If your child thinks milk comes out of a bottle or a carton, maybe it’s time to visit a farm. Here are two child-friendly dairy farms in Gauteng. Whichever you choose for an outing, both will show your children what a real farm looks like and set them straight as to where milk and cheese really come from.
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This dairy farm is picture-book stuff with lush green fields, cows grazing peacefully with egrets pecking at their feet and old barns with doves cooing in the rafters. Set halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria, it’s an easy drive and a lovely place to have breakfast or lunch.
Cows are milked at about 15h00, so if you want to see the actual milking then make sure you go to the observation platform overlooking the milking barn. The cows magically sense it’s milking time and come wandering in each knowing their place in the queue. The smell of cow dung is all part of the genuine experience.
If you’re in Irene, maybe stop by the Smuts House Museum.
This is kid heaven as children are encouraged to run free and explore. Young calves are kept in a separate barn and love to lick you with their long wet tongues while you stroke them. As in all storybooks, chickens and roosters wander at will and swans glide on the nearby dam where you might even spot a fish. There are also swings hanging from shady trees and old tractors to climb on.
The Deli is a treasure trove of delicious goodies and you will be hard pushed not to come away with armfuls of cheese, homemade lemon juice and other delights. The milk is sold in buckets and you can either buy a bucket there or bring your own.
Meanwhile there are two restaurants for families to choose from.
The farm dates back to 1895 and The Barn is one of the oldest buildings there. Sit under shady oak trees outdoors or inside on cooler days to enjoy hearty breakfasts with real butter and scones with real cream. The menu is extensive and many come for a good Sunday lunch. The Deck is another restaurant attached to the Deli and serves light food.
This farm 45 minutes south-east of Johannesburg near Heidelberg is less touristy and smaller than Irene Dairy Farm but has a genuine sense of old-farm charm.
Eighteen years ago the Hyde family chose to get out of the rat race of Johannesburg and their children, Firn and Rain, have grown up here alongside their very amiable Jersey cows. In fact the cows are part of the family and each one has a name with the family being able to tell you which ones are mischievous and which ones want the most attention.
Children will love the fact that there is a special field called the Jersey Penitentiary for naughty cows. The cows are super friendly and curious and will come up to have their heads scratched. With their dark brown liquid eyes they are the cutest cows around.
Ask mom, Dinki, if you can organize to see the cows milked. Dinki also runs the Heifer Hotel where she raises other farmers’ calves, so there always seem to be lots of calves lolling around in big piles of hay. And of course, ducks and chickens wander at will.
Father, Jon Hyde, is the cheesemaker and will take you to the cheese making barn where great golden rounds of cheese are ripened. You can have a cheese tasting with flavours such as mustard seed, cumin, chilli and pepper. Children will delight in all the cats and kittens that hang around the dairy and cheese room hoping for a treat.
Firn also has a riding school and will take anyone who is keen on an out-ride in the waving grasslands of the farm. The ride is often accompanied by the farm dogs, Cyclone and Blizzard, who are large and friendly and also ask for love.
You will likely go home loaded with fresh milk and cheese but you might even find a smuggled calf in your luggage.
To visit Hydeaway Farm phone Dinki on 083 254 3921.
If milk and cheese aren’t your thing, then visit the Best Spots on the Magaliesberg Ale Trail
Words and Photography by Sue Adams