Sensory experience: How a Hansen’s Dairy tour can ignite all five sensesJuly 14, 2022 9:24 am
By Jordan Hansen, Hansen Dairy co-owner
How often do you get to see exactly how your food is produced? At Hansen’s Dairy, we aim to make that process as transparent as possible by offering educational farm tours. When you visit, you get a behind-the-scenes look at how the cows are raised and how the milk is processed. And along the way, you get to have some fun, unique experiences too! Here’s how our tours will stimulate all five of your senses.
This is an obvious one; it may be the first thing you notice when you step out of your car. Yes, dairy farms can come with a certain aroma that you might not care for. Cows can produce as much poo-poo as milk in a day, so manure management is a big job at the farm. But that manure is liquid gold for our fields. Before planting and after harvesting, manure is injected into the cropland to nourish and replenish the soil. It makes for good fertilizer and good crops. If you have an astute sniffer, pick up a handful of cow feed (mostly corn and hay silage) and you could probably even recognize that feed smell in the manure. Hopefully by the time you leave, you’ll be used to the smell and even appreciate what it means. After all, there would be no ice cream without it! Here are some other smells you may experience:
- Freshly cut alfalfa hay
- Wet earth after a soaking rain
- Fresh peppermint when Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream is being made in the creamery
From newborn calves to full-grown mama cows and even kangaroos, there is a lot to see here! We are a working dairy farm; we don’t have glassed-in viewing areas or places where you can only get a limited view. You are right in the middle of it. Maybe you have some misconceptions about dairy farms. Maybe you have questioned where cows live or how they are cared for. We hope you can get a broad, favorable perception of dairy farming when you see it with your own eyes. What else might you see?
- A wobbly newborn calf, standing for the first time
- Cornstalks taller than you
- The spring of a kangaroo hopping
The best sounds on the tour are the miniature moos coming from the baby calves. Tourists get excited when they come around the corner to hear the calves calling for milk. They know when it’s feeding time! You’ll also hear your tour guide’s voice a lot — we give you tons of information about how things work. Listen for these sounds too:
- The chug-chug of the tractor pulling the trolley as you travel down to the farm from the tour center
- Clanking headgates as cows gobble up their feed
- The pulsating sound of the vacuum pump as the milking machines collect milk
Hope you don’t mind getting your hands dirty — this is truly a hands-on tour. Wear your old clothes and shoes and dig in. Now is the time to cross off items on your bucket list! You may be surprised when you feel:
- A calf’s sandpaper tongue
- A kangaroo’s velvety soft coat
- The hardness of a cow’s udder when she’s waiting to be milked
Don’t worry, handwashing is a must at the end of the tour. Right before you get to ….
After seeing everything that goes into getting milk from the cow to the table, you have to try the products. To whet your appetite, you could even have a squirt of milk straight from the cow’s udder. We’ve had many people on a tour try this! To some it sounds unpleasant, but the truth is, that is the cleanest milk you’ll ever have. The teats have been cleaned and sanitized and have not touched one piece of equipment before the milk hits your mouth. One thing that catches people off guard is the warmth — it’s not cold like you like to drink it!
To those who prefer pasteurized products, sample these products at the Tour Center after your tour:
- Fresh white or chocolate milk
- Creamy butter that you’ve made with your own hands
- Squeaky cheese curds
- Old-fashioned ice cream in 20+ flavors
By the time you’re done with your tour, you’ll know literally and figuratively what goes into that jug of milk. We are so blessed to live in a supportive community that values agriculture and local food production. By visiting our farm, we hope consumers will have a renewed appreciation for the genuine, authentic, delicious, nutritious dairy products we produce.