Jones County Extension hosts 'Women in Ag'

Jones County Extension & Outreach sponsored the Women in Ag six-week seminar. Participants included, seated from left, Brittney Telleen, Cindy Gunther, Denise Tillett, Hilary Hogan (holding Elsie Hogan), Jaye Geater, and Jeanine Dirks. Standing, Mareda Pierce, Stacey Tjaden, Betty Zumbach, Jennifer Zumbach, Abby Jaeger, Nicole Monck, Shielly Monck, Peg Mere, Heather Moore, and Cindy Dirks. Not pictured is Renee Adams. (Photos by Kim Brooks)

Josie Rozum with Dan & Debbie’s Creamery in Ely, Iowa, was one of the presenters during the March 7 Women in Ag workshop at the Youth Development Center in Monticello. Rozum shared the history of her family’s dairy farm, owned by her parents Dan and Debbie Takes. She also provided tips on adding value to farming operations.

Heather Moore, Moore Family Farms, was the second presenter at the final Women in Ag class. Moore and her husband, Brandon, not only own a cattle operation in Maquoketa, but a retail store as well.
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     March is Women’s History Month, and this month, Jones County Extension & Outreach completed its series of courses centered on the theme “Women in Ag.”

     The six-session course was created to guide women in making good decisions for their farm businesses. The program, titled “Annie’s Project,” is an Iowa State University project that empowers farm and ranch women who want to be knowledgeable about their agricultural enterprises.

     Classes started in January were held once a week through March 7.

     The topics included:

     • Managing Finances

     • Managing Human Resources

     • Managing Legal Issues

     • Managing Marketing

     • Managing Production

     The presenters at the final class, included Josie Rozum, COO of Dan & Debbie’s Creamery in Ely; and Heather Moore, Moore Family Farms in Maquoketa.

     Rozum’s parents are Dan and Debbie Takes. The family business, which included the dairy farm, creamery and retail store is owned, operated, and managed by four of the six Takes children.

     Dan and Debbie started farming 20 years ago as first-generation farmers. They started raising beef cattle before going to the dairy industry.

     “We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into,” laughed Rozum. “Like other people in ag, they were looking for a more sustainable income, a more consistent income.”

     Five years into their farming operation, the Takes family started researching ways in which to add value to their dairy operation, “specifically producing dairy products off of the milk that we produce on our farm,” said Rozum. In 2009, the family started heavily researching what could be done from a sustainability perspective.

     The family farm started with 30 cows and has grown over the years. Today, they milk 150 Holstein cows, every day twice a day. They own 250 acres and rent an additional 250 acres.

     “But 150 is where we’ve been at for the last five to six years,” explained Rozum. “It’s sort of where we want to cap ourselves.”

     Dan & Debbie’s Creamery just started a year and a half ago and not only has its own retail store in downtown Ely, but its products can be seen in numerous stores and restaurants throughout Eastern Iowa.

     “It was a way to create a more sustainable income, where we could have more control over the amount of money that the farm was making,” said Rozum. “Dairy is not the only ag industry where you see prices go up and down. The creamery served as a way for us to streamline the costs.”

     While Dan & Debbie’s Creamery is not housed at the farm, the store allows customers to see the operation as products are being made. “Our creamery has a viewing area where you can watch us make several of our products,” shared Rozum. “It has a retail store where we buy Iowa-made products and re-sell them. We also sell all of our dairy products there.”

     Rozum said her parents toured many creameries throughout the Midwest to get ideas for their own business. As a freshman in college at the time, she started becoming more and more invested in the family business. “I started developing more of a passion for ag,” said Rozum. “I started developing a passion for the farm-to-table concept and adding value to the farm.”

     After a few years of research and upgrades to the Takes farm, the creamery business started becoming a reality in 2012 when the family purchased a building in Ely and began renovating it. The renovations took almost four years to complete.

     In July 2016, the Takes’ first dairy product was produced, a vat of cheese.

     Now that the store has been open for about 18 months, they’ve made a handful of products: farm-fresh, cream-topped, non-homogenized bottled milk; cheddar cheese curds; handcrafted ice cream; slow-churned butter.

