Where’s the best place to have a mooo-velous time in Florida? Dakin Dairy Farms in Myakka City!
When a cup of creamy, chocolate milk spills, is it okay to cry? During a tour of Dakin Dairy Farms in Myakka City, it’s just what I wanted to do after knocking over my complimentary cup of chocolate milk while trying to snap the perfect photo for Instagram. Granted, it was about an ounce but it was mighty delicious.
On a summer Saturday, I met up with friends at opens in a new windowDakin Dairy Farms to take the public farm tour. Their daughters are pre-school age and seeing the farm through their eyes was a joy. This is a great thing to do near Sarasota and they are members of the opens in a new windowFlorida Agritourism Association.
The Dakin Family has been milking cows in Manatee County since 1973. The family built the 1,200-acre farm in Myakka City in 2002 and incorporated sustainable practices such as applying composted manure over hundreds of acres of grasses. This reduces water usage and fertilizer needs.
The dairy boasts sweet, high-quality milk and claim it’s from the cows’ diet of the farm-raised, fresh-cut grass mixed with grains, hay, and minerals. Today, fewer than 150 dairy farms exist in Florida and Dakin Dairy Farms is the only dairy farm in Florida that produces and bottles milk on the farm and is open to the public.
During guided tours, visitors can see some of the approximately 2,300 resident Holstein and Jersey cows milked. My friends’ daughters seemed interested in seeing where their milk comes from and I admit, it was fascinating seeing cows walking into the milking parlor and taking their positions to be milked.
Each cow is milked three times a day and 70 cows are processed at once. What’s amazing is it takes about 12 – 15 minutes to milk those 70 cows with each yielding about 1.5 gallons a day. Depending on the time of year with more produced during the winter and spring season, between 70,000 and 90,000 gallons of milk is produced a week.
The tour followed the milk from the milking parlor to pasteurization and homogenization to bottling and labeling. Some of the milk is processed into cheese including flavors of yellow cheddar, extra sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and boursin cheddar.
The delicious queso Palmita, traditionally made in northwestern Venezuela, is also made at the farm. Fresh, non-pasteurized and non-homogenized cow milk is needed to make this soft and salty cheese. About 2 tons of cheese a week is made at the farm and is also available for sale in the Farm Market.
During the summer, the tour is different than “in season” which begins the first Saturday in October and ends the first day of June. Those tours include a hay ride and tour through the farm. The summer tour I enjoyed was a leisurely walk to view and interact with some of the calves and goats in the Courtyard, and who doesn’t love getting licked by a cow or nibbled on by a goat? Feed is available for sale and my friends’ daughters enjoyed hand-feeding and nuzzling up to the goats.
The tour concluded in a pavilion where we sat at picnic tables and each table received a mason jar filled with cream. Everyone at the table took turns shaking then passing the jar until butter was made, which took about 15 minutes.
The creamy butter was enjoyed on soda crackers and served with a side of chocolate milk, which is when I spilled mine. The tour ended and my friends and their daughters played on the swings and other playground equipment. Other families played on a pile of dirt. We all took turns feeding the goats and watching them run up tree limbs to their treehouse where treats waited for them.
Before heading home, I shopped the Dakin Farm Market and picked up a variety of cheeses and a 16-ounce bottle of the delicious chocolate milk. Thankfully, no tears were shed over spilt milk.
Nuts & Bolts About Dakin Dairy Farms
Dakin Dairy Farms
30771 Betts Rd.
Myakka City, FL 34251
Tel: (941) 322-2802
opens in a new windowdakindairyfarms.com
View additional photos my from visits to opens in a new windowDakin Dairy Farms on Flickr.