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Sundown at Fair Oaks Farms

Cow gas station mural!

For the discerning traveler on the mooove.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! This week I turned 47 without entering true Midlife Crisis mode yet, and managed not to whine about it. Much. Not out loud, anyway. The more I stare at our recent convention photos, the more gray hairs I see taunting me and trying to convince me I am, in fact, an old adult and not a mature teenager.

For the past several years my wife and I have made a tradition of going somewhere new for each of our birthdays. One-day road trips and events such as last year’s Garfield Quest give me the gift of new experiences and distracts me from the physical decay at hand. As it happens, we’ll spending my birthday weekend helping a relative move, which means we’ve had to postpone my official birthday outing till next weekend. I’m grown-up enough to handle delayed gratification, and am at peace with the notion of serving others this weekend instead of indulging myself…

On Memorial Day weekend we found our opportunity to get out of town to celebrate my birthday with a special activity alluded to in another previous entry. Friday after work we drove partway to Chicago through holiday traffic — including an irritating one-hour delay and 11-mile detour resulting from an accident on I-65 Nortb — and spent the night on the grounds of an Indiana attraction. It wasn’t our primary objective, but we scoped out our surroundings for exercise and fun, in that order.


Fair Oaks fork tanker!

This way to farm-tastic fun!

Off I-65’s exit 220 in northwest Indiana stands Fair Oaks Farms, a friendly agritourism center that introduces families to What Farms Are Like Today though presumably without an abattoir on the agenda. More than a mere parade of Meet Your Food, Fair Oaks attracts guests with tongue-in-cheek roadside ads and gives them a glimpse into 21st-century farming. As their website sums up their mission statement: “No one cares for the land, animals, and the safety and affordability of the food they produce as much as a farmer. Fair Oaks Farms is a place where our guests can have their questions or concerns answered with complete transparency, where they can make the connection between a farmer and the food on their tables.” Other paragraphs bring up such topics as recycling, sustainability, carbon footprint, diesel usage reduction, and America’s dwindling farmer ranks.

Because their focus seems to be families, Anne and I have yet to dive into the Fair Oaks experience options as we no longer have any small children to educate or impress. However, on our last few Chicago trips their gas station has become my favorite driving intermission. Clean facilities and a selection of Fair Oaks products and snacks lift it head, tails, and stomachs above the I-65 rest-stop competition at other small-town exits.

gas station cow!

among other pluses, their gas station sports one of the six functional air pumps remaining in Indiana.

Central Bark!

Extra credit: a dog-walking park out back.

We arrived at Fair Oaks hours after closing time, but we weren’t there for the tour. Their amenities include a Fairfield Inn that’s very nearly the halfway point between Indianapolis and Chicago, ideal for a stopover to reduce our total driving time on Saturday.

Fairfield Inn Fair Oaks!

Points for cute themed architecture.

window view!

Our room’s view of the Fair Oaks Farms backyard.

Partly out of curiosity and partly as an aerobic warm-up for the next day’s hours of walking, we traipsed around the acreage to see how far we could get into the Fair Oaks environs on $0.00 a day. We couldn’t dawdle too long, with sunlight waning and the local gnat population awakening and preparing to feast upon any warm bodies foolish enough to be outside after dark. Perhaps they’re the official Fair Oaks security system in lieu of cameras or armed guards.

Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure!

I’m going down to Cowtown! The cow’s a friend to me!

Your Adventure Starts Here!

If they were open and you paid money, your day would begin at the Adventure Center, which has a smashed-penny machine that Anne must use someday when our schedule better permits.

giant Vitamin D milk!

Giant bottle of Vitamin D milk on the way to the Birthing Barn, which sounds self-explanatory.

PORK building!

PORK: The Building.

piggy statue!

This little piggy kept his mouth shut all the way home.

milk tanks!

Milk tanks sporting the Fairlife product logo.

cheese slide!

The cheese slide’s alone. The cheese slide’s alone.

Pixellated silos!

Stylized silos and a building of indeterminate purpose.

Farmhouse!

We’d already eaten dinner, but the Farmhouse Restaurant offers lunch and dinner to anyone who brings an appetite.

Cowfé!

Across the parking lot, the Cowfé (yay puns!) sells breakfast and snacks, but was closed upon our arrival.

water tower!

The town water tower at sunset.

…and then we bought snacks at the gas station and retreated to the hotel before hordes of gnats could eat us alive. We had a big day planned Saturday and didn’t need to spend it covered in bites or drained of our blood. And no one likes having nasty pests clouding around their dairy-air.

* * * * *

POSTSCRIPT, 6/6/2019: After posting these happy fun pics, allegations came to light in an Indianapolis Star exposé regarding animal abuse at Fair Oaks Farms that sound extremely awful. We didn’t see inside any of the facilities, but it sucks that our after-hours visit has taken on an added, uglier dimension after the fact…

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