     “We have plans to launch several other products in the near future,” said Rozum.

     Of the milk they produce, the Takeses currently use between 30 and 35 percent. The rest is sold to Wapsie Valley Creamery in Independence. Rozum said the goal is to one day use 100 percent of their product.

     “But we’ve been fortunate to be able to roll things out slowly,” she said of their dairy products. “If we had to drop our other supplier, I don’t know that we would survive, or we would have to really get out there. We’ve been able to do things slow.”

     She said when deciding to implement a business into your farming operation, to add value to your farm, there are several things one has to keep in mind. Being unique in the business is one way to set yourself apart from competitors. Dan & Debbie’s Creamery is unique in that they do it all from start to finish: milk the cows, separate the product, produce the cheese/ice cream, and sell the end product.

     They also have a well-crafted business plan, something they put together with the help of experts from ISU Extension and Small Business Development Center (SBDC). “They are a free resource for any small business,” said Rozum. “I can’t even tell you how much they helped us in the beginning. The SBDC facilitates everything. They tell you what you need to do and how to do it. They also provide great resources.”

     Rozum said there are also grants out there to help in various ways. The Takes family was successful in obtaining a value-added grant for $150,000 through the USDA.

     When it came to naming their business, Rozum said they wanted something that would carry on the family-farm tradition. “We picture the creamery being around for hundreds of years. We wanted a name that we could tell the story of our parents,” she said. “We want to share that story with everyone.”

     Adding to their uniqueness, Rozum said they’re lucky that Ely is situated between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, allowing them to capture more of a customer base. “We’re fortunate that we are really the only farm-to-table dairy-processing facility in Eastern Iowa.”

     Having a clear mission is also important, with Dan & Debbie’s mission being “to provide the highest quality of farm-fresh dairy products in the region.

     “Our mission is how we determine if we should move forward with something,” said Rozum. “If there’s an idea that doesn’t really support our mission then we say let’s find something that does.”

     Since Dan & Debbie’s Creamery opened in Ely, Rozum said the town has increased in population, and more and more people have been driven to visit Ely. “That’s helping the town grow. Our location is so amazing for what we’re doing,” said Rozum.

     Moore and her husband, Brandon, own The Kitchen at Moore Family Farms, a cheese and retail store in Maquoketa.

     Brandon actually started with a cow/calf herd when he was in college.

     They own and rent pasture today with a 50-head milking operation on the side, a business Heather runs.

     “My husband takes care of the feeder cattle that we custom raise for another farmer,” explained Moore. “He feeds our dairy cattle and breeds the cows and works full-time off the farm as well.

     “In the three and a half years of milking, he’s never milked a cow. I milk the cows, take care of the young stock, and do the bookkeeping.”

     The family also has three young sons who work on the farm as well.

     Wanting to add value to their farming business and make sure it’s sustainable for years to come, in 2017, the Moores started sending their milk to a Wisconsin creamery. That is where their cheese is made.

     “Right now it’s available in six retail locations,” said Moore. “So far we’ve made 1,400 pounds of cheese.”

     This past winter, Moore said they started exploring the idea of opening a pop-up retail cheese store that would only be open during the Christmas holiday season. Well, the store was so successful, they’re reopening it this spring.

     “We picked up our first load of 700 pounds of cheese on Nov. 5 and we sold everything we had before Christmas. It was crazy!” shared Moore.

     She joked that opening a retail store was an idea that most people add to their 10-year plan, but for them, it was more like their six-week plan. “We pretty much did it all on our own with not a lot of money and not a lot of planning.”

     Moore continued, “We’ve all sold commodities. The profit we get in ag is the profit that people tell us we’re going to get. However, when we sell straight to the consumer, you cut out the middleman. You can set your own price, as long it’s what the consumer will pay.”

     Both Rozum and Moore said when adding value to your ag business, it’s important to do your research, have a plan/mission in mind, know your customer and your product, and plan for the future.

     “If you have a really strong brand, it does make selling a product a lot easier,” said Rozum.

     For more on all that Jones County Extension has to offer, visit



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