Now is as good a time as any to take a virtual tour of a small dairy farm

Illustration for article titled Now is as good a time as any to take a virtual tour of a small dairy farm
Photo: Katie Ellement (iStock)

As I’ve sat inside my tiny house in Baltimore for the past two weeks, I have yearned for the smell of crisp country air and wide open spaces. And, after 14 days of adjusting to the new normal, I’m developing “life hacks” to cope with feelings just like those. This afternoon, I’m thinking of taking my laptop outside into my 70-square-foot backyard, pouring myself a tall, frosty glass of milk, and taking a virtual trip to the Cow Comfort Inn—a small dairy farm in Union Bridge, Maryland.

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Owner Katie Dotterer-Pyle regularly gives tours of her family owned farm to school groups and the general public as part of her personal mission to educate people about the realities of farm life and to dispel what she feels is misinformation about the dairy industry.

“Farmers are less than 2% of the population, so, that being said, we have a lot of people that are removed from agriculture, and they don’t necessarily understand what goes on on a farm every day,” said Dotterer-Pyle in an interview with The Baltimore Sun. “I get attacked by activists all the time, I have received death threats in the past by these people that have this alternate story of what we do, but yet they’ve never stepped foot on a dairy farm. So I want people to see the reason I do this, and the reason it’s important is for people to see an actual dairy farm, actual people doing the work every day.”

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The farm is still open for business during the COVID-19 shutdown, but the popular behind-the-scenes tours have had to stop. It hasn’t stopped Dotterer-Pyle’s passion for education, though: last week, she decided do to a live interactive tour on the Cow Comfort Inn’s Facebook page, during which she answered questions from her virtual audience and covered topics like raising calves and the importance of cow poop. She also addressed what has become a very common fear: she assured viewers that there is not a food shortage and there will be plenty of delicious local milk to enjoy as we get through the days ahead.

Since it first aired last Friday, almost 9,000 people have watched the nearly two-hour tour. Dotterer-Pyle is also doing a daily ten-minute video series geared toward younger children, giving parents yet another resource to add to their homeschooling curriculum. Though the series is meant for kids, this thirtysomething food writer very much enjoyed the first two videos, which were both informative and a great way to connect with the bucolic countryside I have been daydreaming about.

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

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DISCUSSION

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Burners Baby Burners: Discussion Inferno

What kind of sack of crap harasses a small dairy farmer? Harass a big corporate one if you have to get all up in arms about it, but one can advocate for better treatment of farm animals without stooping to that level of grotesque behavior.

Anyway, this kind of sharing online is good, it gives people a better look at something they didn’t understand, and it gives hope for those who are still suffering food shortages. Nicely done.