Indiana Dairy Farmers of the Year are driven by an educational mission

Tucked away in America’s heartland – over hills, through winding roads and past Amish buggies – lies the homestead of the 2019 Indiana Dairy Farmers of the Year: John and Cynthia Adam. Although the Adam family is surrounded by a slower pace of life in Goshen, Indiana, their first-generation farm is bustling, integrating technological innovation with agricultural education.

The farm’s uniqueness paired with the couple’s community involvement most recently awarded them the title Indiana dairy farmers dream of: Indiana Dairy Farmer of the Year. The success came as a surprise to John and his family, but served as a form of recognition of the hard work they have put in. The award is the result of their efforts to share their dairy story with their community and implement technology as a solution to the issues they face on their farm.

“It was a shock. It was a surprise. It was quite an honor,” John said, reflecting on the title awarded at the Indiana Dairy Producers Forum earlier this year by Indiana Dairy Producers. “I don’t feel that we’re any different than anyone else out there, but I do appreciate receiving the award. It makes all of the hard work and everything else you do pay off when you get an award like that.”

Family Driven

Knollbrook Farm’s unique geographical placement along a creek requires them to use a bedded pack for their cows instead of using liquid manure storage. This bedding system, coupled with the addition of robotic milkers, provides impressive cow comfort.

As the first generation on Knollbrook Farm, John and Cynthia have grown their operation from 30 Holstein cows to 240 mostly Jersey cattle in a 30-year time span. Today, along with dairying, they also raise corn, soybeans and hay on 450 acres of land. Throughout the years, while John and Cynthia continued to establish their land base and increase their herd size, they were also raising their four kids in one of the best ways possible.

“Dairy farming allows us to have family time and have the opportunity to teach our kids work ethics and, of course, Christian principles,” John said. “Although we are busy and we don’t get to everything that we like, when the kids are here and they want to see you, they just come out to help you.”

To spend more time off the farm as a family and as a solution to a shortage of labor, John and Cynthia chose to install two robots on their farm over five years ago. The robots were a welcomed addition, allowing for more family time and improved cow care – a notion the Adam family doesn’t take lightly.

With John and Cynthia’s emphasis on cow comfort, the robots take center stage in their milk house, where they are shadowed by an antique Pioneer Dairy Feeds sign reading, “In this barn, every cow is a lady… treat her with kindness.” Originally given to John by his brother, the sign hangs there with a purpose, because according to the Adams, “it hits home pretty good with what happens here.”

An Educational Mission

Just like every other dairy farmer passionate about their cows, John and Cynthia love the dairy products that they work hard to produce. However, Cynthia’s seven years of higher education gives her the extra qualifications to support milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy product promotion even more as a registered dietician.

With Cynthia’s professional position off the farm and as a National Dairy Board member, she is fortunate to work every day promoting the good that dairy products can provide in a diet. She also invites the interns at her work’s facility to visit Knollbrook Farm where she provides hands-on education about the nutrition of dairy products.

“I really like to broaden the interns’ horizons through hands-on education about the reality of livestock management,milk production and farm field production because most individuals, even in dietetics, don’t have any experience with how food gets made,” Cynthia said. “I’m trying to get the next generation of up and coming dieticians to have an accurate representation of agriculture.”

Educating future dieticians isn’t where the Adam family stops though. Their farm welcomes six thousand visitors every
fall to get lost in a corn maze, pick a pumpkin and most importantly, learn about the dairy industry through touring their farm and asking questions.

During the weekdays in the fall, two to three school groups or classes visit their farm every day and enjoy hands-on educational programming delivered by Cynthia and her family. It’s an educational wonderland for teachers seeking science-related curriculum in a field trip setting.

“Visitors experience five different education stations,” Cynthia explained. “They have an opportunity to come in the barn and learn about milking cows, pet calves and learn about cattle in an animal petting area, participate in hands-on education about pumpkins and basic agronomy, and then they go through the hayride and spend time in the corn maze.”

Even in the corn maze though, visitors have the chance to engage in educational programming around the topics of bible, history or agricultural trivia. Instead of getting lost in the maze, the goal is to find all the signposts with questions scattered throughout and be able to have answers to all of the questions found.

This unique variety of education provided on the farm attracts school groups, youth groups, scouting groups and families, keeping the Adam family busy with a constant flow of eager visitors on the farm during the fall months. While it’s a lot of work for each of them, it’s all for the noble cause of promoting the dairy industry they love.

“We want to educate people about the farm, our love of animals, how we take care of the cows and how we’ve grown our family on this farm,” John said. “It’s not what the perception of a lot of farms are. It’s actually what a real dairy farm is. It’s your family, you’re all working together and you have your cows you’re taking care of.”

This article was originally published in the September/October 2019 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »