Whenever I chat with my friend based in Abu Dhabi, I always ask her what she will cook for an upcoming occasion, and she would promptly send snapshots of dishes I only dream of cooking. And when I posted the photo of my husband and me on my Facebook account, with a short "A trip to Almarai Dairy Farm" caption, she later on commented that she and her partner like Almarai products especially the yoghurt and fresh milk. That's when I realized that although we're miles apart, my friend and I still have something in common: we enjoy the same brand of milk and juice drinks.
Almarai products are also my family's favorite. My kids like Almarai Fresh Milk so much that they can finish a liter in less than three hours. Fred gulps down an Almarai yoghurt before he eats breakfast everyday. I like the skimmed milk and the orange-carrot juice drink. I'm loyal to its cheese product line. So when I heard the Almarai Dairy Farm and Factory visit from friends who have been there several years ago, I secretly hoped that I could visit it, too. And maybe when you like something so much, it begins to like you, too. Before I knew it, we were already in a bus bound to Almarai Dairy Farm on the first day of February last year.
Almarai Farm is located in Al-Kharj, a city that's a two-hour ride away and more than seventy kilometers south of Riyadh. We came there as a big group on an appointed visit. We boarded the air-conditioned bus provided by Almarai which was big, has comfortable seats and tall windows which were perfect for taking pictures while you're inside.
Upon our arrival, the bus passed through a decontamination shower which partially blurred our view of the Holstein cows and the farm. How these cows last the desert heat and produce thousands of liters of milk per year with no grass to feed on is simply mind-boggling. We saw a farmer enter a corral to feed calves and we were so amazed at how quickly the young beasts got up and fell in line! They're like people patiently falling in line in a cafeteria. Wow. We also passed by stacks of shredded alfalfa, more corrals with healthy cows and some with sick ones.
We thought the milking process was over when we arrived but didn't I tell you also that when you like something so much, it may even sync with your thoughts - and your schedule, too? Though we were a little late, the last batch of cows found their way to the milking parlor and proudly showed us their full udders. Now, I can go home, I thought.
But we didn't yet. The bus left the farm, and headed to the factory where the collected liters of milk are processed, packed and readied for delivery. We also viewed the production of sliced breads and some pastries, and watched a short presentation in their mini-theater. And like most field trips, we got to bring home bags filled with Almarai products!
Visiting Almarai Dairy Farm and Factory is one eye-opener yet enjoyable experience for me. I've seen the laborious task of maintaining a dairy farm in a desert - which I wouldn't have known had we not come here. While there, we've passed through several decontamination processes - which was way too impressive for a mom like me who uses Clorox to the bottle's content. I marveled at the state-of-the-art technology that's used to process Almarai's products, and admired its system of product dating, labeling and storage which you really have to see for yourselves. I was blown right there and then.
What Almarai achieved from the 70's until now inspired me to dream a little bigger. I left the farm with one goal in mind: to hone my culinary skills so I can have something to take pictures of when it's my friend turn to ask me, "What are you cooking?"
To book a farm visit, click here.