|Watch How Things Are Made! by Jaimie Hall|
Big brown eyes stared as our small group walked down the aisle. Jersey cows looked at us from the right with Holstein and Brown Swiss cows on our left. My daughter, three grandchildren, and I were at Hope Acres, a totally robotic dairy -- the first of two factory tours we took on my recent visit to Pennsylvania.
Factory tours can be a delightful and interesting addition to your RV travels. You get off the beaten path. They create opportunities to find out about an area's economy and culture. Some are especially fun and outstanding learning experiences for children or grandchildren.
HOPE ACRES ROBOTIC DAIRY
Located in Brogue, York County, Pennsylvania, Hope Acres calls their dairy a "cow spa." The cows definitely looked relaxed. What cow wouldn't be if it could chew its cud on a waterbed? Yes, the cows were lying on water-filled beds! Manure was automatically removed. Automatic back scratchers activated when a cow stepped under it. The barn was climate controlled and -- amazingly -- there were no flies.
Robotic machines milk each cow three to five times a day. Frequent milking increases production and the cow's comfort. Each cow's collar contains a computer chip with her schedule. Enticed by a "cow cookie" flavored with Hershey's chocolate, we watched cows enter the milking area often, hoping for their treat. If it's their time to be milked, the gate closes and the machine moves under the cow, cleaning and then milking her. Any problems and the farmer is notified by computer or cell phone!
My grandchildren were totally fascinated. Eight-year old Robby asked several questions of Krista, our guide. Five-year old Timmy was a little nervous about the milking area though clearly intrigued. Almost two, Shannon enjoyed running back and forth. We watched the whole process, petted cows, and then walked to the other barn housing pregnant cows and calves. That barn did have flies.
After the tour we enjoyed a free scoop of ice cream at the nearby Brown Cow Country Market, which markets their line of beef and dairy products. Hope Acres uses the richer Jersey milk for their products, with the other herd's milk going to the Maryland/Virginia milk co-op.
We also toured the Crayola Factory in Easton, near the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border. Crayola's Discovery Center is definitely kid-oriented. Kids (and grownups) can color, draw and create with Crayola products. Very young children like Shannon had their own play area. She also enjoyed drawing with markers on glass walls while Robby and Timmy decorated wastebaskets and created colorful masks. We watched a demonstration showing how crayons, markers, and Model Magic are made. Each admission includes product samples. .
RV friends Lucille and Larry have done a half dozen or so factory tours, mostly in Vermont. Their most memorable one was Rock of Ages, a granite quarry in Graniteville, Vermont. Most impressive -- they watched one of the huge blocks of granite being hauled up out of the quarry.
Some other popular factory tours include:
Jelly Belly Factory,
Ethel M Chocolate Factory & Botanical Gardens, Henderson, Nevada
National Vitamin Company, Las Vegas, Nevada
Pendleton Woolen Blanket Mill, Pendleton, Oregon
The Boeing Company, Everett, Washington
A good guide to nearly three hundred factory tours across the country is Watch it Made in the U.S.A. by Karen Axelrod & Bruce Brumberg.
York County, Pennsylvania,calls itself
the Factory Tour Capital of the World. "Made
in America" tours are held each year in June.
Many factories are open for tour all year.
Some tours have admission fees; some are free. If the tours we've taken are any indication, you are in for special experiences. Plus you often get a free sample!