(7/25/13) We close out National Ice Cream Month by spotlighting a popular south central Kentucky business that sells ice cream – made in part from their small herd of dairy cattle. Our summer intern Nicki Seay had a chance to visit with Carl Chaney, owner of Chaney’s Dairy Barn in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
DBW: What is the story of Chaney’s Dairy Barn?
Chaney: It’s an Agritourism business that was trying to help keep the dairy on the farm. This farm was started back around 1880. My dad starting milking cows around 1940 and we’ve been milking cows ever since then. In 2001, we had an internet sale and at that sale we sold about 100 head of cows…and at that time we started trying to figure out where does Chaney’s Farm go from here? We were concerned that 50 cows, which are how many cows he had left, would not be enough to cash flow the farm. We started researching processing milk, doing cheese, making ice cream, and after going to about four states, and about a year-and-a-half to two years, we [decided] to make ice cream and build a store right here on our farm.
DBW: What made you decide to sell ice cream? How did you get inspired to do that?
Chaney: The processing of the milk was really something that we really wanted to do, but it’s very expensive, not that this isn’t. But processing the milk was something we felt like that we didn’t want to tackle at that time. The processing of cheese and the making of cheese, I just felt I wanted something that could go to the consumer quicker. The ice cream has been something that has been very well received.
DBW: Is the ice cream only available for sale here in the Bowling Green store?
Chaney: Oh, absolutely not! We’ve been very fortunate. There’s a lady right in the barn. She comes every week and picks up ice-cream to take to Franklin, Tennessee. They have an ice cream shop [there] and they use our ice-cream. You can get our ice-cream at the Corvette Museum, Riley’s Bakery here in Bowling Green, or you can go to Reed’s Orchard in Owensboro, and there’s many, many places where we’re starting to wholesale our ice cream to with the help of Southern Foods. Southern Foods has been a tremendous help with helping us to try to wholesale the ice cream.
DBW: Definitely, so that’s good to hear! Maybe some of the listeners [of Dairybusiness Radio] in other parts of the country can go to one of those places and get the ice cream.
Chaney: Possibly, you know, it looks like we will continue to grow. The first year we made about 4,000 gallons of ice cream and this year we’re going to make over 20,000 gallons of ice cream. So it’s grown.
DBW: That’s great growth! So personally, what is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Chaney: It’s got to be strawberry! I love the strawberry. We use local strawberries in the ice cream, and it just gives it a real good, intense flavor that I love. There’s also Wow Now Brownie Cow – that’s awful good, and there’s Pralines and Cream which is really good, and there’s Jersey Brittle which is awesome…Mint Chip is really good. I used to not eat Mint Chocolate Chip but it is really good, and the banana…
Chaney: Well to us there’s only one breed of dairy cow, and that’s what my dad started with back in 1940, and that’s Jerseys. I think the reason he started with Jerseys was because of their rich milk. Right now we’re milking about 50 cows and we have about 50 head of young stock on the farm. One of the things that we knew we were going to do before we ever opened the ice cream store was to offer tours. Last year we probably had about 8,000 people down to the farm. We take a hayride down. We meet Miss Glimmer the cow, who is the real star of the whole show. In June and July we offer what we call weekender Farm Tours. That is something that has really, really grown. We get really nice crowds and it’s a lot of fun to talk to the people because they are really interested in what we’re doing and why we do it and how we do it, and so on and so forth.
DBW: Not only do you have the successful dairy but also you’re helping to educate the public about agriculture as well. So what’s a typical day here like for both at the dairy and the store?
Chaney: Man, I don’t know what to tell you. I know last Friday wasn’t completely typical, but I got up and milked, and then we fed. Then we got through feeding and came up because we had a farm tour at 10:15, then I had the weekender farm tour at 1:00. Then I had to get ready to take one trailer to Bowling Green for the concert in the park, take the other trailer to Franklin for concert in the park. Then we had a movie here, [with] over 500 people out here watching a movie on the side of the barn, Wreck-it Ralph. It was an awesome movie and had a great crowd, the rain held off. We have two concession trailers that we take to festivals, concerts, any place that somebody wants it. If it’s a subdivision that wants to have a block party, we can even do that if there’s going to be enough people. We stay pretty busy.
DBW: Wow, it does sound like you stay pretty busy. What challenges do you have being a small dairy business here in south central Kentucky?
Chaney: I guess our biggest challenge right now is where do we go from here? We built it up, and it’s grown very nicely, and I’m not sure where to go. To be honest with you I’m not sure where we will go from here. Unfortunately for us the dairy part of the farm, the cows, are not profitable because we’re not milking enough cows and we’re not selling enough of our milk to make that part profitable. The ice cream store is doing very well, but I don’t know how well it will succeed without the cows. I think it would, but I know that the cows add something to it. So the biggest challenge is our 10th birthday his year, and it’s where do we go from here?
DBW: Through your restaurant and ice cream business, do you try to help the consumers connect back to the farm?
Chaney: Absolutely. Connecting back to the community is something that we’ve always felt very strongly about. We helped a young man host a “Moo Shoe 5K”, and the reason they called it that is the registration fee to be able to run the 5K was a new pair of kid’s shoes that he’s going to give Hope House to give to children before school starts. We were just tickled to death to be a part of something like that. He was a young man in Boy Scouts who was doing it for his Eagle project, and the results were awesome. I think they got almost 230 new pairs of shoes, they had 185 runners. That was fantastic. We’ve been very fortunate to be part of benefits here for people and we’ve been really fortunate to be a part of some really wonderful things.
DBW: To wrap it all up here, what would you say is your favorite part of your job?
Chaney: I enjoy the farm tours, especially when it’s tourists. We do a lot of the school tours and to see kids that come down on the farm that maybe don’t know what agriculture is all about, to try to get them to think that “hey, yes I can go to the grocery store to get my food, but if it wasn’t for Miss Glimmer the cow, I wouldn’t have that milk. I wouldn’t have the ice cream, the cheese, the butter, the yogurt, the sour cream. If it wasn’t for other farmers that produced the wheat, the corn, and so on…that’s why the United States has been so fortunate to be as strong as we are. We can feed ourselves, and not every country can say that. I think [trying] to make sure that you speak for some of the other farmers to help get the word across …the importance, and that people need to pay attention to the needs of agriculture.