Frustrated with the misconceptions that plague the public’s perception of farming and ranching, fourth-generation Ohio farmer Brenda Hastings opened her family farm, Hastings Dairy, to the public five years ago. Hastings, whose family milks 550 Holsteins, also thought the tours she provides would help generate additional income to partially offset the dairy industry’s shrinking margins.
Hastings has always enjoyed talking to people about her farm. She’s especially passionate about setting the record straight on animal care, and what better way to do that than show people how well her animals are treated?
“Our barn has a free-stall system. We take people through on a wagon and they can see what a pleasant and comfortable environment it is for our healthy cows,” Hastings said.
Hastings hosts tour groups of all ages, from kindergarteners to 65-plus. She said people are often struck by how clean and quiet the facility is.
“We clean multiple times a day,” she explained. “And the cows are so quiet because all their needs are being met.”
Antibiotic use is another frequent topic.
“People assume all milk has antibiotics. We explain that every load of milk is tested before being processed before it leaves the farm to make sure there are no antibiotics.”
Though most of Hastings' milk is used to make cheese, tour participants’ requests to sample the milk prompted the family to build a small on-farm bottling facility, Rowdy Cow Creamery. Now, not only do tour participants get a sample, they can buy half-gallon and pint containers to take home. The milk is also sold at 20 local stores.
In addition to the guided tour of the milking parlor, smaller visitors can pet and interact with calves, take Chugga Chugga Moo Moo Train rides, play on a farm-themed outdoor playground, use pedal tractors and play games like corn hole and ring toss.
Find Hastings Dairy online at http://hastingsdairy.com/index.html.
Find Rowdy Cow Creamery online at http://hastingsdairy.com/hastings-dairy-rowdy-cow-creamery.html.