A CLA father and son team is maximising their farm’s milk yield by producing a range of dairy-based products.
Fourth-generation dairy farmer Steve Morris and his son Paul manage the 122-acre Wraysholme Tower Farm, near Flookburgh in Grange-over-Sands, with an additional 100 acres rented out. Steve’s great-grandfather bought the farm in 1912 after farming it.
Together they manage a dairy herd of around 100 pedigree Holstein Friesians, of which 85 are milked. It was during Covid that the farm started to make the most of its milk yield, and Steve and Paul decided to branch out into producing a range of ice cream, yoghurt, cream, butter and milk products.
Integral to the farm and the creamery’s brand is a 13th-century Grade II* listed Pele Tower, believed to have been built by the Harrington family of Gleaston.
Paul came up with the idea of the creamery after researching how to make ice cream and other dairy-based products. Steve says: “Like all dairy farmers, we were struggling to pay the bills due to milk prices, and my son had virtually seen me in tears every month trying to pay the bills.
“We had a very bad year in 2020 – I had a double heart bypass, and my wife died two days later. While I was mentally processing these events, Paul came to see me with his idea of diversifying our dairy farm to make our own ice cream, yoghurt and other dairy products. For every excuse I had not to do it, he had three answers for me. He had done his homework.”
Steve was concerned about the costs associated with buying machinery and re-purposing the old dairy where they could skim and process the cream. Shortly after they’d discussed the idea, Covid business loans were announced, and they successfully applied for £50,000 for the project.
Open for business
Paul took ice cream and yoghurt-making courses and started selling ice cream from the creamery’s back door over Christmas 2020.
“People were desperate to find out what we were doing because they’d been stuck in their homes during Covid,” says Steve. “Despite it being winter, we sold 87 litres of ice cream on the coldest day in February.
“In 2022, things were going well, and we decided to have a proper ice cream parlour instead of selling our products from the creamery’s back door. Paul’s girlfriend spotted an eBay advert for a portable café, fully kitted with fridges, freezers and the like. We made an offer, which was accepted at just £25,000.”
Transporting the 48ft long, 13ft wide unit from Inverness to south Cumbria was a challenge – even the experienced heavy haulier had issues with the size of the structure, which required a police escort. Steve and Paul had to remove its roof to make it 4.5 inches narrower so it would fit through the buildings in Flookburgh, as well as preparing the farm road and navigating a phone line, which had to be lifted out of the way.
The Ice Cream Farm Shop is open from 11am to 5pm every day and is staffed by Steve’s partner Jeanette, who is in an ongoing friendly rivalry with Paul to see who can make the best cheesecake.
Wraysholme Creamery’s product range soon became renowned for its quality. TV presenter Helen Skelton’s film crew spent a day filming at the farm for Channel 5’s This Week on the Farm, and after the programme aired, the website received more than 200 hits, with enquiries from as far afield as Devon.
There were also enquiries from the four-star Michelin restaurant L’Enclume, whose chef Simon Rogan was interested in the farm’s milk and yoghurt. Steve says: “This was a massive boost to our ego, and to this day, we supply them with our products. We also supply to a local bakery, farm and delicatessen shops.”
Wraysholme Creamery was also featured in British photographer Amy Bateman’s collection Forty Farms – conversations about change in the landscapes in Cumbria, a copy of which is on display in the ice cream parlour. Following customer compliments, Paul and Steve decided to take their products to shows, and in 2022 entered a selection of ice creams, yoghurts, butter, cream and milk at the Great Yorkshire Show.
Steve says: “My son always winds me up, so when he told me we had been awarded three bronzes and three silvers, I didn’t believe him. And when it turned out to be true, I nearly fell on my back - no doubt we had upset a lot of people in Yorkshire. We entered again this year and won a gold for our butters.”
Wraysholme Creamery has produced around 5,000 mini and 500 one-litre ice cream tubs in the last year, on top of local demand for butter, yoghurt, cream and skimmed milk. Nearby Holker Farm uses its dairy to produce halloumi cheese. Steve and Paul approach the business in a measured way. Steve says: “In addition to our creamery products, we still sell to the tanker, and we look forward to getting our cheque mid-month."
Paul and I want to maintain the quality of the milk used in making our products rather than increasing quantity. We breed our cows more like Friesians and less like Holsteins, so we have very high butter fats and proteins
Steve, Jeanette and Paul have many ideas for the future but will bide their time until they can afford to pursue other avenues. Future possibilities include improvements to their existing operations and potentially a bottling plant.
Visit wraysholmecreamery.co.uk to find out more from the family farm.