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Ag Tours Pay Off For Iowa Farmer
John Maxwell gave his first farm tour to his daughter and her preschool classmates. Soon, that daughter, Amy, will be part of a robotic dairy tour on the family’s Donahue, Iowa, farm. Located near the Quad Cities and Deere headquarters, Maxwell’s scenic and diversified Cinnamon Ridge Farm is ideally suited for farm tours.
  So is Maxwell, who is very social and enjoys hosting people from the U.S. – and nearly 50 other countries so far. In 2011, he hosted 70 tours for 2,500 people from international tour groups, rural cooperatives and for corporations such as Deere, Pioneer and Monsanto.
  Maxwell cites hard work, dumb luck and timing for getting him into the tour business. After being named one of the four winners of the National Outstanding Young Farmer Award in 1997, Deere asked if he would provide tours – mostly for foreign guests. It was a hectic time, he says, scheduling tours between running his 4,000-acre corn/soybean operation and milking his registered Jersey dairy herd, (currently the seventh largest producing Jersey herd in the U.S.).
  When he upgrades any of his farm operations, he keeps the tours in mind. He added hogs, for example, for the manure to spread on his land. He built buildings to lease to a hog farmer, and the wean-to-finish barn is enclosed by glass on all four sides so visitors can see the operation yet maintain bio-security.
  Beef cows, Nubian goats and 400 chickens add to the farm’s ambiance. Maxwell’s home with a great room seats 75 comfortably, and a certified kitchen allows him to add catered meal options to tours.
  Besides food, Maxwell offers music as an option and hires local bluegrass, folk, country and sing-along groups.
  “The music is universal and makes it very homey,” he says. “I don’t ever want to lose that personal touch. I want to be the spot everyone talks about.”
  That must be the case, as he has never advertised. All business has come from word-of-mouth.
  For those who want to offer farm tours he suggests, “Dream big but don’t start out too big.” Start with small groups and educate yourself to know everything about your farm. Add new things to satisfy repeat visitors and tailor tours to your visitors.
  Maxwell charges $10 per person for tours (meals and music are extra) with a $150 minimum. He plans to add the robotic dairy managed by his daughter as a tour option, and he hopes to offer public tours on Saturdays in the near future. He also has an on-farm store selling chicken, eggs, beef, pork and other foods and products.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, John Maxwell, Cinnamon Ridge Farms, 10600 275th St., Donahue, Iowa 52746 (ph 563 505-1652; www.cinnamonridgefarms.com).

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2012 - Volume #36, Issue #6