OLD TOWN, Maine — Dairy cow calves received extra attention from children as Witter Farm hosted Open Farm Sunday.
Cabot, the Vermont-based cheese maker, encouraged 49 of its nearly 1,200 farms in New England and New York to participate in the third biennial event since 2009.
“It’s a chance to open the doors to the public and let them get a first-hand view of dairy farming,” said Jake Dyer, farm manager of Witter Farm at J. Franklin Witter Teaching and Research Center, a part of the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry and Agriculture’s Livestock and Forage Crops Research Facilities.
Witter Farm is one of 103 Maine farms that are a part of the Agri-Mark Dairy Cooperative, which owns Cabot, said Dyer. Two other Maine farms participated in Open Farm Sunday — Krebs Organic Dairy Farm in Starks and Pleasantville Farm in Warren.
Cabot provided cheese samples and other giveaways to visitors and Hood, which is based in Portland, provided samples of milk. Workers also talked about dairy farming and answered questions.
“We’ve got some information out there on how we treat the animals and how their health and comfort is a priority on this farm,” said Dyer. “Milk starts out as a calf.”
Several families brought children to see the cows, horses and chickens at the farm.
“Oli really likes animals, so it was a good opportunity to see these cows, which we normally don’t get to see that much,” said Duane Higgins of Brewer, referring to his 4-year-old son Oliver.
Dozens of people navigated through the farm, many with children.
“It’s been a great day,” said Teresa Spratt of Bangor, adding that she had never been to the farm before. “We’ve actually been able to pet the cows and they’ve all been real friendly here.”
Joey Daniell, creative coordinator for Cabot, said Sunday was the largest turnout he’s seen in three open farm events since 2009. He said several people were interested in knowing where their food comes from.
“Mainly these events are to stress that farm families are behind the Cabot cheese product that you’re buying and it’s local,” said Daniell. “People like to know that there’s local farms and it’s their neighbors who make the cheese that they buy.”
Although Witter Farm is open to the public seven days a week, Dyer said it’s the first open house event the farm has had.
“I’m happy. It seems like it’s a good turnout,” he said.