So why did we start making ice cream at the farm? Why do we have a Butcher's Shop and a Local Food Shop? Why do we have a cafe? Is the farm still farming in the traditional sense?
When my Grandfather bought the farm in 1948, it was considered to be sizeable and certainly economically viable. During that post war period, farming did enjoy good times, however since the 1970s it has taken a bit of a battering. Incomes have fallen and farms have had to increase in size and specialize in order to survive.
My father took over the farm in the 1970s and specialized in dairy. It was hoped that this would provide an income for him and my brother Allan. Initially, it was a good move but when milk quotas were imposed upon the industry in 1984, a 9% reduction on production was imposed and a ceiling was placed on the farms income overnight. It was clear to the family that another route had to be found to ensure the farms financial survival. One answer could be diversification, a relatively new word in the farming world at the time, but one which has become very well known since.
Lots of different options were investigated and it was decided that ice cream was a good place to start. Production at the farm started with humble beginnings, using very basic machinery and limited experience but it went down a storm with everyone who tried it. The business grew, and we invested in better machinery, set up a hole in the wall kiosk on the farm to sell the ice cream and bought a van to transport the ice cream to the growing number of commercial customers. We kept on developing new flavours, which continues to be an important factor today, each new one requiring a sampling process to ensure satisfaction (its a tough life!!).
Although the ice cream was a huge success, I thought we could do better. It was decided to convert a barn into an ice cream parlour and cafe. So with plans drawn up and passed, work commenced early in 2001. Then, foot and mouth reared its very ugly head on a neighbouring farm. Things like this concentrate the mind! Needless to say, this caused confusion as well as large delays, not the best of starts.
The building project took longer than we planned and to cut a long story short, we opened the Pudding House as we had affectionately named it on the 17th March 2005.
Running concurrently to the above, my brother Allan, who with my father was running the farm, decided that he should start to market the meat that he was rearing on the farm, more proactively. After talking to customers who had come to buy the ice cream (to have the cow to cone experience), he discovered that they would also buy his meat (the farm to fork experience). Hence the Traditional Breeds Butchery Shop was created from redundant farm buildings.
Wallings Farm now has a lot to attract customers, it is in fact (according to the marketing people), a DESTINATION LOCATION, very grand! I often think what my grandfather, Tom would have made of it all. He was a hard-nosed farmer if ever there was one, but I remember his insatiable appetite for ice cream (always vanilla) and dont forget his father was a butcher! The farmer gene is still going strong with the Walling family, my brother Allan still milks his cows twice a day, helped by my father. A new recruit has recently joined the team, my son Phil, who now helps his uncle Allan. It is important to remember that we are still very much a working farm, things have moved on since my grandfathers day but I think he would approve (especially about the ice cream!).
Fri 01, Mar 2013
Ice cream parlour: Mon-Sat 10-7, Sunday 10-8 Starting March 28th