Circle N Dairy

Gainesville, Texas

Circle N Dairy

Gainesville, Texas

For many people, few things soothe the soul like a bowl of homemade ice cream. For Texas dairy farmers Tommy and Michelle Neu, it’s what saved their family business. 

In 2017, the Neus’ longtime commercial co-op buyer stopped purchasing their milk, wanting them to sell the milk exclusively to the co-op — not directly to consumers. In the face of this challenge, the couple recognized an opportunity to add a unique product to their farm store — ice cream made with milk from their own cows. 

Today the Neus make, package and sell a dozen varieties of homemade ice cream straight from their Circle N Dairy in Gainesville, Texas. 

Ice Cream, Cheese and More 

The Neus started their farm store nine years ago when a neighbor became interested in purchasing raw milk. The couple obtained the proper permits and began selling milk and eggs. More products soon followed. 

“We knew if people were going to come out here, we had to offer more,” Michelle said. 

The dairy’s farm store quickly grew, offering cream, Greek yogurt and baked and canned goods from neighbors. Grass-fed Angus beef raised by the couple’s youngest son, Kevin, and his wife, Amber, expanded their line of goods. 

The Neus also began selling their own cheese. Every month, they haul 330 gallons of milk to a local cheesemaker, who turns it into eight varieties of Circle N Dairy cheese. Today, the farm store is open seven days a week year-round, and most of the food products are made locally. 

For those who can’t visit the Neus’ store in person, Circle N products are available through three local distributors, as well as retailers in the Dallas–Fort Worth area. 

Secret to Their Ice Cream 

Michelle proudly points out that Circle N uses minimal ingredients in their ice cream. The base consists of low-heat pasteurized milk, cream and sugar. The mixture is refrigerated for 24 hours before it’s added to the other ingredients in an ice cream machine. Minutes later, the mixture has a soft serve texture. It’s then packaged in pint or half-pint cartons and put into the blast freezer.

Where Milk Comes From 

The Neus believe in helping the public understand where their food comes from. Every week, they offer group tours at Circle N Dairy. 

“The groups start at the silo, so we can teach them how our cows are fed and taken care of,” says Michelle, who leads the tours. 

Groups also visit the dairy barn to learn about the milking process. Visitors can bottle-feed baby calves and try their hand at “milking” a life-size simulated cow. Afterward, they are treated to milk and can enjoy the covered picnic and play areas. 

“This is to teach people where their food is coming from,” Tommy said. “We have to show them what we do and educate them. This is a seven-day-a-week, 365-days-a-year job to milk the cows twice a day, feed and take care of the animals and raise the crops needed on our dairy.” 

A Lender Through Tough Times 

The Neus became AgTrust Farm Credit customers in 1998. Tommy says they appreciate having a lender who’s been with them through some tough years, including record low milk prices and drought. 

“And that patronage check is nice,” he explained, referring to the lending co-op’s dividend program. 

Craig Hartman, AgTrust Farm Credit regional president, lives near the dairy and frequently visits the store, buying milk for his family. 

“Adapting and diversifying the business was a big commitment for the Neus,” Hartman said. “They did what they needed to do to keep their business sustainable. We’re happy we could help them through the process of developing a more value-added business model.”