Dakin Dairy Farms, one of Manatee County’s last dairies, is for sale

Owner Jerry Dakin said that after 22 years the farm needs to go to the next generation of farmers to meet the dairy’s full potential.
Manatee County's Dakin Dairy Farms, shown in this January photo, is for sale.
Manatee County's Dakin Dairy Farms, shown in this January photo, is for sale. [ JAMES A. JONES JR. | Bradenton Herald ]
Published Nov. 27, 2023|Updated Nov. 28, 2023

MYAKKA CITY — One of Manatee County’s last two dairies, Dakin Dairy Farms, has gone on the market.

The 350-acre operation is listed with SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler Real Estate at an undisclosed asking price.

Owner Jerry Dakin, a former Florida Farm Bureau Farmer of the Year, said in a news release that after 22 years the farm needs to go to the next generation of farmers to meet the dairy’s full potential.

The Dakin Dairy Farm includes 3,100 head of dairy cattle with a processing plant on 350 acres and is on the agricultural marketplace to be sold as a working dairy farm.

When Dakin started the dairy with a couple hundred cows, he said he never imagined he could grow the farm to have several thousand head producing and processing products on-site delivered to markets with Dakin’s “Fresh From Florida” label.

The farm became a destination for education and agrotourism, complete with a Farm Café.

Dakin Dairy Farms up for sale

Broker Trent Saunders said that his company is vetting potential buyers and arranging for them to visit the property prior to entering negotiations.

The dairy is described as a turn-key, income-producing operation currently housing a herd of up to 3,000 lactating cows.

“The 350.2-acre farm has all of the necessary infrastructure including six free-stall barns, a milking parlor, production areas, commodity storage, silage storage, milk processing plant capable of processing and packaging all milk produced onsite,” the SVN web page said.

“The cows enjoy comfortable free stalls for the majority of their day, with dry cows and heifers typically housed offsite. Regular management ensures the well-being of the calves and efficient production processes, with a well-designed production area featuring excellent drainage and a surrounding dike system. This impressive facility has the potential to expand its herd size to 4,000 in the future with additional free stall barns accommodating an additional 1,400 lactating cows,” the SVN web page said.

Although the property is on the market, it is business as usual at the dairy, and Saunders said he hoped it would remain a dairy, should the property be sold.

But there would be nothing to prevent a future owner from seeking rezoning to allow other kinds of use.

“Beyond the top-notch infrastructure, land and the dairy business brand associated with this property holds substantial value. A cherished multi-generation brand, it has earned a reputation through participation in the ‘Fresh From Florida’ marketing campaign and partnerships with major supermarkets and milk distributors,” the SVN web page says.

When it opened in 2002, Dakin Dairy Farms was touted as the most modern, highly computerized dairy among the eight dairies operating in Manatee County.

In addition to its fresh milk, Dakin Dairy Farms has also produced cheese and drinkable yogurt and opened its facility to tourism.

Dakin Dairy’s difficulties

Dakin Dairy has been buffeted by a number of challenges in recent years, including Hurricane Ian in 2022, which inflicted more punishment on the business than any other storm in history.

In January, Jerry Dakin told the Bradenton Herald that he estimated the damage at $3 million, plus 360 cows lost during the storm.

The Myakka City community rallied with chainsaws, labor and trucks to remove storm debris.

“Oh, my God, I wish our government could learn something from our community. The people out here are amazing,” Dakin said in January.

In 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dakin Dairy Farms had to dump 7,000 gallons of fresh milk every day.

The pandemic lockdown took away the restaurants, other businesses and schools that were the core of Dakin Dairy’s market. The dairy cows still had to be milked every day, pandemic or not.

Similarly, in 2017, Hurricane Irma knocked out power to Dakin’s customers in southern Florida, forcing the dairy to dump milk that its customers could not accept due to lack of refrigeration.

The decision to sell

Reflecting on the last two decades of work, Dakin said he feels blessed to have had the opportunity to learn and grow, citing countless “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences he sees as gifts.

However, as years passed, life events, including the loss of his two brothers and disasters like the pandemic and Hurricane Ian, played a part in his plans. The decision to sell comes with both anxiety and excitement, he said.

“Community, people supporting people, I love this community,” he said.

Dakin says he plans to stay in Myakka City and continue his support of local agriculture.