I scream, you scream...

For years, Dani Slatter gazed out of her kitchen window at the family's Friesian cows not realising that they would one day be an important part of her own business.

While Dani kept down a nine-to-five job as a broker for large food companies, farmer husband Clive looked after the organic dairy herd at Hill House Farm in Farmington, near Cheltenham - where the Slatter family have farmed since 1926.

It all changed with the arrival of the couple's two sons Charlie and Sam. Dani gave up her day job and started thinking about starting a business of her own on the farm.

At first, she thought of cheese making, but with so many great cheese producers in the Cotswolds, it was a crowded market to tap into.

And then it dawned on her that there were very few artisan ice cream makers in the region and she spotted a gap in the market.

She set about making ice cream in her farmhouse kitchen for personal consumption at first, much to the approval of her ice cream-loving boys, and then decided to set up The Cotswold Ice Cream Company.

As an added selling factor, she decided to make the business exclusively Fairtrade and it is now the only exclusive Fairtrade ice cream manufacturer in the UK.

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Dani spent months researching the market, becoming qualified in food production and sourcing her Fairtrade products. She uses the finest Nadali vanilla in the world imported from Uganda. All sugar comes from Malawi and the cocoa and chocolate are blended from a collection of African Fairtrade suppliers.

Dani says: "I had been very keen to set up my own business for quite some time and it just made sense to use milk from the farm because it's organic and right on my doorstep."

Dani aims to get the fresh milk from "cow to carton" in just one day, making the ice cream taste exceptionally fresh.

The ice cream is made on the farm and comes in six different flavours: Double Chocolate, Vanilla Bean, Strawberries and Cream, Passion fruit and Mango Madness, Cappuccino and Lemon Meringue.

Unlike many British ice creams, Dani doesn't use eggs and the ice cream is a softer, Italian-style gelato rather than the heavier custard-based products.

Her ice creams use local ingredients wherever possible, as well as staying true to the ethos of Fairtrade.

"We use a fraction of the overall milk output from the farm but it's nice to be able to use it for a product made on the farm because it ties it all back in," says Dani.

"Although we have a foot in both camps, we decided that 'Fairtrade' was a stronger identity than 'organic' - people identified with it more as something they wanted to support.

"We went on holiday to a sugar-producing nation and we saw the people whose livelihoods depended on what our sugar brokers paid them so we felt Fairtrade sugar was a much better way of doing business.

"We use local fruit when we can. As soon as the British strawberries are in, we buy loads of them and process enough for the year. Because our output has grown so much we have had to buy from elsewhere but wherever we can we go for the most local option."

Dani's delicious ice creams are available at an increasing number of delicatessens in the Cotswolds and it is also available directly from the farm between Thursday and Sunday.

Whilst The Cotswold Ice Cream Company is gaining momentum, Dani is mindful of the fact that part of its charm is the fact it is still a small artisan business.

"As soon as farmhouse ice cream is made on an industrial estate, it's not farm-made ice cream so we want to stay true to that.

"We want to be big enough to employ people, rather than relying on friends and family, but I never want it to get so big that we have to leave the farm."

Tel: 01451 861425


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