Stewart Towers

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How a herd of cows helped a business grow arms and legs

Description

Ann and I sat close to a window of the old horse mill where 200 years ago horses walked round and round turning the millstone to grind the wheat for our daily bread. We looked out at the children chatting to the friendly pygmy goats. Beyond we gazed across the fertile, arable farmland surrounding the Stewart Tower ice cream parlour and away to the distant hills of Angus.
We asked the owner Kevin what he thought the farmer of 1810 would make of the bustling ice cream parlour that now occupies the old mill. “I think he would be a bit puzzled … but hopefully he’d like my cows!” It is the cows that link us from those day to these and that remain the backbone of this thriving business.
Since the family took over the running of the farm in the 1950s they have worked hard developing their dairy herd. But when milk prices dropped to an all-time low in the early 2000s, they needed to find a way to add value to their milk. Ice cream seemed the right idea, particularly as the nearest other producers were either up in Aberdeenshire or down in The Borders.
Today, Stewart Tower has made more than 200 flavours of ice cream and is providing 60 to 70 outlets with high-quality artisan produce. The outlets, varying from small farm shops to Gleneagles Hotel, all care about the provenance of their food.
While building the business, they have diversified. “I was taught that when you build a business, build it like a chair with five legs – so if one falls off the chair doesn’t fall over. One leg of their chair is a wonderful shop selling their own products and those of other Scottish producers. Where else can you buy freshly-made ice cream chocolate alongside Blue Murder cheese from Tain? Another ‘leg’ is the café where you can enjoy the homemade ice-cream or a delicious lunch ranging from quiche to soup and sandwiches.
The rotation of the business follows the cycle of the year … round and round like that old mill wheel. The farm feeds the cows … the cows feed the farm … the farm grows the grass…the grass feeds the cows … the cows give the milk. Then the muck and straw go back on the fields to keep the grass growing to feed those lovely cows to give us the lovely milk to make the delicious ice cream .. round and round like that old horse wheel. Nature’s synergetic rhythms in tune with a wonderful business.

Additional information

Great For

Families with young kids, Accessible for wheelchairs and prams, chatty lunch, admiring the views, farm animals

Things to Look Out For

Cheese; ice cream; chocolate and other diary products; speciality meat products; gifts and cards;