Last week I visited Fair Oaks Farms with my colleague Jaime to experience a day trip there. This is the first post in a two-post series about our trip.
It’s hot outside and most Hoosiers are reaching for a milkshake to cool them off on a sweltering afternoon. Want to see how that milkshake made it to your cup? Nestled between the western Indiana trees, Fair Oaks Farms lets you follow your milk through the entire process, from grass to glass. It’s a great place for a summer family trip!
When you arrive at the farm, sign up for the dairy barn tour, which gives you a behind-the-scenes look at farm operation from the windows of a bus. We first drove by the anaerobic digester, which turns cow manure into methane gas to power the farm’s electricity and into fertilizer for the corn fields. I could tell by the odor that this was authentic recycling in action! We also stopped at the food storage unit where feed is mixed to prepare nutritious cow meals that will put nutrients in our frosty glasses of milk.
Next we drove through the barns, looking at the little heifers, dry cows (those not currently producing milk) and milk cows. The heifers were so cute staring at me with their big brown eyes that I almost wanted to take one home! As we drove, a recording explained what we were seeing, each type of cow and the necessities required to run the dairy.
The final stop on the bus tour is the milking parlor where 72 cows are milked at once on a giant spinning carousel. The cows know the milking routine and when to get off the carousel, but some of them made me laugh by trying to sneak an extra “carnival ride” after they had finished milking. Here we also touched a pipe that was pumping 101-degree milk from the cows to the cooling unit and a cold pipe pumping chilled milk to the packaging plant.
The tour was a unique opportunity to see where our dairy foods come from and it gave me a lot of appreciation for the process! On an air-conditioned bus, we didn’t have to worry about getting dirty or getting closer to a cow than we wanted to.
Before the bus tour, we walked through the Stewards of the Land exhibit that explains the sustainability practices of the farm in a kid-friendly way, and we visited the Dairy Fun Room where I learned to milk a cow. Here Jaime unfortunately beat me at a skeleton race that tested our knowledge of dairy products.
The theater gives you a lighthearted 4-D dairy experience with the video Manure Happens! and there are more fun kids’ activities waiting outside in Mooville. Climb a rock wall, take a bounce on the jumping pillow or ride the MooChoo train. I couldn’t resist trying out the jumping pillow myself!
Fair Oaks is one of the largest dairies in the United States with 30,000 cows located on 10 different sites spanning 19,000 acres. Admission is $10 for adults and $7 for children 3-12, and it includes the tour and all other activities at the dairy. Click here to see hours and more admission details for Fair Oaks Farms.