Meet Maartje van Bedaf

Maartje van Bedaf does it all: She churns cream into gelato, chats with customers, and handles the marketing for the family businesses Cows and Co Creamery and Duchessa Gelato. She was even recently named to Forbes 30 Under 30 List in the Food & Drink category. Maartje took some time after a busy holiday season to tell us about the importance of a strong support system, and how women are the backbone of the dairy farm. 

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Maartje Murphy, I am 25 years old, a wife, and the daughter of dairy farmers. I was born in the Netherlands and raised there on a dairy farm until I was 7. My family moved from the Netherlands to Canada in 2001. Then in 2008, we moved to Carrington, North Dakota. We were dairy farmers in the Netherlands, Canada, and now Carrington. I studied nursing at the University of North Dakota, and after graduation I worked in the emergency department at Sanford in Fargo for two and a half years. My husband and I recently moved back to Carrington and purchased a farmstead where we will continue to grow our business Cows and Co Creamery/Duchessa Gelato. My husband is a full time physical therapist and helps me with my business whenever he can.

I love to go on walks, spend time with my family and friends, bake, cook, and go out to eat! 

Did you always want to be involved with your family’s business?

Yes and no. Growing up I always loved working alongside my family and helping the farm, but I never felt compelled to be an agricultural producer in the traditional sense. When I first conceived the idea of an on farm creamery, I knew it was the perfect way to put my own twist on the family business and legacy.

What does it mean to be a Ladyboss?

When I applied for my grant back in 2017, I presented to a boardroom full of men and one woman. I was definitely intimidated. I told myself I was just a young woman with big dreams presenting to a bunch of businessmen in suits and that they didn’t take me seriously. Fortunately, they saw the same potential that I knew I had deep down. Since then, I have grown in my confidence and have truly embraced a business owner mentality. I am becoming more and more comfortable making business decisions on a regular basis. Being a Ladyboss means that I am able to lead my business in a way that I see fit. At the end of the day I answer to myself and only myself. However, I have realized the importance of surrounding myself with a good team. 

What is it like to be a woman in the dairy industry?

Women are really synonymous with the dairy industry. Often times, women are the lifeblood of the operation just as much as the men if not more. I watched my mother, aunt and many other women contribute to the farm day in and day out. Women on dairy farms tend to milk the cows, feed the calves, and manage the bookwork, all while maintaining a household and juggling other responsibilities. Every meal turns into a “board meeting” when husband, wife, and family all work together on the farm. 

Walk us through a typical day in your life. 

My schedule and days are very different from day to day. Most days I wake up early make a cup of coffee or tea and prepare the gelato lab for production. I already have prepared the gelato base the night before because authentic hot processed gelato ages overnight for 12 hours. With the gelato base prepared I am able to make my gelato flavors. I am either churning pints or gelato for a catering event. When I am finished churning I clean the lab and prepare the gelato base for the next day. 

On days that I’m not churning, I do my best to balance book work, marketing, and never ending communication with customers. In a day I can perform various tasks ranging from mopping the floor to delivering gelato across the state. Each and every day is truly unique and an adventure.

What’s something nice you’ve done for yourself lately?

After my Christmas order, I’ve given myself permission to take some time off. I often have an itch deep inside me that tells me there is something I should be doing. I have taken a few days to reflect on and appreciate the year that was 2020. It was a tough year, but I have much to be thankful for.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve heard recently?

When someone is giving advice or constructive criticism, take time to digest what they are saying before forming a reply or rebuttal. 

Change your mindset from “It’s not possible,” to “How can we make this possible?”

What do you think women need right now?

Women need to know that they should shoot for their dreams. All too often we make a list of reasons why we shouldn’t, rather than why we should do something.  It is very easy to be our own worst enemy and be critical of our failings. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my last few years in business, it is that women support women.