In the green rolling hills of Victoria’s North East, Gundowring in the Kiewa Valley is home to third generation dairy farmer James and his wife Iris.
Running Gundowring Ice Cream James makes award winning ice cream in what was the old dairy on the historic property that his grandfather moved into in the 1940’s. The original herd of 6 in his grandfather’s day is now a 500 strong herd of Holstein Friesians that graze on the lush 1,000 acre homestead pastures.
Looking for a new challenge James’ parents Steve and Sarah decided to start making ice-cream as a commercial venture around the year 2000. Having made ice-cream at a kitchen table level, they wanted to stick to the French anglais recipe that they had always used, just on a larger scale.
When Steve and Sarah started the ice creamery they were doing both the farming and the ice cream, now the farming is done by neighbours Ian and Alice Holloway. A tunnel under the road that separates the dairy from the ice creamery gives easy access to the dairy for the cows. Ian and Alice take pride in creating a high quality milk coming from a happy cow with a diet of lush pastures supplemented with silage, a high nutrient spring pasture surplus, in the height of summer heat and winter.
The mountains have a special place for James and his family and skiing has always been a family activity. His grandparents built Dawn Ski Lodge, one of the early lodges up at Falls Creek. Taught to ski at 2 and a half by family friend and owner of the Wild Brumby Distillery, Brad Spalding, after high school James went to Austria with Brad and Monica’s SLAP program. Spending a month in Austrian ski resorts learning how to be a ski instructor from Austrian ski instructors, at the end of the month taking the level 1 Austrian ski instructors program, in German! He then took a place at a ski school in Austria where he met his wife Iris. After doing a few seasons at Falls Creek and Austria, they moved to Melbourne where James studied Landscape Architecture.
It was while he was in Melbourne that James started to get involved in the family ice cream business with deliveries, meetings with chefs and farmers markets. Taking on more and more responsibilities it got to a point where he was basically full time, and was needed on the farm rather than in Melbourne. His parents made an offer and after a trial period James and Iris took the business over in 2013 and though semi retired, Steve and Sarah are still very helpful and involved in the business and grand parenting.
Wanting to take the business at a pace they were comfortable with, they took it slow and steady. Moving back to the farm they fell back in love with the lifestyle and now with a child, they want to try to maintain as much work life balance as possible. Lifestyle is important for themselves and for their employees who all have school age children. “Enjoying it as a lifestyle as well as a business is a challenge, it’s always going to be.” With an apartment up at Falls Creek, James and his family spend more time up there in the summer mountain biking than in the winter at the moment because it’s easier to get away, and with summer just around the corner, James is looking forward to Falls Creek opening for mountain biking after only one ski day this winter.
Learning all the time, they are always doing courses and the ice creamery has been awarded many certificates and won a ton of awards which cover the walls in their ice creamery. Supporting local producers of fruits and nuts in their flavours, they work closely with chefs to create their own bespoke flavours in addition to the core retail range which is available in shops and restaurants locally and in and around Melbourne.
Keep your eye out for Gundowring Ice Cream in the mountains and the cities www.gundowringfinefoods.com.au