farm has been in operation since 1973, but the Dakin family has been in the dairy business since 1948. Pete Dakin milked in Maine before moving his family to southern Florida in the 60s. This multi-generational farming family has settled nicely in Myakka City, Florida, with three of the four sons, Cameron, Farren, and Jerry, following in their farming father’s footsteps and providing a firm foundation for the next generations.
Fast-forward to 2012 and at least one member of that new generation has bigger plans. Alex Dakin, an aspiring country singer, has a new single celebrating Myakka City.
Her love for the rural lifestyle is evident in her lyrics, “dairy farms, cruising along, Holstein cattle, working 7-5. Cowboys, make a little noise” and it is clear during my visit that Dakin Dairy is still a family operation, though a large crew has been signed on since the dairy started bottling on site in 2009. The big advancement caught the attention of Whole Foods, who sells Dakin Dairy products as their 365 milk line in the state of Florida. Dakin Dairy can also be found at other local retailers.
Thinking about the next generations does not just pertain to the Dakin’s own family tree. Dakin Dairy is first and foremost a sustainable farm. Plans are even in the works to convert the natural methane gas produced on the farm to electricity!
Grass grown naturally on site is cut daily to feed the cows and bulls on the farm. The milk is then bottled on site, using raw milk from cows on the main farm, under the direction of Jerry and Karen Dakin, as well as the two other farms in the family, ran by brothers Cameron and Farren just down the road.
The closed-circuit, local network method of ‘keep it in the family’ dairy farming results in a sweeter, richer milk. You can really taste the difference. The final product is healthier and more consistent, since all the dairy cows are from the same herd, with the same diet at all three locations, with increased omega-3 and CLAs from their grass-based diet.
Milk is bottled within hours from the udder, with the whole operation working 24/7. Seventy cows at a time are milked. The efficiency does not work at the expense of the health of the cows, who are given access to fresh, aerated water at all times. Whistling is used for herding, rather than poking or prodding methods. This produces happy cows, sweeter milk, and a more sustainable operation.
Jerry Dakin also networks in the community, promoting social sustainability. Many of his young calves, such as the bull I bottle-fed during my visit, are adopted by 4-H kids, who raise them over the following year and show them at the Florida State Fair. Dakin then buys them back for his dairy farm.
No certification process exists for sustainable practices in dairy farming, but if you ever question Dakin’s practices, just visit the farm and see for yourself! Farm tours are offered at noon very weekday November-April. Now that’s food transparency!