For two generations or more Americans have grown up in urban environments away from our agricultural roots. The Cagle Dairy Tour allows us to revisit our past and see how a working farm operates.
Most people who drive on Cherokee County roads during the daytime have seen the Cagle's Dairy truck as it delivers milk to stores throughout the county. When Scott Cagle invited my wife and I to spend some time with him on this one-of-a-kind "agri-tour" we were excited at the opportunity to visit a working dairy farm. It was an amazing experience not only for the kids, but the adults as well.
Scott Cagle is one of three brothers who partner with dad to operate the dairy. He chatted with us briefly before we joined the tour. Our host introduced the tour to Albert Cagle, his father. Albert is a sprightly gent that obviously enjoys these groups, and it is his job to introduce us to an important part of farm life, correctly identifying farm animals. Bulls, ewes and kids (not children but baby goats) are all part of his lesson. He even threw in a couple that we didn't know like a hennie (no, we are not going to tell you what that is, you'll just have to take the tour).
After Albert covered the entire range of animal life on a farm, the group was whisked away on good old-fashioned hay ride, reaching speeds of 3 or 4 miles an hour. The guide, who is an employee of the dairy, takes us through the process of feeding dairy cows. Its actually pretty amazing all the things that go into a cow's diet -- corn, molasses, hops, barley... the list goes on. The tour guide passes around bags of each ingredient and a bag of the feed given to the cows while showing us the area where the food is actually mixed and fermented. Her experience as a working member of the dairy made answering our questions easy.
Then everybody joins Scott in a pasture for a demonstration of the work performed by his award-winning border collies. While most Americans think of dogs as pets, these are hard-working animals that earn their keep. Moving quickly they herd the cows towards the amazed crowd with remarkable ease...especially since the cattle weigh 50 times what the collies do. While cows are generally docile creatures, having a 2000 lb. animal -- any 2000 lb. animal -- within an arms reach is impressive, especially for the kids.
We stopped by the barn and got to meet and pet a number of the smaller animals. Goat feed is given out (both the kids and the children just love this!). Petting a large cow is not a good idea, but petting a baby calf is safe. After feeding (and photographing) the kids (young goats, as Albert taught us), we visited the area where calves are raised. They require special care early in life and are kept apart from the herd, which they will join as they get older.
Now we move into the production of milk. The milking demonstration allows everyone an up close look at what its really like to be on a farm. A live cow on stage is the highlight of this portion of the tour. Then its on the Etowah Maid bottling facility, also on the farm. Here the milk is processed and put in the jugs that are found in supermarkets and convenience stores throughout the county. In 1961, Etowah Maid became the first dairy to market its milk in plastic jugs. The production process is discussed, including homogenization and pasteurization, and how this processing makes the milk safe for us to drink.
Of course, the best way to top off a tour of a dairy farm is with some ice cold milk and that's how the Cagle Tour ends. Before leaving we chatted with our new friends at Cagle's and return occasionally to pick up a gallon jug of that great milk.
You can make your reservations on line at www.caglesdairy.com
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Big Red Apple
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Babyland General Hospital
Etowah River Bridge
Cooper's Iron Works
Oostanaula River Bridge
John B. Gordon Hall
Relief Map at Ringgold
Relief Map at Dalton
Noble Brothers Foundry
The Big Chicken
Coca-Cola bottle at Turner Field
World of Coca Cola
Skylift at Stone Mountain Park