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Manatee County dairy farm sold to relatives who plan to grow the business

The new owners of Dakin Dairy Farm in east Manatee County plan several changes amid the hunt for new revenue streams. But on aspect — the farm itself — will remain the same.

  • By Liz Ramos
  • | 5:00 a.m. May 21, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Agriculture and dairy farming have been a way of life for Jerry Dakin and his nephews Jason Dakin, Garrett Dakin, Grant Dakin and Ethan Dakin.
Agriculture and dairy farming have been a way of life for Jerry Dakin and his nephews Jason Dakin, Garrett Dakin, Grant Dakin and Ethan Dakin.
Photo by Liz Ramos
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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Myakka City’s Ethan Dakin never dreamed of becoming a firefighter or police officer.

He wanted to be a farmer.

His father, Cameron Dakin, is a farmer. His grandfather, Pete Dakin? He was a farmer, too.

“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” Ethan Dakin says. 

The odds of the Dakin farming legacy continuing through future generations has increased of late. That's because Ethan Dakin and his older brothers, Grant, Garrett and Jason, recently bought the Dakin Dairy farm in east Manatee County from their uncle, Jerry Dakin.

Jerry Dakin listed the farm for sale late last year, saying, in a statement, that part of the reason he wanted to sell was from all the industry challenges. The list includes hurricanes; state and federal regulations; and changing customer taste preferences, like almond milk. More challenges include a dwindling workforce; escalations in the cost of equipment and supplies; and a growing population that forces development in more rural areas. 

And then there's this: farmers are also up against electric companies buying land to create fields filled with solar panels.

Jerry Dakin, 55, owned the farm, on Betts Road, for 22 years. While he stressed he wanted to the keep the property a farm, some, especially on social media, worried a new owner could flatten the farm and build homes. Jerry Dakin says he was committed to seeing Dakin Dairy continued as opposed to the land being taken over by a developer and turned into houses.

The original listing of the farm, from SVN Saunders Ralston Dantzler in Lakeland, didn't have a price, instead saying "the owner is going to let the market determine the value/price." That listing included what at the time was 3,100 head of dairy cattle with a processing plant comprising 350 acres.

Ownership of Dakin Dairy officially was transferred to Ethan Dakin, Grant Dakin, Garrett Dakin and Jason Dakin May 1. A sale had not been listed in the Manatee County property appraiser's site as of May 16; the 2023 assessed value of the land, records show, was $2.41 million. The Dakins declined to disclose a sale price. 

Jerry Dakin, meanwhile, loves that he was able to keep Dakin Dairy not only as agriculture land, but in the family. 

He hopes the farm will help shape the lives of his nephews. Jerry Dakin, a former Florida Farm Bureau Farmer of the Year, says he would not be who he is today as a leader and farmer without his dairy farm. 

“That’s what makes me so excited with these guys, because it will push them out of their comfort zone,” he says.

All in the family

Ethan Dakin, Grant Dakin, Garrett Dakin and Jason Dakin are third generation Florida farmers, and with their children already invested in agriculture, Grant Dakin says he hopes to see a fourth generation involved at Dakin Dairy as well. The four brothers also own Boyz Ag, along with their own personal farms. 

“It’s in our roots,” Grant Dakin says. “We were born and raised in it and enjoy it. It’s come to be what we know. We’ve seen what (Jerry Dakin) has done with the place, and we had an opportunity to step in, take over and take it to the next level.”

Dakin Dairy will remain in the family as Jerry Dakin has sold the farm and plant to his nephews Jason Dakin, Garrett Dakin, Grant Dakin and Ethan Dakin.
Photo by Liz Ramos

Grant Dakin says as soon as they could push a clutch on a tractor, he and his brothers were working at Cameron Dakin Dairy. Cameron Dakin made sure his sons knew how to work with the animals, how to use the equipment and to do what is needed on a farm. 

Growing up, Grant Dakin says Dakin Dairy was a place for family birthday parties and community gatherings. He recalled playing in the red house at Dakin Dairy that’s now used for photoshoots for families who visit the farm. To the brothers, it was their clubhouse. 

Ethan Dakin says Dakin Dairy was more a place to have fun rather than work when they were kids. 

Now Dakin Dairy is the next step in the brothers’ careers. 

Jerry Dakin now spends every available moment discussing what needs to be done at the farm with his nephews. That includes reaching out to the best people as resources, and how to handle potential problems. He also shares his personal wisdom about running a dairy.

Jerry Dakin says the knowledge of running a dairy is more important in the long run than the inheritance of any land money. Like his father, Pete Dakin, gave him. 

“The greatest thing my dad gave me was knowledge," Jerry Dakin says. "I want the opportunity to transfer that knowledge and be a sounding base for them. At the end of the day, they can make whatever decision they want to make. I’m just going to be here as an advisor. I want to see them succeed more than anybody.”

Future of growth

The 350-acre farm, which Jerry Dakin says started only with a couple hundred cows, now has at least 2,200 head of dairy cattle, six free-stall barns, a milking parlor, production areas, commodity storage, silage storage and a milk processing plant capable of processing and packaging all milk produced on site.

Jerry Dakin says the plant is functioning at about 40% right now. 

Ethan Dakin says the priority is upgrading the equipment and technology in the plant to boost the plant’s productivity, with the hopes of having it at 100%. He says the plant operating at 40% gives them time to make adjustments without hindering current production. 

Jason Dakin takes care of the cows at Dakin Dairy.
Photo by Liz Ramos

Jerry Dakin says the potential growth opportunities for his nephews are endless. 

“There’s four boys with four different inputs, and that’s why I feel this thing can take off,” he says. “It’s working with the community and the customers that are out there, seeing what the community wants.”

Although Ethan Dakin, Grant Dakin, Garrett Dakin and Jason Dakin have been around dairy farms all their lives, Grant Dakin says the bottling aspect of the industry will be new to them, but they are eager to learn. 

The nephews are considering new sources of revenue that include producing new natural products. They’re also hoping to find ways to increase the shelf life of their products while maintaining high quality.

Despite all challenges, the brothers say passion will drive them.

“People need to be challenged in life,” Ethan Dakin says. “No matter what you’re doing, if you’re not challenged, you become complacent and you don’t grow.”

This article originally appeared on sister site



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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