My visit to Cow Creek Farm started early before the Florida sun could warm the air on this cloudless morning. A faded green tractor hauling a wagon rattled into place, ready for our tour around the fifteen-acre farm. As I walked to the check-in booth, the farm’s two resident donkeys greeted me with a bellowing hee-haaaw. On my tour, I would later learn that donkeys are like doorbells; they let their owners know a stranger is in their territory. They are also excellent protectors for cattle in pastures against coyotes because of this alarming screech.
Cow Creek Farm is located in Plant City, Florida. It is a family-run farm led by Jess and Nate, a young couple who just welcomed their first baby into their family. Jess checked in the visitors, scanned tickets, and ensured everyone received a small pail of pellets to feed the animals. Her husband Nate was our farm expert and tour guide. Group sizes are limited, keeping it easy to interact with the animals and hear all of the information about each type of animal living on the farm.
Cow Creek’s Highland Cows
Cow Creek Farm is an agritourism farm. This intersection of agriculture and tourism provides visitors recreation, entertainment, and educational experiences. The focus at Cow Creek Farm is their Highland Cattle. These long-haired beauties originate from the Scottish Highlands. Typically raised as livestock, the demand for this breed has recently risen due to the lower cholesterol content of their meat. However, the Highland Cattle at Cow Creek Farm are used solely for visitors to enjoy getting up close and personal.
On my visit, the farm welcomed its newest calf to the herd the night before. After seeing this newborn curled up next to its mom, I understand the term “cow licked” hair. The calf’s wavy amber hair was jutting out as if each strand had a mind of its own. This mass of swirling hair was dotted with a tiny wet nose and two dark marble eyes looking back at our group with a quizzical stare.
We boarded the wagon, and the green tracker pulled us down to the creek. Since we were the day’s first group, the herd excitedly galloped towards the fence line to greet us. Nate put out an entire five-gallon bucket of pellets for us to grab by the handfuls. The cow’s sandpaper tongues reached through the wooden slats of the fence in anticipation of their treats. I was surprised to learn Highland cows do not have any upper front teeth, making it difficult for them to bite. I still proceeded with caution, feeding each cow with a flat open hand and a pellet centered in the middle. Their tongues snaked around my hand like they were picking up hors d’oeuvres from a silver platter.
Mustangs, Alpacas, and Goats, Oh My!
Aside from the fleet of majestically fuzzy Highland cows, there are also a variety of other farm animals desperate for your attention (or at least desperate for the treats in your pail). A small gang of goats surrounded me as I walked into the barn. I felt as if I was trapped in a dark ally being held at hoof point. “Give us your feed, and nobody gets hurt!” The Alpacas look over on one side of the barn to say to the goats, “you know you’re only two feet tall; she can step over you.” To which I did, as I moved to the other side of the barn to see the horse patiently waiting for me to come over to pet his nose.
This particular horse was adopted through the Mustang Heritage Foundation during our tour. Mustangs are removed from public land through the Bureau of Land Management. These mustangs are trained through the organization’s Trainer Incentive Program and then rehomed to live on farms. In proud admiration of his wife, Nate pointed to the ribbons his wife won through her work with their adopted mustang.
The alpacas were standoffish as I tried to tempt them with my feed pail. I finally caved to the demands of the goats and sat down on the floor to make sure each of them had a fair share of the feed. After the goats realized nothing was left, they quickly moved on to corner the next unassuming visitor.
Bonus Stop: Parkesdale Market
It was getting close to lunchtime by the time I left the farm. As I drove back onto the main road, I passed by towers of strawberry boxes strapped to the beds of trucks. A strawberry milkshake sounded like the perfect treat for my ride home. It’s been years since I’ve visited Parkesdale Market, and with a quick google search, I found myself on a short ten-minute detour home.
Parkesdale Market is more than a place to get a bowl of strawberry shortcake or the BEST strawberry milkshakes. They also sell fresh produce, citrus, and flats of strawberries. Fresh jams and preserves line the market’s walls, while the outside sitting area is filled with tropical plants. If you want to pick strawberries straight from the field, Parkesdales Farm posts U-Pick dates on their website during strawberry season for visitors to fill their baskets with as many strawberries as they would like.
I watched as kids took turns sitting in the large strawberry throne for a picture. A tradition many people put on their checklist when they come to visit. As for me, I ended my day buzzing from the rush of sugar and dopamine from spending time at Cow Creek Farm. Spending a day at these local farms is an excellent way to learn about untraditional farm animals while supporting local farmers and enjoying the sweet berries from the area.
If you want to read more on the Florida Farm series check out this past post: FLORIDA FARM SPOTLIGHT: SUNSATIONAL FARMS