The Producers: Caroline's Dairy
PUBLISHED: 01:16 15 June 2011 | UPDATED: 21:34 20 February 2013
Caroline's Dairy started making their delicious ice cream in 2008. Since then they have expanded production and won awards. Kate Eastman picked up her spoon and went to find out more
Caroline's Dairy is part of Chalder Farm in the beautiful village of Sidlesham just south of Chichester. Caroline Spiby has been making ice cream with her husband Chris since 12 July 2008 when the first batch was produced.
For several years we considered various ways to market some of our produce directly to our consumers and reduce our reliance on the tiny margin allowed to us by wholesaling our milk, explains Caroline.
Making ice cream has been a dream of mine, it has taken seven years for it to become a reality. In September 2007 I persuaded my husband Chris that it was the right time to start, as both our boys would be in full time school the following year.
Caroline and Chris did look into making cheese and went on a course but decided it was not for them. The idea of ice cream seemed the ideal solution, it suited their location as there werent any other producers in West Sussex, plus they have a large amount of local tourism.
What I love about ice cream is that its a happy product, people think of ice cream and automatically smile as it conjures up the feeling of holidays, good weather and that simple indulgence that we all deserve, describes Caroline. The first step was to convert part of the old dairy buildings into a food safe production area which took some months to complete. The machinery was then installed and we started to experiment. That was fun!
Carolines Dairy has 350 cows, milking twice a day, producing 2.8 million litres a year and 200 young stock on the farm which, says Chris, makes it a busy but very rewarding time. We now produce a total of 19 flavours in the 4 litre tubs for the catering trade, 9 of these flavours are in the 120ml pots, and 8 in the 500ml pots. We are adding lemon meringue, sea buckthorn and white mint choc chip to the 500ml range. Our most popular flavour is our royal bourbon vanilla although Belgian Chocolate and Fresh Raspberry are creeping up on it.
The dairy herd is a mixture of breeds including the Brown Swiss, which produce a particularly high quality creamy milk suitable for ice cream. The cows start being milked at 3am, Chris will collect the milk for that day at about 7.30am and then it will be pasteurised with all the other ingredients and later that day the first batch of ice cream is made.
We made about 10,000 litres last year which is amazing and we are on target to do a lot more this year, explains Caroline. We have just started to supply the National Trust local range shops for the South East which is an amazing opportunity to offer our ice cream to such a large audience. As we are growing I am able to employ some lovely local ladies from our Sidlesham village, which for me makes it more of a local product. We use local strawberries and raspberries but I have plans to make a larger variety of ice creams using other locally grown fruits to eventually have a seasonal fruit range.
Plans for this summer include selling the ice cream at their farm at Hunston just south of Chichester. This is a beautiful spot next to the Chichester Canal where Turner painted his famous picture of a ship on the canal with the cathedral in the background. They will have some calves for people to see and learn about and lots of lovely ice cream that you can eat whilst sitting next to the canal.
Life on the farm means there is never a dull moment for the Spiby family. A few weeks ago a local chef came to the farm to pick up a flavours and price list on his way home from fishing with his son, but instead of just providing the list my boys, Joseph and Samuel, and I took them both in the house for a tasting session of our ice creams which went very well, explains Caroline.
My boys then offered to show them their calves and bull which also went well until we got back to the garden gate and noticed the heifers had escaped from the barn in the yard. I shut the gate and ran, the boys followed and with the help of a neighbour who was walking her dog and the chef we got them all back in. Not quite the visit I thought they were going to have!
Carolines Dairy won the Food Producer of the Year category in the Sussex Food and Drink Awards 2010/11.
For more information on Carolines Dairy delicious ice cream visit www.carolinesdairy.co.uk