Churning out a Leeds success story

Authentic Gelato ice cream, lovely coffee, children's play areas inside and outside and just five minutes from the Leeds ring road heading towards Wetherby.

The Milk Churn, opened by dairy farmers and milk producer/processors TD Goodall at Beech Grove Farm, Scarcroft in July last year certainly ticks several boxes for young mums with toddlers and the less young generations looking for a bright, new venue to visit.

Having closed for a little refurbishment and to get their breath back from an amazing summer and autumn, helped immensely by the warm weather, The Milk Churn reopens on Monday.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

In a whirlwind three years incorporating robotic milking, an anaerobic digestion plant, the Golden Cow Pat award (I kid you not), phenomenally increased milk yield from the dairy herd, an increasing return to customers moving to doorstep delivery and now handmade, artisan true Gelato ice cream offering fewer calories and lower fat than its more regular counterpart, the Goodall family has taken what was started over 100 years ago by Thomas Dunwell Goodall into unchartered waters... or milks.

Victoria Goodall at The Milk Churn and Goodall's Dairy, Scarcroft, Leeds. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Today brother and sister Edward and Victoria Goodall run the farm and dairy where they currently have 220 Holstein Friesian milking cows and around 450 animals on site including dry cows and young stock as well as one or two Belted Galloways and Highland cattle to add colour and provide visitors with another visual experience. They are also here because Victoria likes them.

“We are increasing our milking cow numbers to 250 by summer,” says Victoria. “Our milk production went up 30 per cent as a result of the robotic milkers and our herd average is now around 11,500 litres. We’re not pushing them at all. The ladies go to the robot when they are ready and when the weather and ground is right again they go outside. It’s an open door policy.

“We supply Dales Dairies in Grassington but half of what we produce goes in glass bottles to customers’ doorsteps from our milkmen and women. We employ some directly and others have franchises or are independents who choose to buy from us.”

This public interface of the doorstep pinta was a feature of UK milk 40 years ago with huge dairy companies such as Northern Dairies who had their head office in Hull, Express Dairies and Unigate hosting massive fleets of electric dairy floats. In 1975, 95 per cent of all liquid milk was sold in glass. This was before the plastic revolution and the move to supermarket purchases of milk in bulk.

Finally, in the past three years the dial is being reset and the doorstep pinta is back on the family agenda.

It is this resurgent interest being shown by a better-informed public that is now moving towards improved carbon footprints, greater acknowledgement of the harm being wrought on the planet and quite simply finding out that having your milk delivered direct to your door every morning is available that is not just having a positive influence on the clinking of milk bottles in neighbourhoods once again at five in the morning, it has also given the Goodalls more than just food for thought.

“Ever since David Attenborough mentioned the plastic now dumped in the oceans we have been inundated with requests for milk in bottles,” says Victoria. “Every time it is mentioned on the Blue Planet or the news there is another spike in doorstep delivery.”

In the coming months farm tours and educational visits will become another part of the farm and dairy’s expansion plans.

“We are a modern progressive farm using up-to-the-minute dairy farming technology from our robotic milking machines to automatic calf feeders and to our anaerobic digestion plant,” says Roger Fawcus, Victoria’s husband, who has taken The Milk Churn under his wing since retiring from his career in the Armed Forces.

“Ice cream manufacture is a well trodden diversification route for dairy farms, but Gelato makes our farm café and gelateria combined with our Yorkshire produce somewhat unique, certainly around here on dairy farms.

“The essential difference between Gelato and regular ice cream is it incorporates less fat. It also has less air within it and that makes it creamy without the cream in it. We’re making it as completely true Gelato having been over to the University of Gelato near Bologna in Italy.

“Diversification on farms can take many forms. We have started with a fantastic artisan, hand crafted product, but we are finding we are also benefiting from our location. We undertook what can only be described I believe as the softest of launches in July. Mums with young children found us first and because we also included playground facilities we became an instant hit with mums on social media.”

“We are not a full-blown restaurant by any means but we are committed to locally produced handmade food and everyone of any age can come and have a lunch and coffee – and a gelato! We’re also dog friendly and later this month we are hosting the Yorkshire Pug Party, but while special events and our increasing regular trade are really encouraging we are also keen to promote today’s dairy industry.

“When we talk of farm tours we’re not just thinking about toddlers being shown nice little calves, we are also aware of students coming to undertake business study cases on Gelato production and how to run a modern dairy farm.

“The anaerobic digester would certainly come into their plans for farms anywhere else,” says Victoria.

“It’s a 33KW plant that takes the slurry from the cows as a waste product, takes the methane out that is transferred to energy that now powers 85 per cent of our farm and still leaves the digestate minus the methane to go on the land as before with the same nutrients.

“We won the Golden Cow Pat award from the manufacturing company in November as the most efficient digester in the world.”