By Susan Hayhurst
Consumers want to know where their food comes from. They are even happier when they can visit the places where the food is grown and meet the producers in person.
Indiana’s dairy producers, including dairy cows, dairy goats, and dairy camels—yes, camels—are a vital part of the state’s agritourism industry. According to the Indiana Office of Tourism Development and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), agritourism “includes agriculturally-based commercial enterprises conducted for the enjoyment, education and active involvement of visitors.” From northern Indiana’s Fair Oaks Farms at Fair Oaks to the southeastern corridor’s Goat Milk Stuff at Scottsburg, family-owned farms are great at telling the story of milk and its value-added products from farm gate to family plate.
Fair Oaks Farms
Nationally-recognized Fair Oaks Farms is a precedent-setter when it comes to educating the general public about modern farming practices. “We are unique because educating the public is our main goal including providing self-guided tours of both dairy and pig farms which promote animal welfare, innovation in the agriculture industry and providing safe and nutritious products for consumers,”
says Leslie Rusk, the farms’ marketing and special events director. “We want to bridge the gap between farmer and consumer. Our story, is your story.”
Their story features their oldest and most well-known attraction, the Dairy Adventure. Built in 2004, families can hop on colorfully painted buses to visit the free stall cattle barns. You can witness the miracle of cows giving birth in the birthing barn where between 80-100 calves are born every day. Exhibits include cow nutrition and the safety and nutrition of milk. And daredevil youth can climb to “Udder Heights” in Mooville’s interactive area.
In addition to the dairy emphasis, the farm added the Pig Adventure in 2013 and most recently, the WinField Crop Adventure in 2016. The site also features a gift shop, and three tempting eateries, the rustic and welcoming Farmhouse Restaurant, the Cowfe ́, and the Dairycatessen.
Fair Oaks is dedicated to sustainability, even building anaerobic digesters which turn animal manure into Compressed Natural Gas to power their fleet and farm, according to Rusk. “Visitors are always wowed by our innovations. We are proud to say we are ‘Powered by Poo.’”
For those families wanting to leisurely visit Fair Oaks, the business is partnering with Fairfield Inn and Suites to open a 99-room hotel, with silo suites available in 2019.
For more information go to www.fofarms.com.
Traders Point Creamery
Fulfilling a niche dairy market and a taste of farm life just northwest of Indianapolis at Zionsville is Traders Point Creamery, a 150-acre, family-owned dairy farm and artisan
creamery. Noted for being the first USDA certified organic dairy farm in Indiana when they opened in 2003, the operation specializes in 100 percent grass-fed, non-homogenized milk and dairy products packaged in glass.
Owners Dr. Fritz Kunz and Jane Elder Kunz prize their heritage breed cows and the picturesque setting the working farm sits on. “The Loft farmstead restaurant is the most organic in the state, deriving ingredients—like dairy, pork, eggs, and produce—from our farm. Visitors love the authenticity of dining in our historic 1860s barn,” says Gail Alden, director of marketing and events.
The Creamery’s delicious products from milk to yogurt to cheese can be purchased at the on-site food store and smooth-as- silk ice cream at the Dairy Bar, both on the barn’s lower level. Winners of many awards, their Whole Milk Yogurt won first place in the 2015 American Cheese Society competition. Visitors wanting up close experiences will sign up for self-guided or private tours and tastings opportunities. The farm’s renowned milking parlor is open to the public where you can stand alongside the farmers to see how milk is processed.
Chief Executive Officer Mark Vander Kooy looks forward to the operation’s expanded walking trails, more event spaces, and an enhanced nature component thanks to a new partnership with nearby Eagle Creek Park. “We will also be offering low-fat milk. We currently are in 1,600 stores throughout the country.”
For more information go to www.traderspointcreamery.com.
Seasonal agritourism events occur at Kelsay Farms at Whiteland where school buses filled with children for a field trip, families with young children in strollers, and grandparents treating grandchildren abound. Educational field trips can be scheduled in April and October. The farm is also open to the public for five weeks in the fall for Experience the Farm.
Amy Kelsay, tour director, says they often hear visitor comments from “my grandparents used to have a dairy or used to farm so I want my kids to see a dairy farm. With the generational gap today, children aren’t exposed to livestock production like they used to be.
This is the experience we provide and that I think our customers are looking for. Real life on a real working dairy farm!”
Kelsay stresses dairy farmers today, like in the past, care deeply about their animals and their people. “We are a sixth-generation family dairy farm and the only working dairy farm in Johnson County.
Corn mazes, tours of the barns, drinking a signature Kelsay Farms milkshake, and seeing baby calves up close are some highlights of your visits here.”
For more information go to www.kelsayfarms.com.
Goat Milk Stuff
From their 10-member family to yours, the Jonas’s of Goat Milk Stuff in Scottsburg are known for welcoming you personally in every aspect of your visit. Their tagline, “Work hard. Get dirty. Use Good Soap.,” best describes their daily activities, says PJ Jonas, mom and co-owner.
“Goat Milk Stuff is a family business where children are taught the value of hard work. This hard work and the way we care for our animals results in goat milk products that are of the highest quality and make a difference in people’s lives.”
