Hugging and hand milking cows, bottle feeding calves and soaking up the sun in lush, green pastures are a few of the activities in which guests can partake at Spectacular Views & Moos, an Airbnb hosted by dairy farmers Daniel and Angela Schmid in Bloomville, N.Y.
The Schmids operate Mountain View Dairy, a 270-acre, 50-cow dairy atop a picturesque hill with breathtaking views. Daniel’s father, Walter, bought the farm in 1969 after he moved to the United States from Switzerland. Annemarie, Daniel’s mother, joined him about a year later, and they’ve been on the farm ever since. Currently, Daniel and Angela manage the dairy and are venturing into agritourism — combining their agricultural pursuits with tourism and the chance to connect people with their food.
While the dairy is the real bread and butter for the family, their agritourism business is burgeoning into a life of its own. In a world where consumers are more and more interested in where their food comes from, and social media can provide as much misinformation as truth, the Schmids decided to share their love of dairying with people through social media, their Airbnb rental and the opportunity to camp with the cows.
Guests from around the world have booked, from places including Japan, Los Angeles and Houston. Some guests enjoy the views and their solitude; others want to learn about the dairy and participate in milking and other farm chores. Angela loves engaging with the guests and is willing to let them be as involved as they like.
“I have a deep passion for this farm and I love being able to share it with our guests,” she says. “They come as strangers and leave as friends.”
It seems the guests love it, too. As one Airbnb reviewer from New York City noted, “Be sure to take them up on a tour of the farm. If you’re anything like us, knowing where and how your food gets to you is such a meaningful experience. On top of that, the view is absolutely stunning.”
Lori Ciafardoni, Cheri Rossi and Desi Carter (from New York, Minnesota and Florida, respectively) took the Schmids up on their offer of an interactive Airbnb experience and booked Spectacular Views & Moos for an early-summer weekend. The three ladies work remotely for The State University of New York and attend commencement every year at the campus near Mountain View Dairy. They wanted to rent a place nearby with room for all of them. As Lori and Cheri searched together over the phone for a suitable rental, Spectacular Views & Moos jumped out at them.
“Views & Moos, what’s this?” Lori exclaimed, and then immediately called Desi and told her, “We’re staying with cows.”
They didn’t actually sleep in the barn during their stay, and they passed on the chance to camp in tents in the woods by the fire pit. Glamping is a little more their style, so the ladies stayed in the house on the property. They did, however, get a much more hands-on experience than they planned, including a little snuggle time for Lori and Snow, a 1,300-pound Holstein whom Lori hit it off with instantly.
True to their word, Daniel and Angela let their guests be as involved with the farm as they liked. So, amongst the scattered moos of 50 impatient cows waiting just outside, Desi, Lori and Cheri strolled into the Schmid’s milking parlor at 6 a.m. on a crisp, bright Friday morning. Daniel and Angela gave them a tour and explained the process they go through twice a day, every day, to milk their herd. The ladies, with their boots on, were ready to start and dove right in.
The bovine ladies filed in, took their places and ate some grain. The Airbnb guests took their cues from Daniel and Angela and cleaned udders, connected milkers and even learned to milk by hand, which Cheri said was completely different than she expected and was her favorite part of the whole experience.
Once the cows were milked and back to grazing in their pasture, Daniel cleaned the parlor and Angela took Desi, Lori and Cheri to the milkhouse. Here, she explained the mechanics of getting milk from 50 cows to their 1,500-gallon, stainless steel milk tank, into a tanker truck and to a plant.
While Angela explained the process of cooling the milk and taking test samples for quality, her guests peppered her with questions about pasteurization, expiration dates and cow care. Being a nurse, Lori was especially inquisitive about the health of the Schmid’s herd. She asked about treatments when cows get sick, which led to a discussion about antibiotics.
“We won’t take a risk that any antibiotics would ever get into the milk tank,” Angela explained. “We don’t have the piping system connected to the tank when we milk a cow that’s getting antibiotics. The cow still gets milked, but the milk goes into a separate pail, as it can never go into milk processed for human consumption.” Angela then went into detail about the testing protocols in place on every farm to prevent antibiotics — which, just like humans, cows receive when they are sick — from making it into dairy products: “Before our milk hauler will take our milk, the driver agitates the milk tank for 10 minutes and takes a sample, which he sends to the processing plant. The processing plant won’t accept milk that tests positive for antibiotics. Should any milk on that truck test positive, it would all be dumped.”
Providing answers to questions about milk, cow care and anything else related to dairy farming is part of the reason Angela loves agritourism. It allows her to engage with the public and promote the industry she loves. In this way, she can dispel some of the confusion people face when making food choices and bring them a little closer to agriculture.
She says, “With social media, it’s easy to share our day-to-day with people who wouldn’t normally get a chance to even see the inside of a dairy barn, let alone touch or hug a cow. It’s important to let them know we are here and we welcome them to come, see, ask questions and maybe even find a little passion.”
Reflections on the hill
After a visit to the pasture where the three ladies hugged cows and made friends with Sprinkles, the only Jersey on the farm, they had a picnic-style lunch and enjoyed the views from on top of the hill.
Reflecting on their morning of learning, milking and hugging cows, Desi, Cheri and Lori said they had really just been looking for a place to stay, but ended up with an unforgettable experience.
“Knowing it’s a working farm, we didn’t think we would be that involved because we would be in the way,” Cheri said. “But, they totally let us get in the way!”
Desi admitted they’ve already booked the Airbnb for next year’s commencement trip and she will be bringing her husband along to share the experience.
Whether it’s hosting foodies from New York City, glampers on a commencement trip, campers enjoying the fresh mountain air or just folks looking for a place to stay, the Schmids have found a meaningful way to connect people to dairy and the families who produce it.