Excessive-tech Unity dairy farm affords excursions, meals, music this weekend

Visitors stopping to explore Pleasant Lane Farms on Saturday will see how a family farming tradition and the latest in dairy herd technology have come together to support a rising cheesemaking enterprise.

Founded by the Fryes, a seventh-generation farming family, the 185-acre spread at 239 Phillips Road in Unity will host its second annual open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition to enjoying food and entertainment, the public is invited to visit the farm’s baby calves and tour the creamery and two innovative additions that came online in late May.

The robotic milking parlor allows cows to be milked several times per day without human intervention.

“It’s voluntary,” said Jason Frye, one of the farm’s owners. “They line up when they want to be milked and they want a snack.”

The robotic station monitors each cow, providing information on its health and milk production. On average, the process takes between two and five minutes for each animal.

The Fryes and their crew also will showcase their adjacent “smart barn,” which provides automated control of lighting and ventilation and tracks the movements and needs of the farm’s 40 milking cows.

The cows can rub against two large self-grooming brushes. “They enjoy it,” Frye said. “On some days, there’s a line for that brush.”

Ear tags are scanned to direct cows that need to see the veterinarian into a separate pen.

While Pleasant Lane provides liquid milk to Turner Dairy, Frye said 85% of its milk ends up as cheese.

The creamery produces nearly 3,000 pounds of cheese each week. Pleasant Lane’s dozen varieties include Colby, cheddar, pizza cheese, cheese curds and a new seasonal cranberry cheddar.

“The newest we have is a reserve Gouda,” Frye said. “It’s been aging for over a year. It has a really deep, intense flavor.”

Those attending the open house can try cheese curds, served warm out of the creamery’s two vats, and macaroni and cheese prepared with the farm’s cheese.

Other farm-to-table fare that will be available for purchase from local food purveyors includes chicken from Jessi’s Chickens, hamburgers from Logan Family Farms, hot dogs from Leeper Meats, sweets from Beth’s Cookie Table and adult cider from Tattiebogle CiderWorks.

Last year’s open house drew as many as 90 people, but Frye is hoping to expand this year’s event. Entertainment will include live music by duo Bobby Z and Helana Ray. If weather permits, there also will be hay rides, at a cost of $2 per person.

Patrons will have the opportunity to create their own holiday gift boxes with products from the Pleasant Lane creamery along with other curated items including jams, jellies, mustard, beef sticks and crackers.

Pleasant Lane cheese is available at several local retail outlets and is featured in some area restaurant menus.

“Our goal is to grow and develop new markets,” Frye said. “We’re trying to expand our distribution footprint. We’ve got a good following in Pittsburgh as restaurants continue to open up.”

The farm recently won the American Dairy Association North East Dairying for Tomorrow Award, recognizing its community outreach efforts.

Visit pleasantlanefarms.com for more information.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, jhimler@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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