Staff spotlight: dairy background, rural roots set Cynthia up for success

Small Towns

Growing up on my family’s 60-cow dairy farm in northeast Iowa shaped me into the person I am today. As a high school girl, my interest to stay invested in dairy was probably a bit out of the ordinary, but also complementary to my life experiences. I always had an interest in and curiosity about the agriculture industry. I wasn’t sure what my future career would look like after having a major back surgery, and realizing I wouldn’t be the sibling returning to take over the family farm, but I knew I’d always come back to agriculture.

Dairy is a long-standing occupation in my family. Both of my parents grew up on small dairy farms and have continued that passion through the operation they have built today. The upbringing my five siblings and I had has helped me appreciate the rural way of life. 

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, my grandfather supported his three sons when they decided to split up the home farm to create and build upon something of their own. Each brother stayed within a 10-mile radius of each other to farm and raise their families. Two of those three operations are still in production today, one of them being run by my mom, dad, and two brothers.

“Were you raised in a barn?” is an age-old saying often referring to someone who left a door open behind them. My response to that question has a literal meaning to it. I spent more time than I can remember at our dairy farm from the day I was brought home from the hospital. I often napped in our office space while my parents completed their daily tasks. Before I could walk, the swing set in the barn alley became an assistant babysitter as my parents milked our herd of Holstein cows. As soon as I was old enough to help, I quickly learned to feed the calves, milk the cows, and even drive the tractor or skid loader to pick up large square hay bales. 

As a young girl, I recognized the importance of hard work and dedication to the farm and the communities supported by the local economy. Understanding the impact of vibrant and resilient rural communities has come to the forefront of my “why” on a daily basis.

My studies in college included classes in political science, economics, and sociology—all with a focus on agriculture. I quickly learned rural policy has many levels of complexity and took advantage of that time to learn about how issues came about, why people interact in the way they do, and how to move forward and make a difference. 

After graduating from Iowa State University in 2021 with double majors in agriculture and society and dairy science, I found myself in a role working on behalf of dairy farmers on a daily basis. Learning more about policy advocacy during that time gave me the courage to act upon the desire I have for impacting change on behalf of those hard-working farmers I grew up around. At the Center for Rural Affairs, I am eager to advocate alongside those farmers who are working to feed themselves and the growing population, while also caring for the environment and their rural communities. 

Outside of work, I contribute to our central Iowa-based Young Professionals in Agriculture group as the programming chair. It’s a breath of fresh air networking and interacting with other people who have comparable passions for a successful agriculture industry. 

Even though I don’t make it back to my family’s dairy farm as often as I’d like, rural life is at the heart of all that I do. I’m grateful to be on a team at the Center that prioritizes similar interests.

In my free time, you’ll find me spending time with my husband, gardening, putting together puzzles, and cheering on the Iowa State Cyclones. 

Connect with Cynthia by email at or by phone at 402.687.2100, ext. 1034.