Boy oh Boy! Did I have FUN!!! I recently took a tour of Fair Oaks Farm in Fair Oaks, IN. I went to learn about modern farming to fulfill my own curiosity. Yes, I did think it was going to be interesting enough to bring my kids who are 3 and 5 years old. What I didn’t know is that they (and me and my Dad) were going to have a blast!!!
Why Did I Visit Fair Oaks vs Another Farm?
One day my husband came home with a new milk called FairLife®. The bottle stated that the milk was “ultra-filtered” which resulted in a higher protein content. The milk is also lactose-free, yet still tastes like regular milk. There was also a cute little story on the side of the carton explaining how their farms focus on sustainable agriculture and the best care for their animals. Then I saw that their milk was coming from Fair Oaks, IN. I was in luck. I happened to be planning a trip to Indiana (from Miami) that very next month. A quick email and the kind folks at Fair Oaks Farm offered to let me and my family tour the farm for free in exchange for a blog post. (FYI-that was my disclosure) I didn’t sign anything, and I really doubt they would even know if I wrote this, but I’m a woman of my word. I do hope to start visiting more farms.
A Few Points about the Tourism Part
- ALL of the staff was extremely knowledgeable. I could ask anyone any question and I felt that I was getting a thorough and honest answer.
- There were fun and humorous facts posted everywhere to keep you smiling.
- In the café, the staff was working their butts off. It was super busy, but they were keeping the line moving and the place clean.
- If you ever make it to Indiana or the Chicago area, I highly recommend a trip to the Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure
Overview of Our Day at the Dairy and Pig Adventures
We did the swine tour first. We had to wait a few minutes for the bus but it was no problem as there was a lot to do in the Pig Adventure waiting area.
A few cool facts about the pig tour
- There is a vet on staff 24 hours a day
- The Swine farm at the facility is just a breeding farm where piglets are bred and born and cared for until they are weened and ready to transfer to a growing farm
- Farmers have to shower on the premise and put on clean clothes provided by the farm before they can enter where the animals are. This is to help keep the pigs healthy.
- Antibiotics are only used for sick pigs
- The day before farrowing (birthing), the farrowing rooms are deep cleaned to get rid of bacteria and organic material
- For a pig farm the smell was pretty mild. All the pig poo is washed through cracks in the floor and transported underground to either the poo power plant where the poo is used to create electricity to power the farm or stored and processed to make fertilizer.
- The pigs wear a little chip on their ear. When they walk into the feeding stall (not sure what they really call it), the chip is read. If the pig hasn’t had their allotment of food yet then the gate comes down so other pigs can’t get in and food is dispensed. Otherwise, some pigs would eat too much and others wouldn’t get enough.
More pics of the Pig Adventure:
My biggest Question… What do the Pigs Eat?
See the pic to see the break down of their diet. My take is that it’s pretty well balanced. However, it would be ideal to see feed that comes from pesticide-free crops. Organic, nonGMO would be even better. These pigs are growing little babies after all.
Next, Food & Fun
I’ll let the pictures do the talking here. A few pics I missed though were the bungee jump, bounce house and the playground area (there was just so much to do something had to give)
Finally, The Dairy Adventure
On the dairy adventure we drove by the poo power plant. Not much to see, but still cool to look at. I wish I would have gotten more pics here but I was losing steam myself.
A few notes about the Dairy Tour:
- The cows had plenty of space to move around.
- They had to walk a pretty good distance to where they get milked 3 times a day, which gave them a fair amount of exercise
- They each had a sand bed to lay in. Supposedly, the sand is more comfy for them.
- The farm is in Indiana so that means weather can get crazy hot and crazy cold. The tour guide pointed out specific measure that are taken to keep the cows safe and comfortable.
- The poo is also tightly controlled on the dairy (just like at the pig farm it’s used to produce electricity) which the tour guide says reduces smell up to 90%. I would have to say that’s probably true. I’ve driven past many dairies in my life where I couldn’t breathe. Though the Fair Oaks Dairy did smell like a dairy, it didn’t smell like death like some other dairies.
- At the end of the tour, we watched a fun 3D/4D moo-vie and played inside
My biggest Question… What do the Cows Eat?
See the pic to see the break down of their diet. My take is that it’s pretty well balanced. The cows are bred to produce more milk so they can be milked 3 times/day instead of 2. Not sure how I feel about that. The corn is added to their diet for additional energy since they are producing more milk than is natural. The corn is fermented to make it easier for the cow to digest since corn isn’t part of their natural diet. Nutritionally, I prefer cows be fed grass or pasture only. Even if they can’t/don’t/won’t 100% grass feed the cows, I would still like to see them being fed food that comes from pesticide-free crops.
The Birthing Barn
This was one of the coolest parts for me. All day long at Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure cows are being born. We were lucky enough to see a cow being born as soon as we walked in the birthing barn. We waited around about 30 minutes to see the calf’s first steps. As we were leaving there was already another cow about to give birth. I’m kicking myself for not getting pics on this.
Last but not least… I Scream You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream
How could we not end the day with ice cream made from milk produced at the farm. I also sampled some of their cheese and bought some aged Gouda and habanero Havarti for the road.
I encourage everyone to visit a farm near you and learn more about where your food comes from. The Dairy Adventure and the Pig Adventure were intelligently designed to be fun. I think they do this to put a positive spin on modern farming. While the folks at Fair Oaks are doing a lot of things right (comfy living quarters for the animals, empowering their employees with education and recycling their poo), I do believe they could be doing things better (like improving what they feed their cows and pigs). I learned so much on the tour and took pretty good notes. However, I haven’t included it all. Please comment if you have any additional questions.
Do we need dairy in our diet? Simply put, no. But if you know me, you know that I have an all food fits mentality. What that means is that with balance and moderation, there is space for any food in your diet. If you need help finding that balance contact me via email: info @ vidanutrition dot com