Indiana is a wholesome, homey looking state. Driving through the back roads is like driving through a Norman Rockwell scene. Everything seems ordered and neat, the front yards of whitewashed farm houses are well cared for, but not showy or fussy. The houses look as if a round, smiling, green-thumbed grandma lives there. In honor of this image of wholesomeness I bring you Fair Oaks Farms. Because what’s more wholesome than milk?
Fair Oaks Farms is a working dairy and tourist
trap attraction in north-west Indiana. It’s no small operation either; they produce over 7 million gallons of milk a month from their herd of 30,000 cows.
|That's a cow's eye on the tour bus.|
I'm the one with all the teeth.
We have visited Fair Oaks Farms several times, they have all the things a trucker needs: a huge parking lot, right off the interstate, and lots and lots of cheese. And ice cream. And milk. If you’re lactose intolerant, you should just skip the cafe, but it’s still an interesting place to visit. You can watch cheese being made, do a tour of the farm, and watch a calf being born.
We go for the grilled cheese sandwiches. Thick crusty bread, tons of their own cheese (pepper Havarti is best) then sprinkled with Asiago, and smashed between a grill press until gooey, melty and yummy. Hang on, let me wipe the drool off the keyboard.
Let’s talk cows.
* A cow spends about 6 hours a day eating. Me too.
* Cows eat 90 pounds of food a day. Me too.
* A full udder holds 25-50 pounds of milk. Uh. I know all the words to the Gilligan’s Island theme song.
* One cow can produce 200,000 cups of milk a year.
* When the cows are too old to give milk, they are sent off to a huge pasture, with lots of thick grass, and a great health plan, to live the rest of their lives in comfort. (They didn’t actually *say* this, but I know it’s true.)
In the birthing barn we sat in a theatre, on concrete stadium seating and watched a mama cow give birth behind glass. They told us that they have an average of 80 births a day, so you’re virtually guaranteed to see a live birth any day you visit. Holy cow that’s a lot of cows!
We did the bus tour to the working part of the dairy, which was really interesting but maybe summer isn’t the best time of year for this. A bunch of screaming kids on a hot bus, who snicker every time the tour guide said "teat". Ok, that was me snickering, but still I think the fall would be a better time to visit.
The best part is seeing the cows line up and get on a giant record player. If you’re under 40, that’s a machine that the dinosaurs used to play their iPods. Anyway, the cows walk up a platform that spins slowly, someone hooks up the cow business to the milking machine, the milk gets pumped out and by the time the record player goes around once the milking is done and the cow walks off.
More than you ever wanted to know about cows? Maybe. But the Tumbleweeds are willing to eat as many grilled cheese sandwiches as it takes to provide you with a glimpse of America and her fine attractions.