CLINTON — Jazzy Osborn came to Caverly Farms on Sunday with a specific goal — she wanted to milk a real cow by hand.

“I’ve always wanted to do it,” Osborn said. “It’s on my bucket list,” she added. “I’m a tactile person. I think it would be really cool.”

Twenty minutes after talking to farm owner Frank Caverly, Osborne found herself in the milking shed, bent underneath a Holstein and using her hands to draw fresh milk into a plastic cup.

“It was fun!” she exclaimed after finishing up. “Good cow, thank you,” she said, patting the calm white and black-colored animal on its side.

Osborn, from Bangor, was visiting Caverly Farms with her young daughter to take advantage of Open Farm Day, an annual event when farms across the state to open their doors to visitors. The event gives people a chance to go behind the scenes at working farms and learn a little more about the people, animals and land their food comes from as well as see the incredible variety of agriculture in the state. It’s a way to connect people to the agriculture in their communities. About 90 farms across the state took part in Sunday’s event, including almost 20 in Franklin, Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Caverly Farms, on River Road in Clinton, is a huge business with multiple barns and sheds surrounded by hundreds of acres of corn and hay fields. The Caverly family milks about 450 cows and has more than 500 young stock. The family sells its milk to Cabot, the Vermont-based cheese and dairy products company, and Hood milk.

Standing amid a group of visitors on Sunday, Frank Caverly said he likes Open Farm Day because it gives his family a chance to educate people about what goes into operating a large-scale dairy farm. He bought the farm in 1962 and now runs it with his son Neal and nephew Brian. The family has participated in Open Farm Day for the past 10 years, Caverly said.

There were about two dozen people in one of the farm’s main barns late Sunday morning enjoying cartons of milk, samples of cheddar cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches. Guests were also treated to a tractor cart tour of the farm.

Children dashed around, running over to see baby cows and goats in an outside paddock and rabbits, turkeys and hogs inside the barn, chasing barn kittens or trying their hand at milking a plastic cow. The plastic milking simulator was purchased a few years ago as a stand-in for the real thing, Caverly said.

Standing a short distance away, Casey and Sam Bromberg, of Oakland, watched their 7-year-old son playing with a kitten plucked out of a box near the fake cow.

The family started coming to Open Farm Day six years ago and chooses a new farm to visit every year, said Casey Bromberg. Last year, they visited a raspberry grower near Farmington.

The visits give their two young children a good look at what a working farm is really like and give them a chance to see and touch some of the animals, Casey Bromberg said. It also gives them a better idea of where their food comes from.

“It’s good for them to know that it doesn’t just come from a grocery store; it has to come from somewhere,” Casey Bromberg said.

About 20 miles south of the dairy farm, the doors were open at 47 Daisies, a small organic farm on Webber Pond Road in Vassalboro.

Standing in the farm store surrounded by fresh vegetables and goods like coffee, bread and maple syrup, Harmony Dillaway explained the slightly circuitous route she and her husband, Dylan, took to wind up in central Maine.

The couple were living in Madison, Wisconsin, when they decided to move south to Louisiana and start their farm, Harmony said. It didn’t take the couple and their three young children long to realize they wanted to get back to a northern climate. In 2013, the family moved to Vassalboro when Dylan took a job as an associate professor of forestry at Unity College.

The Dillaways are committed to sustainable farming methods and organic agriculture. The farm is certified Naturally Grown, a grassroots alternative organic certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that follows the same standards as the natural program.

The family produces a colorful variety of produce, including multiple kinds of string beans, okra, zucchini, squashes, potatoes and berries among others. The farm has chickens, a pet goat and sheep, and the Dillaways hope to offer lamb next year. Rounding out the offerings are the shiitake mushrooms the couple cultivate at the farm. They sell their products at their store, open daily, and at local farmers markets.

In a stand of conifers near the farmhouse, Dylan Dillaway was showing a small group of visitors how the family cultivates the high-value mushrooms. Mushroom spawn in sawdust are planted in holes drilled into hardwood logs and then stacked in a shady area. The logs have to stay moist, and with this year’s dry summer, the couple has been keeping them wet by dousing them in large tubs of water.

Growing shiitake is easier than it looks, but there are a very few number of farmers in the state who are cultivating them, Dylan said. When he worked in Kentucky, almost all the farmers also grew mushrooms to bring in some extra income, and he hopes to introduce more people to the practice in Maine.

Despite all the variety at their farm, the Dillaways are always looking for new ways to stand apart from the many other small-scale farms that have been growing in the state and carve out a niche in the market. The vibrancy of the organic farming community in the state surprised the couple when they moved here, Harmony said.

“I don’t think we really realized how popular it is in Maine,” she said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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