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Next generation takes over high-profile dairy farm

Written by on Saturday, May 4, 2024

And the patriarch moves into a new venture: Composting.

By Johannes Werner

Original Air Date: May 3, 2024

Host: Just weeks ago, the talk around Dakin Dairy Farm was about closing down and selling the land. That raised the anxiety levels of community members fearing the Dakin land might be the next target for developers, as suburban sprawl is creeping eastward in Manatee County. Yesterday came a collective sigh of relief: The family announced that the next generation will take over from Jerry Dakin, who started the business on the western fringes of Myakka City 24 years ago. Our news team talked to Jerry while he was traveling in Michigan, and to his nephew Ethan Dakin.

Johannes Werner: Jerry Dakin started his business on this birthday 24 years ago. Yesterday on his birthday, he announced he handed over his business to four nephews – Ethan and his brothers Jason, Garrett and Grant. He said they plan to “keep it a working dairy farm that will use new technologies to expand the product line and continue to serve our community in a bigger and better way.” To show how big a deal the fact that one of the area’s biggest agricultural operations will continue to exist: Jerry’s Facebook post got more than 3,400 “likes” within 24 hours. Here’s Ethan, talking for the next generation:

Ethan Dakin: So we took over operations and management yesterday, and now we’re just excited, you know, we got four minds put together instead of one, and I think we should be able to take this place to higher standards and just, yeah, a better quality product. That’s our goal, you know.

JW: It’s not so much about the property, it’s more about passing on ideas, skill and the right attitude, says Jerry.

Jerry Dakin: You know, to me, it’s passing the inheritance on. And everybody thinks it’s the inheritance, it’s the money — Inheritance is the knowledge to the next generation. That’s what I believe you put out there. The greatest inheritance is knowledge. And once you give people knowledge, then they can go out there and succeed better.  

JW: He began with 180 cows in 1999, and now the farm is up to 2,000. It’s been far from a straight line, though. The most recent challenge: During Hurricane Ian, the Dakins lost 250 milk cows due to flooding. Eeking out a profit has not been easy either. The departing patriarch sees technology as key to bringing the farm to the next level.

JD: My hope is, there’s a lot of AI technology out there and, there’s new changes that are out there that I’m not wanting to move into. And with them, you know, it gives them the opportunity to do it.

JW: Nephew Ethan talks more about a general update of systems.

ED: I hope that Dakin products is in every supermarket and retail spot we can get it in in our area. We’re hoping to have new products, you know, just really take this stuff to the next level. Make the process more, we’re going to try and bring in some efficiency. We’re going to try and bring in, you know, quality to the T. I mean, that’s our number one. And just get a good quality product and get it everywhere, you know.

JW: How do the four brothers get along? Ethan Dakin:

ED: So, luckily, we’ve been working together for a long time, pretty much our whole lives we’ve been working together, and we know each other’s strong points. We’re just going to manage to that, you know, each one of us has our specialties per se. So we kind of break up the workload amongst us and it’s worked great for us. I think we’ll just kind of, you know … if somebody needs help somewhere else, we kind of just all flex over there, you know, we’re flexible; versatile.

JW: Ethan says that another important element is support from the community.

ED: To thank all the people out there that supported us. I mean, you know, there was,  there was a lot of concern for the place and, I think that really played a role in our decision making. You know, like I said, we already have several farms that we’re kind of managing and operating under already. But, just to see this one go away, it just didn’t sit well with us.

JW: As Jerry says, “I am not going anywhere”. For one, he’s still there to assist his nephews. More newsy, though: He’s starting a new business that connects Manatee farming with the fast-growing suburbs: By using the compost farms produce to improve the barren topsoil in the area’s sprawling subdivisions.

JD: My future is, I still have the farm beside of it, and and I’m looking to get into the compost business. That’s what’s so exciting to me, is the compost business, and to be able to travel more and not to be so tied down. All these developments that’s gone in and everything, there’s no topsoil. And it’s just, there’s nothing to attach to.

So, with me doing the compost, you know, with using the manure from the dairy and everything, to grow better soil in the community. And keep cleaner water from going out to, you know … the trouble with it, with the Florida developments, we dig dirt 20 foot deep and we put it up on, on a hill and then we put some sod on it. But there’s nothing for till to grab, nothing to hold water. So me doing compost will grow better soils.

JW: This has been Johannes Werner, reporting for WSLR News.


WSLR News aims to keep the local community informed with our 1/2 hour local news show, quarterly newspaper and social media feeds. The local news broadcast airs on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6pm.