Elizabeth Katzman, pictured with (from left) Whitewater Community Food Pantry volunteers Pat Chaput, co-manager; Barb Quast, co-manager; and Steve Malone, volunteer delivers 504 pounds of butter to the Whitewater Community Food Pantry on June 12, 2021. 
PHOTO SUBMITTED
Elizabeth Katzman, pictured with (from left) Whitewater Community Food Pantry volunteers Pat Chaput, co-manager; Barb Quast, co-manager; and Steve Malone, volunteer delivers 504 pounds of butter to the Whitewater Community Food Pantry on June 12, 2021. PHOTO SUBMITTED
WHITEWATER, Wis. – When Elizabeth Katzman saw an opportunity last year to help dairy farmers in her community struggling through the coronavirus pandemic, the high schooler sprang into action. She created a “Support Wisconsin Dairy” yard sign campaign to raise money to purchase dairy products and donate to local food pantries. When all was said and done, Katzman sold close to 1,000 signs and raised $10,000.
“I heard rumblings in the news of other FFA chapters doing something similar, but no one was really doing anything in our area, so I took the initiative to make it happen in southeast Wisconsin,” said Katzman, the daughter of Wes and Katy, who own and operate Katzman Farms – a 3,000-cow dairy near Whitewater.
Knowing firsthand how much work and passion go into producing milk, Katzman said she felt helpless watching producers dump milk due to the shift in demand when schools and restaurants were forced to close.
“It was just a matter of time before our family farm could be asked to do the same,” Katzman said. “I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing, so I got to work.”
Supporting her community’s dairy farmers was important to Katzman, who worked with a local company to design and print 100 signs to sell for $10 each. Whitewater FFA offered to cover the cost of the signs to help Katzman, the chapter’s president at the time, launch the campaign which went live April 23, 2020, via a post on her mom’s Facebook page.
“Thanks to the power of social media, those first 100 signs sold out in less than 30 minutes,” Katzman said. “I knew right then this was going to be something special. My mom is very connected in the dairy industry, and she helped me bring this campaign to life.”
Local businesses jumped on board and offered to cover the cost of additional signs, allowing Katzman to use 100% of the proceeds for dairy product purchases. During the first 10 days of the campaign, Katzman and her parents crisscrossed the southern part of Wisconsin and delivered just under 500 signs – from Lake Geneva to Poynette to New Glarus and everywhere in between.
“I never imagined I would receive so much support from my community and beyond,” she said. “I even received some generous donations from as far away as California.”
She used the proceeds from the sale of the signs, plus donations, to purchase Wisconsin dairy products for two food pantries – The Community Space and the Whitewater Community Food Pantry.
“Both places are run by people with big hearts who give so much of their time to help many in our community and beyond,” Katzman said. “I’m just happy to play a small part in their success.”
Katzman focused her efforts on providing items not commonly donated. To date, she has donated 250 quarts of ice cream from Sassy Cow Creamery; 250 bags of cheese curds from Hill Valley Dairy; 200 baked potato bags (potatoes from Alsum Farm and Produce, sour cream from Weyauwega Star Dairy, butter from Grassland Butter and shredded cheddar cheese from Crystal Farms); 200 half gallons of chocolate milk from Prairie Farms Dairy; 216 pounds of cheese spread from Pine River Pre-Pack; 864 Sargento Balanced Breaks; 250 frozen pizzas from Emil’s Pizza; 504 pounds of Nature’s Touch butter distributed by Kwik Trip; and $1,200 worth of gift cards to Whitewater’s seven pizza restaurants. Katzman will continue to make monthly dairy product donations until the funds are depleted.
“I want to make my last donation extra special and plan to invite the businesses that covered the cost of the signs to join me in making this final donation,” Katzman said. “It’s because of them that I was able to use all of the proceeds to purchase dairy products.”
Katzman’s signs can be found all over southern Wisconsin. A few even made their way out of state.
“Through this campaign, I was able to create awareness for the important role Wisconsin’s dairy industry plays in feeding our hungry world while helping address food insecurities in my own community,” Katzman said. “It has been so rewarding to be able to give back.”
Katzman’s ambition to do good resulted in moving dairy products and helping those in physical need. Her helpful spirit and kind heart directly impacted dairy farmers, processors, local businesses and hungry members of the community. Katzman’s efforts also earned her special recognition from the Wisconsin State Assembly. In addition, she received a Hometown Hero award presented by Whitewater Unites Lives, a civil and human rights group.
“It’s humbling to know what a difference I made in our community and beyond,” said Katzman, a recent Whitewater High School graduate. “This project opened many doors for me and helped solidify my future plans. It helped me realize my passion for sales, marketing, project management and, most importantly, the dairy industry. It’s been a positive experience all around, and I’m so grateful for everyone’s support.”