From the dairy parlour to the ice cream parlour
Nestled in the glorious Devon countryside is a dairy farm with a difference. The first inkling of what you are likely to find is in a field next to the A38 at Kennford near Exeter. Here you’ll see ‘The Orange Elephant’, the centrepiece to the farm’s hugely successful homemade ice cream enterprise.
The Taverner family have been farming at Lower Brenton for over 100 years. Rob and Helen Taverner are the current custodians and together with their son William (now the fifth generation) they farm 350 head of dairy cattle. The milk from the herd is used to make over 30 different flavours of ice creams.
Opportunities for the next generations
Over 25 years ago Rob and Helen’s thoughts turned to the future opportunities for their children, William, Charlie and Katie. There were limited options to grow the dairy herd due to the location of the farm, so their ideas extended to diversification and what activities would work best.
In 1997 they opened a farm shop and butchery, selling meat produced on the farm, as well as a deli section and a range of locally produced items. They continued to run the shop alongside the dairy herd but realised they could do more with the milk they produced. So in 2006 they started making their own ice cream. Over time the ice cream parlour grew and this together with the farm shop kept them busy 365 days of the year.
Playing to their strengths
However, running the farm shop, making and selling ice cream and milking 350 head of dairy cows was taking its toll. So after much deliberation, the difficult decision was taken to close down the farm shop and to focus their efforts on the dairy herd and growing the Ice cream parlour, which would open for 6 months of the year.
As a result, it was the best decision they could have made. Rob now manages the dairy herd with William and Helen is chief ice cream producer, but together they oversee all aspects of the business.
When life presents you with covid….do things differently
Unable to open the ice cream parlour during the lockdowns, Rob and Helen launched a new ‘drive-thru’ ice cream shop. This was initially run from a serving van and enabled people to buy ice creams without having to get out of their car. The drive-thru was so successful they seized the ‘bull by the horns’ and built a large open span agricultural building which housed the ice cream parlour at one end and provided lots of socially distanced seating for customers. The building now provides an excellent space for visitors to sit and enjoy the ice creams (plus other refreshments) and is located next to the summer meadow and play area.
Where next for the Orange Elephant?
Rob and Helen are currently converting some of their buildings into seven new holiday lets, which will open from Easter 2023. Recently they have created a maize maze and Charlie has planted a small vineyard on the farm – could Orange Elephant wine soon be on the menu?
A relationship built on friendship and respect
The Taverners have worked with Vince Edwards from Haines Watts for over 30 years. Rob says, “Vince and the team at Haines Watts have been instrumental in how the business has diversified and developed. They have been very supportive during the good and the difficult times. They provide us with the usual accounts and tax services, but more than anything it is their business advice that has helped us evolve and grow.”