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Sustainability Shines at Cinnamon Ridge Farms

May 2019 | Iowa | 0 comments

John and Joan Maxwell

John and Joan Maxwell

To John and Joan Maxwell, sustainability means caring for the land to pass on to the next generation, and more importantly, sharing learnings to continue to elevate agriculture as a whole. These passions are what truly sets Cinnamon Ridge Farms apart and makes it a leader in sustainable farming. John and Joan as well as daughter, Amy, manage a sixth-generation Jersey dairy farm in Donahue, IA milking on average 220 cows using four robots.

Built in 2012, Cinnamon Ridge’s robotic barn allows for cows to be milked on their own schedule, while also providing data points that measure their comfort, productivity and health. The robotic barn includes a tour with windows for visitors to have a birds-eye view of how the cows are milked by robots, and an inside look at the time and attention that goes into caring for the cows.

The farm continues to demonstrate its sustainability to visitors and the community by showcasing how its operations complete the environmental cycle—the fields grow the food for the cows; the cows eat the food and produce milk and manure; the manure is returned to the fields that produce the plants that grow the feed for the cows.

For Cinnamon Ridge Farms, using cover crops has been the key to the farm’s continued success. Today, Cinnamon Ridge uses cover crops in approximately 400 of its acres. Not only did using cover crops cut the farm’s feed bill in half while providing a higher-quality diet for the livestock-which increased milk production, but over the years, John noticed that cover crops virtually eliminated erosion, increased soil organic matter and improved water quality.

Cinnamon Ridge Calves

While the Maxwell’s have been able to meet their initial goals through the implementation of cover crops, it has also evolved to include an even larger goal—continue to share what they’ve learned with others so that the agricultural community can benefit from their sustainability efforts. As a result, the family hosts annual Ag Summits and farm-to-table events that connect farmers to consumers and other influential leaders in the community. In 2018, Cinnamon Ridge hosted approximately 2,000 foreign visitors from more than 50 different countries, 2000 people on domestic tours, and nearly 1,800 children on school tours.

In 2017, the farm became a Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage area as an excellent example of modern farming, and in 2018, it was awarded the Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award by the Iowa’s Department of Agriculture Land Stewardship. On May 8th, 2019 Cinnamon Ridge was recognized as the 2019 Dairy Sustainability Award for Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability.

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