September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Cinnamon Ridge Dairy ventures into making cheese

Maxwells will host open house on June 15
The Maxwells will showcase their new facility during an open house on June 15 at their dairy farm near Donahue, Iowa. The Maxwells are pictured, from left, Kara, Amy, John, Ed and Boris Ivolga.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO SUBMITTED
The Maxwells will showcase their new facility during an open house on June 15 at their dairy farm near Donahue, Iowa. The Maxwells are pictured, from left, Kara, Amy, John, Ed and Boris Ivolga.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO SUBMITTED

By by Kelli Boylen- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

DONAHUE, Iowa - John Maxwell said he is living the dream, and apparently he dreams big.
Maxwell's Cinnamon Ridge Farm hosts about 2,500 visitors a year, recently installed robotic milkers, has top genetics, has a large wean-to-finish hog operation, several hundred chickens, 25 goats and a retail shop. And, in addition to all that, he will soon be making his own cheese for sale on his farm.
"When I wanted to start dairy farming with my 20 cows in the late 1980s, seven banks turned me down," Maxwell said. "The eighth bank said yes and I started out with 180 acres I purchased for $800 an acre."
From that humble beginning Maxwell continued to build upon his success.
In 1989, he moved to the farm he bought. He got a small business loan and he built, with his own hands, a 40-cow tiestall barn.
Maxwell named his farm Cinnamon Ridge for the color of his Jerseys and the ridge the farm sits upon.
In 1997, he received the National Outstanding Young Farmer Award. The criteria for the award included profitability from start up until that time, soil conservation and contributions to community, state and country.
After receiving the award, things started to get busier on the farm. The John Deere plant located in the Quad Cities (East Moline, Ill.), about 20 miles from the  farm, approached Maxwell to see if he would be willing to host some tours on his farm.
The tours have turned into a big thing for their farm. Last year, they had approximately 2,500 visitors, many of which were fed a full meal after the three-hour tour. He has hosted many school children and independent tour groups, as well as tours arranged through John Deere, Pioneer and Monsanto.
When he designed and built his home in 1993, he was not planning on large tour groups sitting in his great room watching a PowerPoint about his farming operation, but it turns out the room is perfect for it.
In his house he can serve large groups a sit-down meal. His kitchen is restaurant certified and a hired cook is brought in when groups want to have a meal.
He also rents out space for receptions and parties; 85 people can fit in the Event Center and up to 60 can dine in the house.
Tour season peaks in the summer, when there may be up to five tours during a week.
Visitors have come to his farm from nearly 50 countries, including all of the European nations, Brazil, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, China, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Argentina and Malaysia.

Transitioning to robotic milkers
Maxwell remembers milking with bucket milkers when he was a kid, and his parents switched to a pipeline in the late 1970s or early 1980s. He milked his cows in the tie stall barn he built until 2007, when they moved the milking herd to another farmstead that had a parlor.
Last November, Maxwell started using four Lely robotic milkers on their herd of 180 cows. He says the decision to install the robotics was largely due to the fact his daughter Amy decided to return home after earning a degree in ag business and economics at Iowa State University. She was also highly involved with the ISU Dairy Science club and dairy science classes.
"Amy loves the technology," Maxwell said. "She has grabbed onto that and does a great job with it."
They are working on building the milking herd to about 250.
"The cows are much quieter and more content now," Maxwell said.
Production for the mature cows in the Jersey herd is up about 10 pounds a day, currently ranging 70 to 74 pounds a day. All of the cows are milked by the robots.
Amy runs the day-to-day activities in the dairy barn, from herd health to breeding to computer records.
"I take care of the feed going into the barn, the manure coming out of the barn and the farm finances," Maxwell said.
He also works with his brother, Edwin, to crop on their family's original farmstead.
"The robotics have allowed us to do other things than milking at set times, but we still spend a considerable amount of time with the cows," Maxwell said.
Amy's sister, Kara, just completed her first year at Iowa State, majoring in dairy science.
Cinnamon Ridge has eight employees, three of when work with the dairy.

A new venture - cheesemaking
The new facilities, which include a freestall barn and robotics room, also has a feature found on only a handful of family farms - a cheese making facility. Cheese making started June 1. They are planning on making fresh cheese curds and several kinds of cheddar.
Maxwell is working with Edwin on the cheesemaking. Edwin has been taking classes to help them get started.
"Many of our visitors asked for cheese so it was a natural fit for us to start doing that as well," Maxwell said.
Some local restaurants have expressed interest in their cheese. They will serve it to visitors who have a meal with their tour, and it will be for sale at their retail shop.
The self-serve shop also features frozen beef and pork from animals raised at their farm, baked goods, eggs from their chickens, seasonal fruit and vegetables and even handmade Jersey milk soap.
While many farmers are concerned with an uneducated public misunderstanding what goes on during a day on a typical dairy farm, Maxwell welcomes them to his farm.
"I am constantly set up to be tour friendly. It is a driving force for me to educate the public about us as part of the dairy community," Maxwell said.
He added that if dairy producers don't work to educate the public, the industry could suffer because of a lack of farm knowledge in those who make future laws and public policy.

Focus on genetics
The genetics in the Jersey herd at Cinnamon Ridge Farm actually go back to Maxwell's grandfather. About 50 Angus cows are kept on the farm, largely to be surrogate mothers for the embryos of top Jersey cows. Maxwell says their interest and work with genetics and embryo work has grown during the past decade. One of Amy's cows, Cinnamon Ridge Artist Praise, was one of the best cows they have had along the way. She has had many offspring, including bulls raised for studs.  
Cinnamon Ridge was the number nine herd in the country for JPI (Jersey Performance Index) with +80 JPI after December 2011 genetic evaluations. They also rank ninth in the country for protein production with 2011 RHA of 22,146 (prior to robotics), 1,102 (3.7 percent) fat and 826 (4.9 percent) protein.
Maxwell raises corn, soybeans and wheat on 4,000 acres.
He also serves on the North Scott School Board, is the current president of the North Scott Rotary and he volunteers as dairy superintendent for both the open class and the junior show at the Mississippi Valley Fair.
"I manage it all because I have great help from my family and dedicated employees.  It is truly a team effort," Maxwell said.
To learn more about Cinnamon Ridge Farm, go to or
Everyone is invited to an open house at their farm on Saturday, June 15, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. They will be offering everything from burgers to ice cream. Their address is 10600 275th Street, Donahue, Iowa.[[In-content Ad]]


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