SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - One thing that makes the Suncoast a "Great Place to Call Home", is the wonderful farm and dairy products produced here.
The Dakin Dairy Farm in now one of only 3 dairies in Manatee County, when not long ago there were 38. And it's one of less than 100 dairy's state wide.
But it's still thriving and growing.
The Dakin family has been milking cows for a living for almost 70 years.
Pete Dakin started it back in Livermore, Maine in 1948. He had 16 cows. By 1960 he had 60 cows and milked another 30 cows down the road. Then as fate would have it, in 1963 he made a trip to Florida.
His son Jerry says, "He came down here in the winter time to bring to a friend's family down, and he saw what the weather was like here, and when he went back home he told mom,"Everything we own, pack it up. And if it won't fit in the trunk of the car it's not coming to Florida with us. "
In 1968 Pete bought a dairy in Manatee County.
Jerry says, "I am amazed that he did so well. He knew Maine conditions well, but he was new to Florida. But he adjusted well to the climate, and it eventually gave all us boys the opportunity down here to get in the dairy business and to grow. In Maine, there are not the opportunities we have had here."
Pete Dakin and his wife have 4 sons, and all 4 went into the dairy business.
Jerry says he started out small.
"Back in 1997 there was me and one guy and 237 cows."
Today he has 2200 cows and 80 employees.
They milk the cows 3 times a day. It takes about 4 minutes a cow.
Jerry says, "We have 1200 acres that we farm and we grow the grass that we feed the cows. We feed them fresh green grass."
And he says that grass is the secret of their extraordinary milk.
"We really focus on feeding fresh grass. We looked at grazing, where we move the cows from pasture to pasture. Our cows would have to walk 2 to 3 miles. We came up with a thing where we cut the grass every day and we bring it to the cows. Our cows are healthier, and their milk is better."
He says the dairy business has changed since his father's day.
"Dad made money and we just kind of survive. It was easier back then. There are just many regulations, and there are a lot of things you have to do now to be in the dairy business, and that's why we've seen a lot of our friends go out of business. "
Jerry says he is blessed to be able to call this place home and work with the animals.
"It's my passion. God gives you a passion, and cows are my passion and I enjoy it."
School kids visit the dairy often, and learn how milk, and cheese are produced. The Dairy is also open to public tours at 11 am on days that school kids come and on Saturdays.