Greeley farmer giving 100-year-old barn a face lift
February 10, 2017
What do you get a 100-year-old for a birthday present?
George Maxey, a Greeley farmer, had an idea. What about a face lift?
The recipient isn't a who in this case, but a what. The milk barn on his property hit the centennial mark this year, and Maxey decided to spend $46,000 to renovate it.
Maxey's decision came after the roof was pelted by a hailstorm last year.
Last week, workers removed the old, wooden shingles and replaced them with green steel panels. The roof is only part of what Maxey wants done to the barn, but it's by far the biggest change in its history.
When the barn was first built in 1917, it was modern for its time, and as times and the dairy industry changed, so did the barn.
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Maxey's relationship with the barn started in the 1950s. He grew up in Illinois, where his dad also was a dairy farmer. Maxey knew he wanted to stay in the industry, but he wanted to own his own dairy — not work for someone else.
"I decided if I was going to milk cows for the rest of my life, I wanted to get more than just a milk check," he said.
Maxey discovered the barn when he was in the U.S. Air Force stationed at Fort Warren training base in Cheyenne, Wyo., in the '50s. His dad heard about one Carl Henry — the man who had the barn built. Maxey spent his weekends at the farm working for Henry.
When Maxey was ready to leave the Air Force, he knew he wanted to work at the farm. Henry's wife made that possible: None of the Henry kids wanted to take over the farm, so she offered it to him.
The Henry kids took out a second mortgage, and Maxey took out one of his own.
"It took me a long 33 years to pay it off," Maxey said chuckling.
Since Maxey took over more than 60 years ago, he made the dairy his own. He continued to raise Holstein cows, as Henry did, and found ways to maximize the production of the barn.
Henry switched from hand milking to using a machine in the 1940s, so he could milk up to 24 cows at a time instead of one. Maxey optimized the machine by rotating the cows through therefore doubling the amount of cows he could milk.
That's when one of the first big changes happened to the barn. Because he was able to double the output, he needed room for a 900-gallon tank. Maxey needed to tear down two silos to make room.
But it wasn't all work and no play in the barn.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Maxey regularly hosted people from his church for square dancing in the barn.
And along with all the time and work put into the barn, he also continues to learn more about the barn's history.
One of the shingles that was torn off the roof, in dark faded black lettering, indicated that they were made in British Columbia, Canada.
The shingles have lasted 100 years, and Maxey hopes the green steel panels will do the same, if not more.
"I don't know if anyone in British Columbia can sell me shingles," he said.❖