Back in 2003, dairy farmers Sarah and Stephen Crooke, who have owned their property in the in northeast Victoria region of Gundowring for 36 years now, came to the conclusion that they wanted to utilise the milk their farm produced in a different way. They wanted to add value to the quality of the product and bring out its best.
“Dad wanted to do something with the milk – and cheese and butters are already done well around here – so he and mum thought about ice creams,” says Sarah and Stephen’s son, James.
The couple made a batch of ice cream and sold it to the local farmers’ market, and the response from their customers was positive enough for them to keep going and to start experimenting with different ingredients and flavours. “A lot of people grow great produce around here,” says James. “So accessing seasonal, quality ingredients is pretty easy.”
The oranges for the orange and cardamom flavour are plucked from the tree on the family farm, raspberries are from the nearby town of Stanley and the chocolate (for the extraordinarily rich and delicious chocolate ice cream) is Callebaut. Some of the flavours are seasonal, such as rhubarb and fig, while others are perennial.
As the business grew “in leaps and bounds”, James – who was studying landscape architecture in Melbourne – kept being called home on weekends to help with demand. It got to the stage where his parents invited him, along with his wife Iris, to join them in running the small enterprise.
They now sell their ice creams to an array of shops around Melbourne (which are listed on their website) and still make the ice cream in relatively small batches. “We’ve gone from churning 10 litres at a time to churning 35 litres, just one batch at a time,” James explains.
While it’s at the pricier end of the frozen dessert market, Gundowring is a winning argument for getting what you pay for. The luscious creamy texture, the freshness of the ingredients and the fact that a family are making the product using their own cows on their own farm, makes the experience priceless.