MYAKKA CITY -- Come for the mac and cheese and the cow train. Stay for the education.
That's Karen Dakin's message for folks who are planning to check out Saturday's Dakin Dairy Farm Festival in Myakka City.
Dakin, who owns the farm with her husband, Jerry, says this year's celebration is aimed at educating the public about agriculture, buying local and eating healthy. She has hand-selected a slew of "agro-vendors," including local 4-H clubs, the Florida Cattlemen's Association and more than a dozen local merchants from the now-defunct Old Miakka Farmers Market selling everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to artisan bread and goat cheese.
Dakin has also invited vendors who already sell their wares in Dakin Dairy's own farm market, including a goat soap maker and a Greek family that imports its own olive oil.
"To me, it's all about the local, the farms, the wholesome, the 'I can read my label and understand everything that's in it' kind of thing," Dakin said.
Also new to this year's festival, which is celebrating its fifth year: a Mac & Cheese Cookoff, with separate judgings for individuals and for restaurants. The farm is still accepting registrations for the contest on its website, dakindairyfarms.com. Individuals can win up to $200 or one gallon of Dakin milk per week for a year.
Dakin has personally invited dozens of restaurants that already use the farm's cream and milk to participate in the cookoff.
The festival will also include pony rides, face-painting and farm tours starting every 20 minutes. There will be a hayride every 25 minutes, a calf scramble every hour, pig racing and a corn hole contest. And the farm's famous cow train will be running all day.
Providing entertainment at the farm festival will be local country musicians Kim Betts -- daughter of Dickey Betts of Allman Brothers fame -- and Gamble Creek Band.
There's also a 5K run beginning at 9 a.m., followed by a kids run at 10:30 a.m. Runners will receive a free pint of Dakin milk and fruit from local farms. Registration is still open and can be completed on dakindairyfarms.com.
Proceeds from the race and the mac and cheese cookoff will go toward two local charities that are close to Dakin's heart: LiveTheLife.org, a family and marriage ministry, and Sarasota-based Harvest House Center, which provides faith-based residential drug and alcohol treatment and transitional low-income housing.
"We hire on a lot of these guys that are going through transition," Dakin said. "We believe in second chances."
Admission is $15 and includes all the attractions except food. Kids younger than 2 get in free.
Dakin said she's already been busy this week preparing baby back ribs and pulled pork for the event.
"I'm planning to service up to 3,000 people. If 500 people show up, that's OK," she said. "Our season opens anyway, but we're gonna celebrate."
Dakin Dairy Farms is at 30771 Betts Road, Myakka City. Call 941-322-2802 for more information.
Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter @JasonBartolone.(941) 322-2802