What better way to celebrate National Dairy Month than a day dedicated to bringing families to the farm. Dakin Dairy in Myakka City, one of the largest working dairy farms in Florida with just over 2,300 milking cows, turned its farm into a center of family fun for several hundred people Saturday with lots of games, rides, entertainment and mouth-watering dairy products, from milk shakes and ice cream to "extreme" grilled cheese sandwiches.
This was the second time Dakin Dairy hosted a Family Fun Day on its 1,000-acre, fully sustainable farm located on Betts Road off State Road 70 East. The first festival was held last October, when the farm traditionally opens to the public, offering tours of their milking and bottling operations throughout the spring. Now that the season has come to a close, it's time to celebrate with the community, says Karen Dakin, wife of Jerry Dakin, whose family moved from Maine to start dairy farming in Manatee County in 1973.
"We've been involved in agritourism for about five years, and this is a great way to celebrate National Dairy Month and enjoy a fun day with a dairy theme. We're really excited about the possibilities as we move forward," Dakin said.
Jerry, who along with two older brothers own the remaining three dairy farms in the county. credits Florida's good weather with helping his business.
"We've been blessed with a moist year, and things have been going well for us. Not only do we sell milk in Manatee County, but east in Orlando, in Miami, and now we're selling our milk to markets in the Virgin Islands," he said.
The Dakin farm had something for everyone to
enjoy on Dairy Day under the cool shade of the farm's large towering trees. There were calf scrambles, pig races, cow train and pony rides, waterslides and rock climbing walls, along with "Moogician" magic performances, local musical talent, dairy demonstrations and tastings provided by Keiser University culinary students and an extreme grilled cheese experience.
Middle and high school students like Gretchen Synk, 15, of Sarasota, who participates in the 4-H and Future Farmers of America programs at school, pitched in to help milk the calves.
"We had to return our cows to the farm in March, so I haven't been around them for a while and I love them," Synk said.
Julie Davidson, of North Port, who brought her two young boys to the festival for the first time, enjoyed watching them milk and feed the calves.
"This is so laid back. It's very family friendly, and there's something for all to enjoy."
Some of the proceeds from Family Fun Day at Dakin Dairy will support Karen Dakin's favorite charity, Harvest House Transitional Centers in Sarasota, a social service organization providing affordable, faith-based, residential drug and alcohol treatment and support services to individuals and families in need.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.com.