Land of milk and honey

North Sheffield by Lucy Harper

Believe it or not this is Sheffield, a mere four miles from the city centre to be precise. This hidden gem on the city’s rural, northern edge is home to two neighbours who are local food producers, and they are quietly on the brink of causing a revolution in Sheffield’s eating habits. One is an artisan, The Sheffield Honey Company and the other an award-winning ice-cream maker, Our Cow Molly.

The Sheffield Honey Company
IMG_5727Jez Daughtry is a beekeeper. I’d heard about him before my visit because he launched The Sheffield Honey Company at this summer’s Sheffield Food Festival, but got whisked away to rescue a swarm of 30,000 bees from Shoe Zone in Castle Market. That’s one way to cause a buzz about your new business!

When I arrive at his cottage we don’t have long to chat as he’s on a mission to his moorland hives, and has decided to give me an impromptu lesson in beekeeping to boot. Before I know it I’m clad in a white protective suit, a meshed face mask and am doing a mighty fine impression of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, except I’ve got both feet stuck down one leg of my trousers.

“Bees have different temperaments,” explains Jez. I think I know what he means as an irate bee starts to chase me away from its flight path to the hive. “We breed from calm and gentle bees. But they can still have mood changes. For instance, if the weather’s bad they get tetchy.”

He lifts up a shelf oozing honey, puffs some smoke from his can and continues: “They don’t like perfume, aftershave, alcohol or B.O, anything that smells really.” Good job I’d not sprayed the Chanel on then.

Our Cow Molly
Not long after, I walk into the farmyard at Our Cow Molly. Eddie is the farmer’s son and if you’ve been to Tramlines music festival, Sheffield Theatres or The Blue Moon café recently, you may well have been served a dollop of his divine and additive-free ice cream. I ask what the cows’ favourite music is and Eddie explains it’s got to be classical as it helps the cows produce more milk, and sure enough Wagner’s ‘Flight of the Valkyries’ is playing in the milking parlour.ourcowmolly

Eddie, his dad and his grandfather have been in the dairy business for 60 years but the challenges for the industry have never been greater:

“Millions of litres are imported from France. Because it’s pasteurised and bottled in the UK, it’s then sold as British milk. We lose one pence in every litre that we sell to the supermarkets, plus it travels 400 miles down south and sits for up to 4 days before it returns to our supermarket shelves in the north.”

It’s a different story when Eddie’s Dad does his round in Stannington: “We milk the cows at 4am and by 8am you can be pouring it on your cornflakes.” That’s some seriously fresh milk. Meanwhile, Eddie focuses on supplying his farm shop and other independent retailers with ice-cream flavours as exotic as jam roly poly, Christmas pudding and of course, the Sheffield honey ice cream.

The city is built on seven hills; its valleys and rivers feed the land and lend themselves to farming. Yet it’s easy to understand why quality local produce doesn’t fit with the supermarket model. Consequently, these two producers have other plans. Together they are lobbying for the Sheffield Food Plan, which is the City’s strategy on how to feed the 550,000 good folk of Sheffield for the next five years. Their mission is to get the Council to use local produce wherever possible in our schools and hospitals. If they succeed, our local economy, carbon footprint, and the bellies of Sheffield’s children will all see the benefit.

It’s no wonder then that both producers have earned themselves the Made in Sheffield mark. Traditionally designed for the steel industry, this is a mark of quality and provenance. And like the seal of the city, these two fellas certainly give us something to be proud of.

Honey and ice cream calendar:


  1. Getting the Council to use local produce would be an incredible breakthrough!! All Council’s should be doing it.

    Love the cow pic 🙂

    1. Agreed. But it appears not much of Sheffield knows about the plans, so we need a way of getting the message out there and seeing how much support the Sheffield Food Plan really has.

    2. We’re setting up conversations with some of the big buyers (hospitals, universities, the Council etc.) Its one of those things everybody is in favour of but can’t seem to make happen. We really want to get the idea across to as many organisations as possible and do two things:-
      (i) get local food onto the specifications of the big contracts and
      (ii) develop a local food hub to make it easy for growers, processors, retailers etc. to communicate.
      I’m determined to make it happen and I’m responsible for the project. Any comments welcome
      p.s. great article!

      1. Chris, thanks for your comment on my article. It’s great to hear from you. This would be a coup for Sheffield. As per Emma’s reply, I’d be only too happy to help where I can. I look forward to speaking to you soon.

  2. Is Sheffield the Ice Cream centre of Britain? You mention Our Cow Molly but there is also Bradwell’s Ice Cream ( and Hope Ice Cream ( The latter in particular I very much like

    The irony is these products are no more expensive than the “luxury” brands sold heavily in supermarkets and various stores but are fresher, better and made locally – keeping money in the local economy and using little fossil fuels to transport

    All theatres, cinemas, videoshops, corner shops and supermarkets in Sheffield should in my view sell these local products

  3. Thanks for your comments Steve. It appears selling locally produced food is not as easy you might think. For example, apparently Our Cow Molly’s (OCM) ice cream was stopped by a local food outlet who had asked them to make the mint choc chip greener and the strawberry ice cream redder for its customers, who above all wanted brighter ice cream. OCM don’t use artificial colouring, so weren’t able to oblige… Provenance and quality is not everyone’s concern, but I’m sure there must be away to bring great local food like this to more dinner tables. I’m working on it!…

  4. That is truly bizarre Lisa. For me it is an example of excessive homogenisation and retail outlets believing people do not want heterogeneity – a belief I personally feel to be wrong. What is the point in having a “choice” of brands if they all taste the same?

    Regional variation, regional choice and regional tastes are things that are rejoiced in countries such as France, Germany and Italy. I would say if given the opportunity it would be the case here also

    Anyway back to my main point on ice creams :-). I have just spent some time in Northumberland where I sampled Doddington Ice Cream. It got me wondering if after micro breweries we are going to have lots of micro-ice-cream makers start opening up?

    I really do hope so…..

    …as a by the by you mentioned the provenance of ingredients. I was at the Open Air Theatre (seeing the show you reviewed ironically I was with a friend who was heavily pregnant. She tried to buy some Hope Ice Cream but the vendor advised her not to have any as the ingredients included raw eggs. In this instance fresh ingredients had a downside for my friend but it demonstrated the vendor did know the provenance of what was being sold!!!

  5. Thanks Steve. Love the idea of micro ice-cream makers sprouting up everywhere. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility as dairy farmers are having to find ways of diversifying to survive.

    It’s interesting you mention regional diversity and pride in food in France, Italy and Germany. In Britain I think our attitude to food is not just a socio-economic one, it’s about culture, climate and a generation raised on fast food. Fortunately, regional food is in fashion, I just hope the recession doesn’t kill it.

  6. Maybe it is because I have only just started noticing for the first time but I found out about two more ice cream companies. There is the Yummy Yorkshire Icecream out of Denby Dale and I was out near Otley and I saw Swales Yorkshire Dales Ice cream being sold….

    …I have heard that as well as ice cream dairy farms are diversifying into cheese. Not seen any local produced cheese as yet but I am looking!!!!

  7. Great story full of detail and optimism. A world so different to what we hear about today. Good luck to the farm! Sheffield Food Festival was broken Guinness world records.

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