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Sustainability a guiding principal at Cinnamon Ridge Farms

April 27, 2020


,2 minute read

To John and Joan Maxwell, sustainability means caring for their land to pass on to the next generation. But more importantly, it means sharing what they’ve learned to continue to elevate agriculture as a whole. It’s these ideals that truly sets Cinnamon Ridge Farms apart, making it a leader in sustainable farming. John and Joan, along with their daughter, Amy, manage their sixth-generation Jersey dairy farm in Donahue, Iowa, They milk, 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 cow comfort, productivity and health. The robotic barn includes a wall of windows for visitors to have a bird’s-eye view of how the cows are milked, and an inside look at the time and attention that goes into caring for the cows.

The farm demonstrates 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.

At 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. Using cover crops has cut the farm’s feed bill in half and has provided a higher-quality diet for livestock, increasing milk production. As an added bonus, over the years, John says he has noticed that cover crops virtually eliminated erosion, increased soil organic matter and improved water quality on the farm.

While the Maxwell’s have been able to meet their initial sustainability goals through the implementation of cover crops, they have also been able to evolve their vision to include an even larger goal — continuing 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, 2,000 people on domestic tours, and nearly 1,800 children on school tours.

The efforts at Cinnamon Ridge haven’t gone unnoticed. 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. Lat year, Cinnamon Ridge was recognized as the 2019 Dairy Sustainability Award for Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability.