Want to get a glimpse into how a local dairy farm produces milk? Just up the road in Edgefield, Hickory Hill Milk is holding the 11th annual farm night events this month.
Every Tuesday in October, the family-owned dairy will welcome guests for a tractor- or horse-drawn tour around the new barn on the farm, bluegrass music, barbecue and corn maze. The first farm night was Tuesday evening.
“Most people are three generations removed from a farm, so they don’t have a clue where their food comes from; and it’s important to support local family farms because we’ve lost so many local family farms,” said owner Watson Dorn.
The Dorn family has been living on the current farm land since 1764.
Dorn said there have been many dairy farms lost in the last year because the cost of milk has bottomed out and production costs have risen steadily over the last three decades.
“We want people to understand we produce a good, quality product,” he said.
“If I’m going to let my children drink it, it’s going to have to be perfect; and I want it to be perfect for your family.”
The farm has a new barn with robotic milkers that opened five months ago in May.
Dorn said robotic milkers have been around for about 20 years, but the technology was perfected around two years ago.
“We visited many, many dairies, trying to decide what we wanted, how we wanted it built, and I think … we hit the target,” he said.
The new system is a voluntary milking system, since the cows voluntarily go into the milker.
The robotic system also runs without someone having to stand by. If anything goes wrong, the system sends a phone alert and someone can go take care of the problem – usually something simple, Dorn said.
“My son’s in charge of all that, so the younger generations adapts to technology a whole lot better than I do,” he said.
The robotic milking system has created more production and more comfort for the cows, Dorn said, adding if the cow is happy and healthy, she will be more productive.
“People see cows out on grass as a beautiful thing,” he said.
“Well, today it is, but the entire winter last year it wasn’t because it was wet, wet, wet; and cows, we harvest the grass for them and put it in front of them, so they’re still grass-fed, but they don’t have to go out and actually harvest it themselves.”
Along with barbecue and hot dogs, Clemson’s Best ice cream and Forx Farm cheese, both made with Hickory Hill Milk, were sold at the event as well.
Farm nights will begin at 6 p.m. each Tuesday in October. Those who wish to attend must pre-register this year so the crowd size can be controlled. Dorn said last year, there were a few nights where the crowd was so large, the lines for food and tours were too long.
The farm is encouraging people to stay home if they don’t feel comfortable, and putting up signage recommending social distancing for those that do come. The event is entirely outdoors, and people are welcome to wear masks.