As a sixth-generation Jersey Dairy farm in Donohue, Iowa, Cinnamon Ridge Farms owners John and Joan Maxwell know a thing or two about sustainability.
A winner of the 2019 Dairy Sustainability Award for Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability, Cinnamon Ridge Farms has implemented a wide variety of initiatives to care for their land and animals, including a robotic barn that allows cows to be milked on their own schedules, growing cover crops to improve soil health and water quality, feeding cows byproduct that would have otherwise gone to the landfill, and more.
The Maxwells say they’re big believers in what they call the “environmental cycle.” For example, they grow cover crops to feed the cows; the cows produce milk and manure; and the manure is then used to fertilize the plants. They also utilize data from the robotic milking barn to track several important animal health metrics, including activity levels, feed intake, milk production and more.
“If you ask anyone whether they care about sustainability, almost everyone will say yes. But sustainability is a big word that embodies many different interpretations,” John Maxwell explains. “At Cinnamon Ridge, we often tell sustainability stories without ever saying the word itself.”
Over the years, the Maxwells have hosted tens of thousands of visitors on their farm to see their operations and tell their sustainability story, focusing on the simple and tangible messages and images that make the broad term of “sustainability” more understandable.
The Maxwells break down each area of their farm to explain in straightforward terms how their practices affect each aspect of the environment, including water quality, soil health, animal health and all the ways they re-use and recycle their resources. From making sure that earthworms have a healthy home in their soil, to re-using corn stalks as bedding for the cows, each action they take can have big impacts on their environmental footprint.
And even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maxwells have found creative ways to continue sharing their story with the public, including participating in a virtual Cheese Chats event and hosting a socially-distanced “Lunch on the Farm” program last fall.
“As farmers, we have a responsibility to share stories about our businesses that impact consumers and our communities,” Maxwell says. “Consumers are curious, and we shouldn’t forget to have conversations about what might seem like everyday practices.”
Learn more about sustainability practices at Cinnamon Ridge in this story.