The dairy operation is the first and only Grade A goat diary in Indiana. The farm is the only place where people can legally purchase Indiana-grown, pasteurized goat milk, yogurt, and kefir–similar to yogurt–for human consumption. Visitors love the handmade goat milk gelato, candies, milk, cheese, and their lovely scented soaps. Guided tours include the soap room, gardens, barns, milking parlor and kitchens. Highlights are meeting the goats and even scheduling a special time for snuggling and playing with baby goats.
One reviewer on www.goatmilkstuff.com’s website summed up their family’s visit, “Our family loved, loved, loved visiting the GMS farm. We enjoyed the tour led by members of the Jonas family, and we really loved getting to go in the pen with the baby goats!”
For more information go to www.goatmilkstuff.com.
Shelbyville’s Bass Farms is cleaning up on the skin care industry with what some are calling a “breakthrough.”
What started as a hobby for Jana Bass in 2010, selling her goat’s milk lotions at farmer’s markets, is now a success story. One year into her business, Dr. Darrel L. Ross, a radiation oncologist in Indianapolis, endorsed Bass Farms’ Triple B Hydrating Cream, as a healing agent for radiation burns from cancer treatments. It has led to a cult following of cancer patients around the state and region, and others, who seek the moisturizing miracle.
Bass first created the cream as a gift, for a friend about to give birth. Calling it, “Baby Butt Butter”, she believed it perfect for diaper rash. Once word spread that it soothed radiation-affected skin, it was re-named Triple B Hydrating Cream. Today, it is their #1-selling product, sold in nearly 80 locations around Indiana—many that are hospitals.
There is a pound of lanolin in every batch, that locks in moisture,” says Jana Bass. “Lanolin locks in your own moisture and locks out the outside elements.” she explains. “It also contains frankincense and myrrh, known to be healing.”
Brad Bass, Jana’s husband, recently quit his job to devote time to the burgeoning business. Their daughter, Jessica Wampler, helps out. Bass says talking to cancer patients about how her products have helped them is cathartic, after losing both parents, and a brother, to the deadly disease. Their stories, she contends, and giving back, make it all worthwhile. Bass Farms has donated over $8,000 in products to The Giving Gig, one of Indianapolis’ top fund-raising events for Community Health Network’s Oncology Patient Assistance Fund.
All Bass Farm products are made from FDA-approved goat milk, with all-natural ingredients of the highest quality, and Satisfaction Guaranteed. For a complete list of their skin care line and retail locations, visit www.bassfarms.com.
River Jordan Camel Dairy
A camel dairy in Indiana? Yes, and it will soon be open to the public for tours. When Luke and Amber Blakeslee of Milford bought their first camels in 2015, the idea was to raise camels to ride and help “mow” the grass. However, their camel “love affair” turned into a thriving business as the couple learned more about the health benefits of camel milk.
Amber began making and selling artisan soaps and lotions, each with all-natural ingredients. The soaps are made up of 25 percent pure camel milk; the lotions with 75 percent. Camel milk has a unique blend of key vitmins and minerals, and is naturally rich in lanolin, lactic acid, alpha-hydroxy acids, anti-inflammatory proteins, and Vitamins A,B3, C, and D.
The couple has been preparing and planning to open their operation up to the public, offering tours and educating visitors on not just the milking process, but also the technique of making their products, and more. “We want visitors to see the camels first-hand, and learn the processes behind milking and making products,” says Amber. “We also want to debunk some of the myths, like the fact that camels don’t actually spit, or carry water in their humps!”
Located in Kosckiusko County in northern Indiana, River Jordan Dairy Farm is just 20 minutes north of Warsaw. Tours are planned to start this summer, so give them a call at 574-312-0155 before visiting to confirm when tours will be available. Also, to learn more about their soaps and lotions, go to www.riverjordancameldairy.com.
Indiana Family Farms and Markets
MERKLEY AND SONS
Since 1954 Merkley and Sons has been serving Jasper, Indiana, and the surrounding area with fresh, quality meats at a reasonable price. Under family ownership, the company currently employs approximately 25, including third- and fourth-generation family members.
Known for natural casing hotdogs, the retail shop features a full selection of fresh beef and pork, frozen chicken and seafood, seasoned patties, cheeses, and their own special recipe (and award winning) deli meats, sausages, brats, and smoked products-including bacon, hams, and BBQ.
Steckler Grassfed is a family-owned, pasture-based, certified organic farm in Southern Indiana. Steckler Grassfed provides local, high-quality raw aged cheese, pastured poultry (eggs, broilers, and turkeys), lamb, beef, and pork.
The Steckler Grassfed farm strives to offer the highest quality grass-fed and pastured products. The farm partners with nature, which provides more available nutrition from your food, while decreasing our environmental footprint.
Fischer Farms produces all-natural angus beef on their farm in Southern Indiana. They also sell pork, chicken and turkey all raised naturally in Indiana.
DUBOIS COUNTY FARMERS MARKETS
In Jasper, farmers markets will take place starting Memorial Weekend each year and continuing for 20 weekends, every Saturday from 7:30-11:30 a.m. In 2017, the Jasper Farmers’ Market introduced Market Bucks through a grant made available from the Dubois County Community Foundation. Market Bucks are for Dubois County residents who may be
food-insecure and may shy away from the market because they don’t participate in programs like SNAP or WIC. This program is funded by grants and the generosity of the community. For more information go to www.visitduboiscounty.com.
HUNTINGBURG FARMERS MARKET
The Huntingburg Farmers Market will be held Saturdays from June through Fall. For more information go to www.visitduboiscounty.com.