Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure

With the help from a Groupon, we decided to venture to Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure. It's about 1 hr. 45 minutes from our house in Bristol, so it is a bit of a drive. Of course, it's closer for those of you in South Bend. Fair Oaks Dairy Adventures is a place to connect with the dairy process. It's easily accessible to Chicago, Indianapolis, and South Bend. My sister had been a couple of times, so we heard a few details about it in the last several years.

When we entered the building, it seemed like a little of a hassle to use the Groupon. However, later in the day, I was glad we went. As we went back to schedule our farm tour (on a cow bus!), there were several cows along the way with facts about making milk. The boys enjoyed exploring these interactive displays.


We needed to wait just a little for our tour bus, yet there were many activities available to do while waiting. I especially liked this where they simulated prepping a cow for milking. The "play" act of this (complete with timer!) helped make seeing the process in action more meaningful.

They found other places to play too! There was another part here that was similar to a climbing wall; however, it was a metal wall and the climber puts very powerful magnets on the arms and legs to climb up--how unique! 

We also watched a short 4-D movie that was all about milk. While the movie tries to encourage us to use milk as part of a healthy diet, I will say it had the opposite effect on me. It made me think about where our milk comes from and how it is processed and fed. Still, it was fun to have water spray out on us when the milk spilled or the cow patty plopped! There was also a cool cow covered in chalkboard paint--oh, the possibilities! 

A bus took us to a nearby farm to see the cow milking in action. They had a prerecorded narrative that gave an overview of the practice. We saw the older calves and the stalls for the mommas. We also saw the anaerobic digesters which are used to convert the methane from the cow poop into energy. They are able to supply all their energy needs for the buildings through this process. 

When it comes to milking, the cows are on a circular revolving platform. The whole process is automated, with help from a few workers along the way.

They had many educational tools throughout the tours, such as bars simulated to the temperature of the milk when it is fresh from the cow to when it gets chilled quickly to cooler temps. The baby was checking out temps! 

Back at the main building, they have a section called Mooville, which has many dairy related recreational activities, such as this "dairy air" and milk carton climbing wall. 

The boys even found a tree to climb (my boys? GASP!). 

They bungee bounced and rode a train. 

They enjoyed the tractors and the cheese maze. 


We also enjoyed a little ice cream, made with milk from the cows that are part of Fair Oaks Farm. They recently added a Pig Adventure, too, so I wonder if more pig related items will be more available in the exhibits and food. 

There is a pretty garden area, too. 

Watching a calf being born was one of the best parts of the visit. My husband thought I was a little crazy when I said, "I paid to see a calf born, I'm going to see a calf born", as I think he was a little tired in the afternoon. I already checked on the newborns with their wobbly legs, yet hadn't seen the birth yet. We happened on a first time mom that needed a little help getting the baby out. They had two helpers out pulling the calf out. With quite a bit of work, the baby eventually emerged, looking lifeless. A little boy nearby had just said it was going to be dead because of the complications. I admit I was a little emotional as I saw it start to move and take it's first breaths. It was a great time to talk about when our kids were born as well and introduce them a bit into the world of where babies come from. I asked them what they thought of it on the drive home and I saw big SMILES. They said it was "cool!". This encourages me to do other things they don't immediately jump at as being fun, but that are worthwhile overall.

Another section inside is a self-guided tour (with voices and animatronics) that explore the nature and sustainability of the farm. The farm maintains 20% of its acreage as natural habitat spots. The talking tree told us about animals that are found nearby. 

I liked these quotes they had on the wall! Makes me want to tend my garden better!

More sustainability practices were also shared.

There is also a gift shop, restaurant, and ice cream area in a nearby building. About 1% of the milk produced stays on site to be used for cheese and ice cream making. We always like cheese curds! It was great with the pretzel bread.

My thoughts on the trip . . . 
  • I'm glad we had a Groupon--it's rather pricey for a family our size otherwise. Discount coupon codes may be available. Still, there are MANY activities available--a dairy tour, a short 4-D video, many play areas and dairy related activities, climbing wall and bungee bouncing, gardens, the live birth of the calves. This really does add up to provide a unique experience overall.
  • We brought our lunch and ate quickly in the van before we entered to save a bit on $$. We also bring refillable water bottles and have a medium sized water cooler in the van for refills. This all allows a little extra money for a special treat. 
  • As we entered, I kept thinking to myself that most of this was at the 4-H fair (calves and more). We live in a very agriculture based area so might be more exposed to things presented here; however, this was more focused on the dairy rather than many different interest competitors. I still found it interesting and really loved encouraging that baby along. 
  • While we couldn't use it everywhere, I'm glad we had the stroller. It also helped us carry items with us that we might want. 
  • We spent about 6 hours there, so we really did plenty for that price! I originally thought we'd stop at Potato Creek state park on the way home, yet we spent more time at the festivities than we thought. That means it's engrossing!
  • A lady I talked to at the farm mentioned a nearby candy factory. We checked it out on the way home! Talk to others while you're out and about to learn about more neat things in the area.