Fair Oaks Dairy Farm Tour

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Anyone who drives between Indianapolis and Chicago should know well the billboards advertising Fair Oaks Dairy Farm that sideline I-65. I’ve personally driven past the exit for Fair Oaks Farms a countless number of times, always with a thought in my mind to stop and visit. Two weekends ago, I finally made good on that thought.

Located in northwest Indiana, this dairy farm is the “largest agritourism destination in America.” Large doesn’t even begin to describe Fair Oaks Farm. And “agritourism” is somewhat a misnomer, too. In reality, the farm is a massive cow-themed amusement park focused on enticing families (and, more importantly, their kids) to dairy heaven.

There is plenty that could be said of this expansive enterprise, but several resources (see “Further Reading” below) give fair account of what you might expect to see—and feel—if you were to visit Fair Oaks Farm. For now, I’ll simply allow my images give you a visual sneak peak.

Have you visited Fair Oaks Farm? Share your experience in the comments.

FURTHER READING:

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A view of the barns and water retention tank.

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A view of the barns and water retention tank.

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The barns (on left) house the thousands of dairy cows at Fair Oaks Farm. The brick building (lower right) houses the “milking rotunda.”

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From a panoramic window, visitors can look down upon the entire milking rotunda. TV screens play a video detailing the milking process at the farm.

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Cows enter the milking rotunda, are hooked up to a milking machine, and take a circular ride. The milking machine automatically falls off the udder when there is no more milk. At the end of the “ride,” cows enter back into the barn.

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All of the milk is immediately stored in these large milk tanks, located just off of the milking rotunda.

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Behind the main Visitor’s Center at Fair Oaks Farm is a well-manicured “amusement park” arena, complete with games, gardens, and go-karts. On the right, a large cow welcomes visitors to the “Birthing Barn.”

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A large space enclosed with by glass offers a panoramic view to a live birth of a cow.

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A newborn calf drinks from his mother in the stadium-styled “Birthing Barn” at Fair Oaks Farm.

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A baby (female) heifer sits in her shelter outside the main barns at Fair Oaks Farm in Northwest, Indiana. The baby cows stay in these pens for two years after which they are brought in with the larger herd and bred.

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Fair Oaks Farm draws crowds of families to tour the farm, attracting kids with a moon walk and climbing wall outside of their main Visitor’s Center.

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More games and kid-friendly attractions fill the Visitor’s Center at Fair Oaks Farm. Kid-centric media (playing on large screens on the milk carton in back) inform kids why drinking milk is important.

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Visitors can try their hand at “milking” a cow (left) and take a ride around the “cow-ousel.”

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Ice cream—and other treats—are available at the Fair Oaks Farm Cafe.

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The gift shop offers patrons a piece of Fair Oaks Farm to take home.

I Heart Jesus

I sincerely hope that this chronicle of my farming endeavors will interest a wide range of folks—people who may or may not believe or think the same things I do. The vision of This Beautiful Life, after all, is one of community. That being said, it’s always best to give context when sharing opinions and ideas in such a limiting medium like the Internet, especially when the topics at hand (food, farming, and faith as linked to community living) are ones intimately connected to individual beliefs and experiences.

At present, I am working as a graphic designer for the local park district while simultaneously running my own wedding photography business (Getting married? Hire me!). I live in a modest home (1920’s Chicago bungalow-style) with two other girls (both mid-twenties; one engaged, the other in a steady relationship) and my Great Pyrenees, Maggie. The town in which I live is often slated as a “wealthy, white, strongly evangelical suburb of Chicago,” but is in fact, a town presently undergoing enormous demographic changes with 1 in 3 individuals being a minority and growing numbers of individuals with a faith other than Christianity. And my own modest income puts me squarely below the poverty line, if you want to talk statistics. I’m just over 26.5 years old, very much a suburbanite, shop at J.Crew and Whole Foods, and love a good cup of Dean and Deluca coffee.

Politically, I identify myself as moderate, although I have conservative roots characterized by an ongoing adoration for George W. Bush. I grew up attending Lutheran churches, turned atheist in high school, and truly found Jesus (in what popular culture calls a “born-again” way) my freshman year of college in Boston. I ultimately graduated from a small, private Christian university in Illinois, and while I have lived in the west (Colorado), South (Alabama) and East (New Hampshire), I am a true Midwesterner at heart.

My passions stem from a deep-seated curiosity to know and to be known, with interests ranging from the history of marriage and gender studies to conflict-resolution in the Middle East. I test solidly as an INTJ on the Myers-Briggs personality assessment and really believe in the benefits of talking to a good therapist. My entertainment of choice tends toward films, not movies, or a good book on theology or art and India remains on the top of my dream-destination list.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the use of the fonts Zapfino and Papyrus. I find meat really gross, but eat it to be healthy. And I talk to my mom on the phone everyday.

And did I mention I heart Jesus?

The Abundant Life

In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Shepherd wherein he promises his disciples that He has come to give “abundant” life to all those who believe (John 10:10 NAS). In Matthew, Jesus is heard qualifying the abundant life as one filled with rest, commanding his followers to “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30, NIV)

I believe in Jesus and I believe these words are His. But truth be told, I’m often persuaded to discount the reality of their implications. All too often, the unending ordinariness of my life breeds a gnawing sense of discontent and a desire for more. More joy. More peace. More beauty. More abundance.

This Beautiful Life is a personal project—a vision and calling, really—to consider what it means to live abundantly, to live beautifully. Not in some far-off future, but in this here and now, tangibly in this world’s reality. It’s about learning to embrace the journey while living in the destination, sensing that somewhere in-between is that “more joy, more peace, and more satisfaction” I so crave.

Welcome to the destination. Welcome to this beautiful life.