This was a nice outing that we went to whilst on holiday up in the Dutch island of Texel, a short drive and ferry trip away from Amsterdam.
The Ijsboerderij Labora (the Ice Cream Farm) is one of the most popular places on the island of Texel with young families. The reason is quite obvious, everyone knows how corn and wheat are grown on farms... but did you know that farmers also plant ice cream seeds and when it is time, the ice-cream is harvested with a combine harvester. If you cross-pollinate the ice cream plants with strawberry plants, then you get strawberry flavoured ice cream! Don't ask how they get Smurf or Unicorn flavour... that is a question best left unsaid and unanswered.
As you come into the Ijsboerderij, you immediately see the large playground with all manner of playground equipment and a large trampoline... oddly enough, there is very little shaded area for you to sit down in, so we ended up siting on the grass huddled in the shade of bush! But of course, we aren't here for the playground!
Just a little bit further down the path, you will see the ice-cream shop... keep walking, you don't want to eat ice-cream! You WANT to know how ice cream grows and is harvested!
.. but in case you are tempted to visit the boring part of the Ijsboerderij, there is often a little bit of a line... especially just after lunch in the afternoons!
Okay, this is the real reason that we came here... to see how ice cream is made! I'm starting to think that there isn't an ice-cream tree...
So, in the production section of the Ijsboerderij, you come face to face with a milking robot! There are two that are easily viewable by the public, and the cows just walk in there to get milked by themselves... I guess they know when they need it!
Going upstairs, you see the history and information about the Ijsboerderij. It was actually really quite interesting to read about.
The cows are basically free to wander around inside feeding/milking area and outside in the fields. They have no restrictions, and they are tagged so that the relevant gates are opened and shut, and the owners can keep a track of where they are going and how much time spend in the eating and milking areas.
If they try to get milked too often, or stand around hoping that food comes out in the feeding area, the chip won't issue the feeding or milking commands to the robots. Or they just won't open the gates.
From this upper viewing platform, you can see the entire feeding area. It is really quite strange to see... the milking area is just below us. The cows seem to vaguely know when they want to be milked, and they just loiter around the gates to one of the milking robots. When the previous cow is done, the gate opens and the waiting cow just wanders in to get milked!
Pretty strangely orderly....
Okay... let's not kid ourselves... everyone comes for the ice-cream! I'm just the horrible father that makes their kids learn about cows first!
You can also buy all manner of Texelse products from all over the island, and there is also fresh milk and cow meat for sale as well. There is all manner of ice-cream flavours, but the one to try is the Aardbei (Strawberry) which is freshly made with local Texelse strawberries!
Well, I'm a huge ice-cream fan... and I have to say that these ice-creams are one of the best that I've ever had. On an interesting side note, this was where we had found our very first geocache!... and the geocache was DEFINITELY not the excuse that we needed to visit this for the third time in a single week!