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Dairy duo raises funds to help dairy farmers and food pantries

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
UW-Madison graduates Sydney Endres and Mariah Martin combined their passion for the dairy industry and those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic to spearhead a fundraiser to provide milk to needy families by selling T-shirts supporting local farmers.

Their combined love of dairy products and giving back to their community is helping Sydney Endres and Mariah Martin to make a difference during the pandemic.

Raised on Wisconsin dairy farms, Endres and Martin, both graduates of UW Madison, began their volunteer work at Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin through the Association of Women in Agriculture during college.

In March of 2020, the women say they began volunteering at the foodbank almost weekly. During that time they helped prepare 'Care Boxes' and sorted various food items to be distributed throughout southern Wisconsin.

"We were seeing firsthand how the pandemic was affecting the agriculture industry, especially the dairy farmers," they said. "With a little extra time on our hands, we began looking for a way to help both sides."

At the time, dairy farmers and ranchers were struggling with the impact of the disruption of the supply chain. And with many laid off from their jobs, local food banks witnessed a surge in demand paired with a drop in food donations.

"(At the food pantry), we saw their increased need of not only food but volunteers," said Endres. "Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin shared that milk is rarely donated (due to its perishable nature) and that they are currently buying 80% of the milk provided right now."

According to Feeding America, even when the world is not navigating a a global pandemic, milk is one of the most requested items at a food bank.

"We decided to donate dairy because of our backgrounds and love for the industry," Martin said. "Both Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin and Feeding America have programs where donations go directly to donating milk to food banks. This allows them to purchase milk when they need it most, making it an easy choice."

The duo said they were inspired by a 'support local' fundraising event led by Harry Hansen's Meat Service in Franksville, Wis., and decided to piggyback off the idea and began designing a T-shirt that they could sell to raise money for milk donations.

"We thought this was a great way to support our farmer families and friends while helping those in need," said Martin who designed the logo.

UW-Madison graduates Sydney Endres and Mariah Martin spearhead a fundraiser to provide milk to needy families by using the proceeds from T-shirts supporting local farmers.

The women said their initial goal was to sell 200 T-shirts at a price of $20 each. Within the first 24 hours they had sold nearly 150 shirts. To meet the demand, they doubled their goal and reached out to their supplier, X-Per-T's Printwear Inc. in DeForest. 

"We didn't expect to surpass our goal of 400 shirts but we ended up tripling our goal," Endres said.

The pair attribute the success of their campaign to social media where they broadcast their endeavor via Facebook and Snapchat, support from ag media and word of mouth.

"On Snapchat we worked with a friend and incentivized followers to buy through goals. For instance, once we got to 300 shirts sold, the three of us broadcast a milk chugging contest challenge," Martin said.

Endres says they have also reached out to local businesses who mentioned interest in purchasing the T-shirts for their employees.

"We also used our networks at work as well as within the dairy industry and agriculture organizations we are involved with," she said.

Endres grew up on her family's farm Jazzy Jerseys in Lodi and currently works as an area representative and type traits appraiser for the American Jersey Cattle Association while Martin who was raised on her family's dairy farm in Dane County works as a marketing executive with Filament Marketing.

After only a week and a half of promoting their fundraising event, Endres and Martin have managed to sell over 640 T-shirts bringing in nearly $8400. The women say they will divide the proceeds between Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin 'Adopt-a-Dairy Cow' program and Feeding America's Great American Milk Drive.

The duo plans to continue their fundraiser throughout the month of June - National Dairy Month.

"While we don't have a goal at this time, we're very grateful for all those who are interested and wanting to support food banks and dairy farmers," they said.

UW-Madison graduates Sydney Endres and Mariah Martin spearhead a fundraiser to provide milk to needy families by using the proceeds from T-shirts supporting local farmers.

How to help

To buy a T-shirt visit https://bit.ly/SupportLocalFarmers20 or contact Martin at mkmartin@uwalumni.com. Or to simply make a donation, contact Endres at sfendres@gmail.com.

Shirt sales close at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, June 30. All shirts will be distributed in mid-July.