These Support Local Farmers shirts were designed and marketed by dairy enthusiasts Sydney Endres and Mariah Martin, in order to raise funds to purchase milk and other dairy products to donate to various southern Wisconsin food pantries.
These Support Local Farmers shirts were designed and marketed by dairy enthusiasts Sydney Endres and Mariah Martin, in order to raise funds to purchase milk and other dairy products to donate to various southern Wisconsin food pantries. PHOTO SUBMITTED
    MADISON, Wis. – The drastic changes the dairy industry has endured since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic spurred two young Wisconsin dairy enthusiasts to do something to positively affect not only the industry they love but the communities around them as well.
    “The dairy industry has drastically changed since the pandemic began,” Sydney Endres said. “With many places shut down, there are not enough homes for dairy products. Businesses in the entire dairy supply chain are taking a hit. Donating dairy helps move more product into homes, supporting the industry as a whole.”
    Problem-solvers by nature, Endres and her friend, Mariah Martin, decided to help create demand for dairy products by working to put them in the refrigerators of those who were food insecure. While that in itself has become a regular phenomenon throughout the Badger state in the past two months, the two put their own unique spin on creating a solution.
    “We are all aware that farmers and ranchers across our country are struggling as our food supply chain adapts to the current situation,” Martin said. “In addition, food banks are seeing a surge in demand paired with a drop in food donations.”
    Both Endres and Martin have been regular volunteers at the Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin during the pandemic, working to help get food to those in need. Seeing the need there and knowing what was happening in the dairy industry, an idea was born.
    “We also were seeing first-hand how the pandemic was affecting the agriculture industry, especially dairy farmers,” Endres said. “Harry Hansen’s Meat Service in Franksville, Wisconsin, did something similar, and we piggy backed off of their idea. With our love for giving back and dairy products, we thought this was a great way to support our farmer families and friends while helping those in need.”
    The pair worked with a DeForest-based printer to create shirts with the slogan “Support Local Farmers,” which they made available in a variety of sizes and styles. All shirts were priced at $20 with all proceeds being used to purchase the dairy products for donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin, Wisconsin’s Adopt-A-Dairy-Cow program and Feeding America’s Great American Milk Drive.
    “Food banks always need more milk,” Martin said. “According to Feeding America, milk is one of the most requested items. More people than ever are relying on food pantries right now, and that demand will continue for months after businesses start opening back up.”
    The shirt sales were open for nine days. Initially, Endres and Martin hoped to sell 200 shirts, but after selling nearly 150 shirts in the first 24 hours, they doubled that goal to 400 shirts.
    “We never expected to surpass that goal of 400 shirts, but we ended up tripling our original goal and sold 640 shirts,” Endres said.
    For now, the shirt sale is closed, but the pair has not ruled out opening the fundraiser back up if they experience a second wave of interest.
    “We’d gladly open sales back up to continue to support dairy farmers and give back,” Martin said.
    Endres concurred, and said the support their project received far exceeded her expectations.
    “People are just plain awesome,” Endres said. “We don’t have the final numbers yet, but we hope to be able to give over $7,000 worth of dairy products to food banks in our communities and across the United States. We are so thankful to all that liked, shared and purchased these shirts to support our dairy farmers and to give to those in need.”
    Social media was the primary avenue Endres and Martin used to spread the word about their project.
    “On Snapchat, we worked with a friend and incentivized followers to buy through goals,” Martin said. “For instance, once we sold 300 shirts, the three of us broadcasted a milk chugging challenge. We used our various networks at work as well as within the dairy industry and other agricultural organizations we are each involved with.”
    Endres and Martin said the support they received through the social media outlets surprised them.
    “It was amazing to see the support, not just from our family and friends but from complete strangers as well,” Endres said. “From our personal Facebook pages, we received over 150 shares. That doesn’t include those who shared, that we aren’t friends with or just didn’t see. The power of social media really became apparent to us, and it has been a great tool for us to share our message and our initiative.”
    While it might sound like a huge undertaking to create a product, develop a social media marketing plan, sell a product and spearhead a major donation of perishable products, Endres and Martin said project happened rather quickly.
    “In total, we spent about a week preparing and setting it up; then a week and a half for sales; once the shirts are printed, we’ll spend about another week shipping and delivering them,” Martin said.
    The two advocates first met during college through shared involvement in a variety of student organizations, and a friendship developed through their mutual love of all things agriculture. They even worked together to host an agricultural radio talk show during their time on campus.
    Endres, a native of Lodi, grew up and resides on her family’s Jazzy Jerseys dairy farm. She helps on the farm when she is not busy traveling for her work as an area representative and type traits appraiser for the American Jersey Cattle Association. Martin, a former Green County Dairy Queen, grew up with what she calls a strong dairy influence, imparted on her by her parents and grandparents, other family members and friends. She has turned that upbringing into a passion for advocating for agriculture and the dairy industry as a marketing executive for Filament Marketing in Madison.
    “Since we have been limited in travel, seeing friends and family and just enjoying normal life, this project has kept us busy and kept our creative juices flowing,” Martin said.