25 October 2011 by Robyn Campbell

Calling all milk maids…

I’m a sucker for agricultural shows. Having grown up nowhere near a farm (I met my first ‘live’ cow when I was twenty), I like to imagine that in a past life, I was an industrious farm worker - milking cows, cropping vegetables and harvesting baskets of fruit before sitting down to a table groaning with food all grown or raised by me.

My bucolic fantasy, of course, carefully edits out the reality of farm life - the early starts, back-breaking work, the vagaries of Mother Nature, and the fun (not) of mucking out smelly animal stalls - and leaves it on the cutting room floor of my imagination.

That’s why I love shows like the Cape Dairy Experience, because for a day, I get to pretend that I’m Farmer Brown, Old MacDonald or Little Bo Beep, and tomorrow somebody else has to get up at dawn and do the hard graft.

Taking place at Sandringham (no, not the Queen’s crib) next to the N1 between Cape Town and Paarl, the Cape Dairy Experience promises to be a full-fat dairy bonanza.

Brought to you by the same folk who churn out (if you’ll pardon the pun) the massively successful SA Cheese Festival every year, the exclusively dairy focused show offers city slickers a behind the scenes glimpse of the dairy industry in the Cape.

Activities are purposefully old-fashioned (they are feeding a fantasy after all), with plenty of fun stuff for the kids who can try to milk a mock cow, see real milking demonstrations, watch dog shows (hmm, not sure how Rover goes with dairy, but bear with me), and learn how to lead a cow or goat around the show ring.

Grown ups can learn to make cheese, churn butter and ice cream, or bake traditional milk tart. There’s even traditional bread making, roosterkoek and pot bread, and the little ones learn how to make stokbrood (bread wrapped round a stick and cooked over the coals) to be eaten with butter and cheese - yum! Did I mention the chocolate making demonstrations?

For me, the must-see event of the whole experience is the livestock displays. More than 200 Ayrshire, Holstein and Jersey cows are washed, prepared, showed and milked with great fanfare. Unlike the usual cattle shows, the contestants aren’t required to parade in a bathing suite, a national costume, or answer inane questions about world peace… The show’s number one dairy animal is crowned the Dairy Queen and long may she reign.

The public is invited to visit the Cape Dairy Experience opens on Saturday 5 November from 09:00 to 21:00. Tickets are available at the gates at R30 for adults, and kids under 13 get in for free.

In a world where the line between real food and the food technologists laboratory is increasingly blurred, opportunities like the Cape Dairy experience, to show our kids (and remind ourselves) that many of the good things we eat come from a living creature is moo-tiful indeed.

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