‘How long do you survive?’ How a Myakka City dairy is holding on after Hurricane Ian
Hurricane Ian inflicted more punishment on Dakin Dairy Farms than any other storm in history.
Owner Jerry Dakin estimates the damage at $3 million, plus 360 cows lost during the storm.
Four months after Ian, the hurricane’s calling cards can be seen on every acre with piles of twisted metal and missing roofs on cattle barns.
Dakin this week seemed resolute that Dakin Dairy Farms, 30771 Betts Road, Myakka City, will survive and recover. Even though there is sadness at all that has been lost, and uncertainty over the struggle ahead to recover.
“We have everything cleaned up, and we are waiting for the suppliers to get materials in here so that we can start building and work to get labor to put it back together. We have never seen total devastation like this,” he said.
The one bright spot in Ian’s aftermath is how the Myakka City community, and beyond, rallied with chain saws, labor and trucks to remove debris.
“Oh, my God, I wish our government could learn something from our community. The people out here are amazing,” Dakin said.
“We are going to keep going as long as we can. Politicians and developers are making it hard for us to hang onto our land. How long do you survive? I don’t know,” he said.
Aside from the visible damage, there are other costs, such as diminished milk production, calves that weren’t born because of Ian’s violence, and the loss of agri-tourism.
In past years, Dakin Dairy has cultivated its status as a tourist destination, but with so much damage that won’t be possible for a while.
“It wouldn’t be safe,” Dakin said.
Scott Cagle, Dakin’s second-in-command, said the dairy also lost its feed shed during Ian, making it impossible to properly protect the dairy’s feed supply from the elements.
“It makes it hard to calculate rations. If the cows don’t eat enough, they don’t produce enough,” Cagle said.
With the exception of Dakin’s office building and store, every building on the 1,200-acre property was extensively damaged, Cagle said.
How do you recover from so much devastation?
In Florida, with its history of hurricanes, it’s impossible to have enough insurance.
What insurance doesn’t pay for comes out of the company’s reserves.
“It comes out of your pocket. You’ll be rebuilding your reserve for years,” Cagle said.
In time, Dakin’s tourism will return with its tours, special events, corn mazes and more.
One of the underlying reasons for having the tours is education, to help the public understand the source of the nation’s food supply.
“It’s important to feed yourself as a country,” Cagle said.
Even with the disruption caused by Ian, Dakin Dairy never stopped milking its cows and sending the milk to market, Jerry Dakin said.
“We are slowly regaining our footing and we are milking again, delivering milk again and we have fresh milk in the market. As we recover, regroup and restructure, keep checking back with us. We feel so fortunate to be part of this community,” Courtney Dakin posted on the dairy’s Facebook page shortly after Ian moved on across Florida.
More recently, Dakin Dairy noted its gratitude to the community for its support.
“We have been through tough times and we thank everyone who has helped our recovery efforts. Please know the Farm Market is open! We are selling milk and we have a very limited menu for lunch as we redo our kitchen. Tours will resume as soon as we feel it’s safe to walk the property again. Please feel free to visit and take home some delicious fresh milk,” Dakin Dairy says on its website.