Addie loves milk more than almost anything else – food or drink. She must get it from me. As a kid I easily drank two gallons per week. Our fridge was perpetually out of milk because I had just topped off two glasses during dinner or chugged a glass with my snack. Additionally, we both also have a fondness for cows, so it seemed like a perfect fit for us to join the folks at Appleton Farms in Ipswich, MA for their Meet the Cows tour.
Though it is the oldest continuously operating farm in the country, this former family farm is now run by the trustees of reservations. Founded in 1636 by Samuel Appleton, and once owned by nine generations of the Appleton family, the farm was turned over to the trustees in 1998. Nowadays, the 133 acres of farmland and 16 miles of hiking trails are open to the public year round from sunrise to sunset daily. We visited once before this past March during Maple Syrup season, and had a blast.
Today’s tour started with meeting the calves, who were quite adorable. Timid at first, Addie quickly became comfortable enough to take a peek up close. We were warned not to let the calves lick us, because like human babies, they are more susceptible to sickness from our germs.
On our way to see the cows being milked, we passed by the cheese making building, which is connected to the dairy barn by pipes that transfer the milk from one building to the other. Apparently the cows weren’t quite ready for milking, so our tour guide found a great way for us to pass the time – a visit with the hens! We crossed through the dairy barn, walked along a tree-lined path, and into the cow pasture.
Addie was enchanted by the hens, who were feverishly pecking the ground for worms. We learned that the hens lay, on average, one egg per day, and that occasionally, they’ll eat grass from your hands. Addie attempted to feed the hens, but had no takers.
On our way back to the dairy barn, we swung by the pregnant cows, and learned that a newborn calf weighs 40-80 pounds! Next, we crowded around the cows in the dairy barn and watched the nearest cow as she was milked. First, the farmer squeezed milk from the teats, dipped each one into an iodine disinfectant, and then wiped them off with a cloth.
He connected the milking machine, placing each teat in a teat cup. After just ten minutes, the milking was done, and the farmer removed the teat cups. He then dipped each teat in another disinfectant, meant to ward off mastitis, which can spread from cow to cow. It was a fascinating process made less so for me by the fact that I have seen a breast pump in action. Addie, however, was riveted.
On our way out of the dairy barn, we met the farm’s newest bull – Ferdinand. Addie was so excited to meet the bull from one of her favorite stories!
The cows at Appleton farms are milked twice a day, and their milk is used to make a variety of dairy products made right on the farm, including yogurt, milk, cheese, and butter. The store, which is open weekdays from 11am to 6pm, and weekends from 10am to 4pm, also sells beef and eggs produced on the farm, local honey, and myriad other items. Before we left, we stopped into the Dairy Store and bought cheese, yogurt, oat biscuits, and a honey stick for Addison.
Meet the Cows runs every Saturday through November 30th, so make sure you head to Appleton Farms soon! The tour begins at 2:30pm outside the Dairy Store, and runs about 90 minutes. The cost is $4 per person or $12 per family for trustees members, and $5 per person or $15 per family for non-members.
Directions to the farm:
Though there are several entrances to the farm, we used the Dairy Store parking area. However, the Highland Street parking area provides great access to many of the hiking trails.
Visitor Center & Dairy Store Parking Area: From Rt. 128, take Exit 20A, Rt. 1A North. Travel about 6.5 miles north on Rt. 1A and turn left at the Appleton Farms entrance sign (just after entering Ipswich sign). Inside stone gates, follow signs to visitor center or dairy store. Address is 219 County Road, Ipswich.
Waldingfield Rd. Parking Area: From Rt. 128, take Exit 20A, Rt. 1A North. Travel about 7 mi. north on Rt. 1A and turn left onto Waldingfield Rd. to parking area (20 cars) at street corner.
Highland St. Parking Area: From Rt. 128, take Exit 20A, Rt. 1A North. Travel about 4.5 mi. north on Rt. 1A and turn left onto Cutler Rd. Follow for 2.2 mi. At intersection with Highland St., turn right, and right again into parking area (20 cars).