Milking it: Go behind the scenes with creamery tour at Hansen's Dairy in Hudson

 

The Hansen family has spent more than 150 years making their Hudson farm “legen-dairy.”

Seven generations of Hansens have lived and worked on the same land since 1864. The family has grown since then, with four brothers and their families currently working on the farm, along with their parents, Jay and Jeanne Hansen.

Green fields unfold off Highway 63 as the road approaches the sprawling Hansen’s Dairy property near Hudson. At the farm’s entrance is a sign listing the dairy’s “fresh and tasty” products — milk, ice cream and curds — and inviting passers-by to the farm’s tour center, complete with dairy-themed decorations.

Once inside the center, another sign promises products that are “the very best from Moo to You.” Visitors can sample the goods: more than 20 flavors of ice cream, creamline milk (which is pasteurized but not homogenized) and six flavors of cheese curds so fresh they squeak when you bite into them.

 
 
 

The Hansen family began specializing in dairy products after making the heritage farm a creamery in 2004, marketing director Jordan Hansen said. Visitors can buy the farm’s products on site and at two Waterloo and Cedar Falls stores or sample them in restaurants within a 25-mile radius.

What motivates people to bring their kids to the farm, Hansen said, is that people are interested in learning where their food comes from.

“Milk doesn’t just come from a grocery store shelf,” she said. “It has a story behind it and a lot of work that goes into it.”

On a trip to the dairy last June, the Hansens whisked visitors around the farm on a tractor-pulled trolley tour.

The first stop: huts that house calves. Tags hang from the fence showing the calves’ names and birth dates — Jemima, Gluey and Nintendo, to name a few.

Tour guide Jordan “Maui” Seals explained the calves’ feeding ritual and let visitors bottle feed the babies.

“Angle the bottle like a baby,” Maui told one child, whose face lit up as a calf stuck out its pink nose and began sipping while flicking its tail.

 

Not far from the calves is a larger barn where the 150-plus milking cows are kept. The next stop on the tour was the air-conditioned barn, where the cows are milked.

The milking parlor has metal doors, tubing, nozzles and flooring designed to let liquids flow through.

When those doors open, the cows know what to do, Maui said. Even here, the tour was hands-on as visitors were able to try their hand at milking a cow.

At this point in the tour, we still didn’t know why the creamery’s logo has a kangaroo in it. But then we arrived at a fenced-in area with a red shelter, where we met the farm’s kangaroos — Rocket, Scooter and Larry. The three either leapt on the grass or lazed around in the dirt, allowing visitors to pet them, — if the kangaroos stood still long enough.

 
 

Jordan Hansen said her husband, farm co-owner Blake Hansen, loved the kangaroos he saw in Australia and wanted some of his own. The kangaroos have been on the farm since the creamery opened, so a kangaroo was incorporated into the dairy’s logo.

On the way back to the tour center, Maui quizzed visitors with dairy trivia as the tractor bobbed to the final activity: ice-cream tasting. A sweet treat to finish off a day on the a farm, finding out the story behind our milk and ice cream.

If You Go

 

WHAT: Hansen’s Dairy

WHERE: 8461 Lincoln Rd., Hudson

WHEN: Tours available by reservation only April 1 to Oct. 31

RESERVATIONS: (319) 988-9834

DETAILS: hansendairy.com

Also check out:

 

WHAT: Dan and Debbie’s Creamery

WHERE: 1600 Main St., Ely

DETAILS: (319) 848-6455, dananddebbies.com

 

WHAT: WW Homestead Dairy

WHERE: 850 Rossville Rd., Waukon

DETAILS: (563) 568-4950, wwhomesteaddairy.com

 

WHAT: Cinnamon Ridge Dairy

WHERE: 10600 275th St., Donahue

DETAILS: (563) 843-2378, tourmyfarm.com

 

WHAT: Iowa’s Dairy Center

WHERE: 1527 Highway 150 S, Calmar

DETAILS: (563) 534-9957, iowadairycenter.com

 

WHAT: New Day Dairy

WHERE: 31000 175th St., Clarksville

DETAILS: (319) 278-4455, newdaydairy.com