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The Bluebell Dairy Team

Bluebell Dairy, Brunswood Farm, Derbyshire

RATHER than give up on dairy production, Rosemary Brown and family searched for a form of diversification which would enable them to carry on producing milk.

After realising their farm’s location, a mile away from Derby, had 750,000 people living within a 10-mile radius, they sent out a questionnaire to 1,000 local homes to quiz them on whether or not they ate ice cream and if they would be interested in a local attraction.

Rosemary says: “Even if we only attracted 1 per cent of the local population, it would be a start.”

The family secured £10,000 from the New Technology Initiative and £178,000 from the Rural Development Programme for England, which paid for equipment and the conversion of farm buildings to accommodate an ice cream production unit and a cafe to seat 24 people.

This was in 2007 and the business has grown and withstood challenges to enjoy year-on-year growth.

Rosemary says: “We have to have a strong eye for figures. If something is not working we change it. Money is tight for us, so we have to be reactive and manage things carefully.”

Despite starting with just two wholesale customers, the family now has 150, including most National Trust properties in Derbyshire.

But the dairy business is still at the heart of everything they do.

A permanent farm walk has been created on the 152-hectare (375-acre) site to educate consumers about farming and the wildlife the family works hard to support through its Higher Level Stewardship agreement.

The success of the ice cream business has seen investment in a raw milk vending machine and, hopefully, a robotic milking parlour in the future.