People in the Sarasota, Florida area have the opportunity to see how milk, cream and other dairy products make their way from farm to bottle. Farm tours are given at Dakin Dairy Farms in nearby Myakka City.
Watch as cows are showered from below for udder cleanliness, dried, then sashay into the milking parlor. The cows are milked three times a day, seven days a week. Little wonder they line up so readily for the routine they know so well!
Calves born at the farm weigh sixty to one hundred pounds at birth and are sent to a farm in nearby Arcadia until they reach 400 pounds. The cows live for about twelve to thirteen years, six of which are spent in milk production.
The welcome sign reads “Dakin, A Sustainable Farm” and recycle, reduce and reuse are the words our tour guide used to describe the way they operate. With 2,000 dairy cows each producing 61 pounds of manure a day, things like selling compost is an important part of good business and environmental practices.
A video presentation explains how the raw milk is chilled then pasteurized by heating to 175∘for twenty-eight seconds to kill any possible pathogens and extend shelf life.
Cream naturally rises to the top. The milk flows through a separator to skim the cream and send the milk to a tank. It is the mix that determines the butterfat content of the product sold in markets. Adding whole milk to skim, for example, creates 1% or 2% milk. Cream and whole milk are combined to create half-and-half. Homogenization keeps the product from separating.
The tour is followed by a hayride, but first kids of all ages must shout “Farmer William, Moooove this tractor!” which begins the journey past feed and silage like corn and sorghum, and grass freshly cut every morning and afternoon. Grass gives the milk its distinctive flavor.
The tour ends with a chance to bottle feed calves, buy treats for the goats, choose your favorite in the pig race. Then it’s time for samples–regular or chocolate milk, crackers and fresh butter made on site by the group by taking turns shaking heavy cream in a jar. Chocolate milk was a clear favorite and we were told that when frozen it tastes like ice cream.
For more information and pricing see Dakin Dairy Farms.
At the end of the tour guests are free to use this area with picnic tables and a play area with swings, a sand pile, and, in season, a corn maze. This area is available for special events like children’s birthday parties or family reunions.
Baskets are available for toting selections from the café. Bring a cooler because you are sure to want to bring some products home.
Dakin Farms products are sold at Sweetbay Supermarkets, Whole Foods and on the farm.