When I told the kids we were going to a dairy farm on the last day of Spring Break last week, I was insistent that they wear old shoes. “We’re going to be walking around a farm; it will probably be muddy,” I surmised. I couldn’t have been more wrong about our visit to Fair Oaks Farms in Winimac, Indiana.
Fair Oaks is a working dairy farm — actually a collection of 10 family-owned farms — with a total of 30,000 milking cows. That’s impressive. But what makes Fair Oaks a great destination for families is the so-fun-kids-don’t-realize-they-are-learning Adventure Center and tour.
Our first stop in the Adventure Center was the 4D moo-vie that explains the business of dairy farming. This is no ordinary movie experience. Sitting in our seats, we felt cow sneezes and milk squirting spray in our faces. It was the perfect silliness for my boys.
After the movie, we spent some time exploring the Adventure Center — trying our hand a hooking up (pretend) cows to milking machines, answering dairy nutrition questions to make skeletons climb the wall, and reading fun facts about dairy — did you know that the most ice cream is consumed on Sundays?
After the Adventure Center, we headed to the Birthing Barn, walking on the very clean sidewalks. An average of 80 calves are born at Fair Oaks every day! Only a handful enter the world in the Birthing Barn that is set up for people to witness the miracle of life. A traffic light outside the barn lets visitors know what’s going on inside. Red light – not much to see. Yellow light — hooves appearing. Green light – head out.
My kids had different reactions to the Birthing Barn. The teenager couldn’t have been more grossed out. The 10-year old was enthralled. And the 7-year old wanted to know “Mom, is that a robot cow?”
I was amazed at how quiet the laboring “moms” were. They made almost no sound. According the Fair Oaks attendant in the Birthing Barn, bovine labor lasts 1-2 hours. Newborn calves make it to their feet only 45 minutes after birth.
Once we greeted the newborn boy and girl calves, we headed out to get on the Fair Oaks tour bus. The bus took us just up the road to see the barns where the cows live and the milking carousel where the cows are milked three times a day. One trip around the carousel takes 8.5 minutes. The carousel can hold 72 cows at a time, allowing 500 cows per hour to be milked.
The last stop on our tour was the Fair Oaks cheese factory and cafe, where we had fresh-from-the-farm ice cream and yogurt. The $1.50 kids cone was plenty big enough — even for the big kids in our group, though larger sizes and waffles cones are also available. Had we visited Fair Oaks Farms in April or later, the kids could have played in the Mooville outdoor play area.
The total cost for our family of five to visit Fair Oaks was $44. You can get $2 off one admission by printing the coupon found here. We spent another $10 at the cafe. Not too bad for 3+ hours of afternoon fun.