Do you remember those days when having an ice cream while being at the cinema was pretty much the done thing, as though if you didn’t have one you weren’t truly buying in to the spirit of a night at the flicks?
Well it still happens and for one farmer’s daughter it is providing a useful all-year round income for her business she started out with ten years ago.
Just Jenny’s Ice Cream is now sold in a variety of outlets from local farm shops around Barkisland and Ripponden near Halifax to Fodder at the Great Yorkshire Showground as well as to restaurants and caterers, but Jenny Clarkson has found a celluloid niche supplying a number of the remaining small, independent local cinema houses all around the county.
“We do good business with cinemas throughout the winter months and that really helps with our all-year round trade.
“We’re flexible about deliveries too and make sure we’re there when they want us as the independent cinemas are not always open all the time.
“What we found surprising when we started was how ice cream is in demand throughout the year regardless of the season being colder. We produce two catering sizes of five litres, 2.5 litres for restaurants and cafes and some shops and then the half-litre and mini-pots.
“The mini-pots have really taken off and are particularly in demand for the cinema trade.
“They’re a bit more finicky to make but they are what the customers want and you have to make sure you’re providing the right product.
“We don’t do anything wacky or weird. It’s all very traditional flavours and we care about quality. We decided that we weren’t going to produce something basic or run of the mill.”
Having set the ball rolling by supplying a local farm shop and the village post office perhaps Jenny’s biggest single achievement so far has been getting Just Jenny’s Ice Cream into Fodder.
While Fodder, with its Yorkshire Agricultural Society hat on, is committed to offering food and drink from Yorkshire farms it’s not everyone that can have their produce sold through the constantly busy emporium at the showground and Jenny tells of how it came about.
“Our ice cream has been in Fodder since it opened. We won the opportunity to supply it on a blind tasting competition with our honeycomb ice cream in 2009. It’s our best seller after vanilla. We have a range of 23 flavours and put a few specials on at Christmas.”
Just Jenny’s is based at Hazel Slack Farm in Barkisland where her parents, Jim and Jane, along with brother Richard run a dairy herd milking 160 Holstein Friesians.
The farm runs to around 300 acres and is situated between 800-1000ft above sea level, so it’s not just the ice cream that is cold up there, particularly in recent weeks.
“My grandparents Jack and Eileen Clarkson came here from Greetland in 1960. Grandad was a wholesale butcher and we’d had everything from hens, pigs and sheep as well as dairy cows. Dad built up the milking herd.
“We keep everything that is produced from the herd as either replacements or to go to beef. We sell as stores at Wharfedale livestock market in Otley at 18-20 months.
“We used to keep everything to finish but with us milking more cows we’re pushed for space to keep over long.
“We’re using British Blues on the dairy cows to produce the beef cattle as we need something that will stand up against the wind up here.”
Jenny’s career prior to producing ice cream had taken a few twists. Having studied equine for a year at Bishop Burton College she joined her local equine vets Hird & Partners before moving on to working as an inspector of abattoirs for the Meat Hygiene Services.
“I’d wanted to get back home as I was getting tired of travelling and knew I had to create something that would bring about an income for myself.
“I looked at what I could produce from our milk on the farm that would turn a premium price and having checked out cheese and yogurt decided to give ice cream a go as it was something we all liked.”
Rather than jumping head first into a business where she had no experience and no guarantee of income, Jenny continued with her day job for the first twelve months of Just Jenny’s and before embarking on the business she also visited others who had taken the plunge.
“I went to see a lady in East Yorkshire who had started Cream of the Wolds and mum and dad saw one or two ice cream makers in Scotland while on holiday.
“I was convinced we could make lovely quality ice cream from our milk as the cows here give a good butterfat ratio of around 4 per cent and I was determined that Just Jenny’s was going to be about ice cream with a nice creamy taste.
“We bought a combination machine that had a pasteuriser at the top and a freezer below to make small batches and ten years on we’re now making ice cream two or three days a week, we keep ice cream in stock and we’re continually growing.
“We started attending local agricultural shows, summer fayres and school fairs for the publicity but we’ve since found out just how good they can be for business and look forward to adding to our list of those in future.
“We’re now using an average of around 200 litres of milk from the dairy every week, which is only a very small fraction of what is produced, but it has brought about a business that provides me with an income plus I have my sister-in-law Claire working with me and another part-time person.”
Jenny has no immediate plans to open an on-farm ice cream parlour or café but she believes the potential is there for future expansion.
“We’re open to any new approaches from farm shops, cafes, restaurants and even more cinemas.”