milk production. This means a better quality of life and less stress on the cow which can often lower the incidence of disease. Inside the barns each cow lays on a rubber mattress with a layer of straw (which is a by-product of the oats we grow) to help protect the cow’s joints and muscles. We have automatic slurry cleaners which run through the barns to clear any excess cow waste, and alongside our automatic cow cleaning machine, we keep our cows clean and as accommodating as possible.
Organic farming also encourages a return of wild flowers and wildlife. Organic farming means we farm without the use of artificial fertilisers or pesticides, and instead we keep the soil fertile with manure from our cows, crop rotation, fallow periods for fields, and planting clover to fix nitrogen from the air. A study in The Journal of Applied Ecology in 2005 suggested that organic farms have 50% more wildlife than non-organic farms. By our count, we have over 70 different bird species on the farm. These include Skylarks, Lapwings, Fieldfares, English Partridges and Reed Buntings. Water voles live on the banks of our streams and our healthy population of hares put on a great show during the breeding season. Muntjac and roe deer can often be seen grazing near the woods in the early morning. Every now and again we get a stray cat setting up home in one of the farm buildings – they live on saucers of calf milk and a few local mice!
We share the land with a variety of wildlife and actively encourage the proliferation of both fauna and flora. We still retain many of the original hedges, which were planted in the 1860s. We employ traditional hedge trimming practices that contribute to the beauty of the landscape and provide an excellent habitat for birds, insects and small animals. Hedge trimming takes place outside the bird breeding season to prevent disruption to breeding. Wildflowers are encouraged around hedges and a pond has been created to provide a habitat for a variety of species including dragonflies and herons. Ongoing tree planting of native species is practiced on the farm and we boast a number of ancient oaks.
Here’s a bit about the measures we’ve taken to be at the forefront of green energy on the farm and in the ice cream factory…
Wood pellet boiler:
Our wood pellet boiler was installed in December 2012 and is 100% carbon neutral. The boiler uses sustainable wood from the New Forest and now heats all the water used in our milking parlour, ice cream factory and office. Thanks to Soil Association in Bristol for supplying our latest bit of green kit.
Heat Recovery System:
When our cows are milked, their milk comes out warm (37degrees). This heat is recovered or ‘captured’ using our heat exchanger. It is then used to heat the water needed to wash down the milking parlour every day. This saves 70% of the energy required to heat the water before we clean the parlour. At the same time this process serves to cool the milk, which saves on cooling costs.
Borehole: The borehole on our farm provides all the water we use on the farm and in the office. This means we avoid needing to have water pumped to us from a distant reservoir.
Food miles: With over 50% of every Marshfield Farm Ice Cream scoop made from our own organic milk, we are low on food miles as our primary ingredient travels only a few meters from the dairy to the factory. We always use local dairies for our double cream and clotted cream, British sugar from local wholesalers and baked inclusions are from local bakeries like Halls Bakery. We buy 100% of our packaging from UK suppliers and, with our large warehouse space, we buy this in bulk meaning fewer lorries are delivering to the farm.
Cold stores: The walls in our cold stores (where we keep the finished ice creams and sorbets) are incredibly efficient at holding in the temperature, so there’s minimal loss of energy.
Wind turbine: Sadly our application for installing a wind turbine to supply all our electricity were turned down. But we are always on the lookout for new sustainable energy installations that will make us even more energy efficient.
Invertors: Many of our electric motors and pumps are fitted with variable speed controllers (invertors) which reduce electric consumption by up to 80%.
LED Lighting: In 2018 we converted all our light fixtures across the business to LED bulbs. This includes the farm, factory, warehouse, offices and parlour. LED lighting uses significantly less energy than traditional bulbs, research has found this can be up to a 75% improvement. A further benefit is the lifespan of LEDs, with reports showing LED bulbs to last 40 times as along as the average incandescent bulb.
Adiabatic Coolers: We reduce our energy output with the use of adiabatic coolers in the factory. Adiabatic cooling is the process of reducing heat through a change in air pressure caused by volume expansion. Research has found that these units can save more that 40% in electricity.
Solar panels (green energy!): Electricity is our biggest bill on the farm as we store ice cream in freezers at -28 degrees, therefore in the middle of a summer heat wave our electricity usage proves very expensive! While our application for a wind turbine was turned down as the farm land is classified as outstanding natural beauty, we invested in our first bulk of solar panels in 2011.
Solar panels are one of the purest ways to harness energy and solar energy is truly a renewable energy source. Unlike other forms of energy, we cannot run out of solar energy (we even generate energy on cloudy and rainy days!) Over the years we have been able to invest further in this form of green energy, meaning we generate 120kw of solar energy using photovoltaic solar panels across our barn and factory roofs. Our solar panels now run across four south-facing roofs and accounts to approximately 20% of all our electricity requirements. We are now at maximum capacity of solar panels that the grid will allow.
Plastic and our Packaging
As a business we’ve been in talks for the past year on the best cause of action for our packaging. While black plastic is recyclable, some councils refuse the product and therefore the lid is sent to landfill. Due to hygiene specifications we’re unable to change our lids to cardboard (mainly because the lid just falls off!) Therefore we hope making a small change from black plastic to clear makes a big impact.
All our ice cream packaging is 100% recyclable and should be placed in the correct recycling bins for your area. We work with a local recycling business to recycle the waste plastic we use in our own parlour, and we encourage all our customers to reduce the use of single-use plastic by switching to paper and wooden spoons where appropriate. We aim to constantly update our consumers and stockists of any changes made to our product, follow us on Facebook for our latest news.
On the farm all our cardboard is bailed, this is then sent to recycling centres. We are unable to control the packaging from external suppliers, therefore by doing this it means we avoid excess packaging ending in landfill. We are also able to do this with plastic.