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Fair Oaks Farms is not only one of the world's largest dairy operations, it's winning a reputation as a major ecotourism destination.

The farm, where more than 15,000 cows are milked daily, has long been a popular school trip for kids from Chicago, Indianapolis and elsewhere in the Midwest.

Now, an article in "Food & Wine" magazine said it's now being called the "Disneyland of agricultural tourism." It also gets high marks from travel websites, such as TripAdvisor.com.

It isn't hard to see.

New chicken and beef cattle adventures that would give visitors a close-up look at modern farming operations are being planned. That would add to existing attractions, such as its dairy, pig and crop adventures, which help attract more than 600,000 visitors a year to the Fair Oaks, Ind., farm that straddles I-65 about 110 miles northwest of Indianapolis.

Food & Wine magazine also gave the Fair Oaks, Ind., operation high praise for its sustainable living initiatives, including the way it reuses its cow manure to create biofuel to power its fleet of semis delivering milk-related products across the Midwest.

Here are 5 cool facts about Fair Oaks Farm that you may not know.

• New attractions: The new chicken adventure, for instance, would house 500,000 to 700,000 chickens that visitors could view up close from behind plexiglass walls. The beef cattle adventure would have about 50,000 steers.

• Future lodgings: It has plans to build a hotel with 100 to 110 rooms. That would help support the owner's goal of attracting one million visitors a year.

• Fresh fruit: Fair Oaks isn't just about animals. It has an apple orchard, planted behind its Farmhouse Restaurant. The orchard, which also includes raspberries and blueberries, could allow people to pick their own fruit starting later this year.

• Inside the factory: The Fair Oaks Farms Café lets visitors go behind the scenes to see how products like cheese, Greek yogurt and ice cream are made.

• Humane treatment: Fair Oaks treats its cows, which the owners call their "girls," with great care, milking them three times a day on 72-cow rotary platforms. The cows get a balanced diet of crops and feed 24 hours a day, as well as comfortable lodgings, including sand beds and covered, open-air barns with plastic walls that lower in cold and rainy weather, and fans and water soakers during hot summer days.

 

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