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

Taking time to travel

Maxwell visits Brazil to speak about dairy farming in the U.S.
John Maxwell (right) visits with Brazilian farmers during a recent trip to Brazil. Maxwell milks 260 cows on his family’s farm near Donahue, Iowa. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO SUBMITTED
John Maxwell (right) visits with Brazilian farmers during a recent trip to Brazil. Maxwell milks 260 cows on his family’s farm near Donahue, Iowa. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO SUBMITTED

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

DONAHUE, Iowa - "I love to milk cows, but not 365 days a year," John Maxwell said. "I also love to travel, I love to talk to people and I love to teach."
Maxwell has been able to combine his many passions in unique ways and is enjoying life.
Since the first of the year, John and his wife, Joan, have traveled to Brazil, and more recently New Orleans while also operating his family's dairy, Cinnamon Ridge Farm. They milk about 260 cows with robots, hosted more than 3,000 visitors to their farm last year, operate 4,000 acres and they are now making their own cheese on-farm.
For years Maxwells have been hosting farm tours. In 1997 he received the National Outstanding Young Farmer Award from the Outstanding Farmer Organization, which drew the attention from the John Deere plant in East Moline, Ill., about 20 miles from the farm. John Deere approached them to see if they would be willing to host a farm tour.
Since then they have hosted many school children and independent tour groups, as well as tours arranged through John Deere, Pioneer and Monsanto. Tour season peaks in the summer, when there may be up to five tours a day. 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.
The idea for the Brazil trip started last summer when an international tour group visited their farm. They enjoyed the tour so much, they asked John if he would be willing to travel to their home country to speak with their ag cooperative.
Much of the agricultural sales in Brazil take place through co-ops, everything from sugar cane to beef and oranges to dairy.
John and Joan traveled to Brazil this winter where John spoke at the co-op's annual meeting. Joan compared it to a smaller version of FarmFest-a three-day event where each day John spoke to an audience of about 1,400 people.
He spoke about farming in the United States, specifically about how farms are run by families. Joan explained that in Brazil, it is common for the landowner to not work his own land, but rather to have farm managers and employees do the farming.
"They were very interested in the fact that both John and I do most of the row crops and our daughter, Amy, runs the dairy. In addition, Miranda feeds the baby calves and also does the beef chores," she said.
He also answered questions from the crowd on topics which ranged from day to day operations on their farm to how global warming is affecting their operation.
"I've learned you need stay aware of the issues of the world to make a presentation shine and be successful," John said.
Of course, all this was done through the work of an interpreter.
John said the thing he will remember most about this trip to Brazil was how welcoming the people were.
"They treated us like rock stars," he said with a laugh.
Then he became more serious.
"In reality Brazil is a lot like the United States. It's not us versus them. The reality is that the world population is growing and how are we - Brazil, the United States, Russian, whoever - will feed them. It's all of our jobs to not let people go hungry, or even better to make sure people have choices of the foods on their table."
They didn't have much free time on their trip, but since he considers looking at crops and livestock fun that didn't really matter.
"I really like seeing what works on different farms, or maybe more importantly what doesn't work," John said. "When I make decisions at home I am able to make better, more informed decisions because I have seen the way so many others do things."
He said he even pays close attention to how other farms give tours so he can fine tune the tours he gives on their own farm.
Traveling to other counties to both teach and learn is not new to the Maxwells. John traveled with his father to New Zealand and Australia in the 1980s, and John traveled alone to Nigeria in 2008, China in 2009, along with Argentina, Chili and Brazil in 2010. In 2011, he returned to Brazil with Joan, and the two of them traveled to Ukraine, Moldova and Brazil in 2012, and India in 2013. Some of the trips were speaking engagements, some were just learning opportunities. All were agricultural related.
"On these trips I have learned a lot of different ventilation methods, how to manage cows better and cow comfort," he said.
When asked for an example of something specific he has applied to his operation he replied, "A lot of times you see little things that make cows a little more comfortable. There is no magic bullet. Every dairyman knows there are many things that make a successful herd."
He said he also has observed what works well for different families on the farm and what doesn't.
"I see how families interact and the impact that it can have on the next generation becoming part of it."
His trip to Ukraine was through Rotary International. Another Rotarian had traveled there several years before to set up a cooperative to help farmers sell milk. In that part of the former Soviet Union, when communism fell each farmer was given a small parcel of land, about a half acre in size. Many just have a cow to have milk for their family, but the cooperative gave them a chance to pool their extra milk and homemade dairy products to sell. John went there as a follow up to help them operate their co-op better.
John said he has set goals and worked toward having a farm operated in such a way that he and Joan can travel without worrying.
"I'm not done traveling by any means. There are many places left to go," he said.[[In-content Ad]]


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