Van Der Gun Dairy Farm, about 18 km northwest of Innisfail on Highway 54, has just opened its Dairy Saloon offering eight flavours of ice cream. More dairy products will be offered soon. (Photo from Facebook)

Innisfail-area dairy farmers venture into the ice cream business

Dairy Saloon is part of van der Gun Dairy on Highway 54 northwest of Innisfail

An Innisfail-area dairy farm family are putting the delicious into diversification.

Elize and Theo van der Gun have been running their dairy farm about 18 km northwest of Innisfail on Highway 54 since 2001, but recently started thinking about other ways to showcase dairy.

“We thought it would be really cool to have an ice cream saloon and have all kinds of other dairy stuff in it,” said Elize on Tuesday.

It was a bit of a winding road to get to the point of scooping ice cream into cones but the doors opened of their specially built Dairy Saloon last Friday.

Considering the van der Guns had done no advertising other than an update on their farm Facebook page and signs attached to hay bales next to Highway 54, Elize was surprised by the response.

“Saturday, I had like 40 people who came in and Sunday the same amount, so that was good.”

The are working on a separate Facebook page for the Dairy Saloon, which offers eight flavours of ice cream, as well as soft serve cones, so far. The van der Guns also plan to offer other dairy products such as cheese from local suppliers in the future.

Picnic tables are set up aside so customers can enjoy their ice creams outdoors.

“What we want to do is fence off the front if it so we can have the cows and people can see the cows,” she said.

The van der Guns’ two youngest daughters, 12 and 13 years old are cheerful supporters of their family’s new venture.

“They love it. We tasted so many that we almost ice creamed out.” The couple also have 22 and 20-year-old daughters, who are both involved in the dairy industry.

Getting into ice cream slinging while running a dairy business would seem a natural fit. However, the regulations around dairy meant they could not use their own milk in their ice cream because they are not recognized as a milk processor.

“We have to sit down with Alberta Milk and see what we can do there,” she said.

For now, they are using a milk mix that comes from Ontario. To get started, they also bought a dipper freezer and a soft serve machine.

Red Deer County approved the business last year and Alberta Transportation approval was also necessary since customers must come in off Highway 54.

It is a good location because many of those heading to Gleniffer Lake, the dam and the resort communities around the lake drive by their front door.

The van der Guns emigrated from Holland to Canada in 1999. They worked on farms in the Red Deer area before buying their own farm in 2001.

Always looking for ways to improve their farm, in 2007 they built a barn with free stalls that allows the cows to roam around. Another barn followed for cows which aren’t milking.

In the past, they have also welcomed school tours to give youngsters a peak at how their milk goes from cow to their kitchen tables and they have been frequent participants in Farm Days, when area producers open their doors to visitors to show them where their food comes from. They will be part of it again this year on Aug. 19.

Elize said she is looking forward to running the saloon.

“To be honest, I call it my retirement project,” she said with a laugh.

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