Maartje Murphy’s Duchessa Gelato is made from milk that was produced by her family’s herd of Holsteins near Carrington, North Dakota.
Maartje Murphy’s Duchessa Gelato is made from milk that was produced by her family’s herd of Holsteins near Carrington, North Dakota. PHOTO SUBMITTED
    CARRINGTON, N.D. – A North Dakota woman’s farmstead gelato business has earned her a coveted spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
    One of Maartje Murphy’s most cherished childhood memories is enjoying gelato with her grandparents. Murphy was born in the Netherlands where her parents, Corne and Conny van Bedaf, operated their family’s 50-cow dairy farm.
    “There were gelato shops near our farm, and my grandparents would take me for a gelato almost every day,” Murphy said.
    In 2001, when she was 7 years old, Murphy and her family – which includes her brothers Piet and Dries – pulled up stakes and started dairy farming in Canada. In 2008, the van Bedaf family made another big move by starting a dairy operation near Carrington. Carrington is located about two hours northwest of Fargo.
    The van Bedafs grew their dairy operation from about 200 head in Canada to its present size of 1,500 head. Piet and Dries have also joined the operation.
    Murphy earned a nursing degree at the University of North Dakota and began to work full time as a registered nurse. But a mother-daughter getaway would change her life.
    “Mom and I went to Chicago and took a week-long course about making gelato,” Murphy said. “The gelato brought back memories of enjoying a cold, tasty treat with my grandparents. I thought that this would be something great to bring back to North Dakota.”
    Murphy and her husband, Casey Murphy, purchased gelato making equipment and installed it in a garage on the van Bedaf farm.
    “Mom’s car lost its stall in the garage,” Murphy said.
    Murphy began to make gelato with fresh milk that came from her family’s herd of Holsteins. She calls her business Cows & Co. Creamery and has named her lineup of dairy treats Duchessa Gelato.
    “We make gelato using the traditional Italian hot process,” Murphy said. “I put raw milk into the vat and slowly heat it to the point where it becomes pasteurized. Then I add cream and sugar to let it age overnight. This allows the flavors to develop and merge with one another. In the morning, I will mix in a flavoring base and start churning gelato.”
    Murphy is quick to point out that there are some major differences between ice cream and gelato.
    “Gelato has about half as much fat as ice cream,” she said. “Gelato contains less air than ice cream because it’s churned slower and at a warmer temperature. Ice cream can contain up to 75% air while gelato has about 15%-20% air. That’s why gelato tastes so rich even though it has less fat than ice cream.”
    Murphy began to cater gelato for special occasions such as graduations and weddings. She purchased a bicycle pushcart that had been used to sell gelato in Italy.
    “I love to experiment with flavors,” Murphy said. “We have made at least 100 different flavors of gelato. We try to use as many local ingredients as possible, such as honey or berries that are in season. When we cater a wedding, the bride and the groom will often choose to create their own flavor. Some of the flavors have been quite fun and interesting.”
    It was not long before word got out about Duchessa Gelato and demand began to grow. Murphy quit her nursing job so she could focus her full attention on her gelato business.
    “We bought some more equipment, and Dad’s car lost its side of the garage,” Murphy said. “We began to make our gelato available at local coffee shops and grocery stores. Gelato is best when eaten fresh, so I tell people to not let it linger in the freezer for more than a couple of months. Once people try our gelato, keeping it for too long usually isn’t a problem.”
    Several months ago, Murphy received an email that appeared to be from Forbes.
    “I at first thought it was junk and almost threw it away,” she said. “But I decided to open it and discovered that I had been nominated to be included in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Simply being nominated was an honor.”
    After filling out her application for the Forbes list, Murphy began to watch her email for news.
    “I thought there was no way I would make the list,” she said. “There must be thousands who apply every year. When I scrolled through the press release and saw my picture, I couldn’t believe it. It truly took my breath away. It’s a huge honor for a dairy farm daughter from North Dakota to make the list. It was also a very special moment for my parents.”
    Being named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list has opened doors for Murphy.
    “I am looking forward to meeting new people who have heard about me and doing a lot more networking,” she said.
    Cows & Co. Creamery is making some major changes that will enable it to continue to grow.
    “Casey and I have purchased a neighboring farm that used to be a dairy farm,” Murphy said. “We are fixing up the dairy barn and turning it into a creamery. We will make our gelato there and will soon start producing artisanal Gouda cheese. We are also planning to make butter, yogurt and cheddar cheese curds. My brother thinks that we should also start bottling milk from our dairy farm.”
    Murphy’s ambitions include educating the public.
    “We want our farmstead creamery and our family’s dairy farm to become an agritourism destination where people can get back to their roots and learn about dairy farming,” she said. “By this fall, we will have added a kitchen and a café to our creamery. We will also have a farm store where folks can buy locally produced items. And there’s a winery in Carrington that people can visit when they are in the area.”
    Murphy remains grounded despite her success.
    “I am deeply grateful for all the opportunities I’ve received,” she said. “But as we grow our business, I’m not going to cut corners. Everything that we make is going to be artisanal.”