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In the spirit of giving: Dairy producers give back in 2013

PD Editor Peggy Coffeen Published on 10 December 2013


From coast to coast, the dairy community is bound together by a common thread of generosity that transcends differing production styles, political views and geographical boundaries.



For dairy farmers, answering the calling to help others is not simply an act of due diligence – it is second nature.

Representatives from four dairy producer-driven charities share the causes that are near and dear to their hearts, and how they have been a part of an organized effort to spread the joy and good fortune that a life of dairying has provided for them with those in need.


Bill Wavrin, veterinarian and dairy farmer
Sunny Dene Ranch
Mabton, Washington

Dairy for Life



Dairy for Life came together as a culmination of long conversations after the financial crisis about the rising population of food-insecure people. Food was highlighted as a need, and we are the food people.

Further, the thought of losing a generation of milk drinkers is not something we want to see happen in the long run. We had talked about finding a way to help for many years, and we finally found it.

Around the holidays last year, a group of six of us dairy farmers from the Yakima Valley all wrote checks. The pool was $60,000, enough to purchase about 25,000 gallons of milk. We wrote checks to Second Harvest and dedicated them to Dairy for Life. We set it up for even distribution of milk on a weekly basis throughout the year.

Second Harvest, a Spokane-based distributor to food banks, is a critical part of this picture. We would have a hard time pulling this off without Second Harvest. Our processor, Darigold, has cooperated by making logistics easy and providing a good discount for the milk.

Some of us involved were able to see the food being distributed. On one particular day, we served 200 to 300 people in 2.5 hours, distributing 12,000 pounds of food, which included two pallets of milk. The attitude of these people was grateful, not entitled.

This is an effort on behalf of our group of dairy producers, and we are not doing it to seek recognition. We are just looking to get milk into the system for people who need it and cannot afford it. That is our sole purpose.


We hope to see it continue to grow, and we would love to hit $100,000 this year. As dairy farmers, we have made a pretty good life doing what we love to do, and we ought to be grateful and generous in light of it.


Tara Vander Dussen
Rajen Dairy
Clovis, New Mexico

United Dairy Women

Founded in 2005 by Michelle Heavyside and seven of her friends, United Dairy Women is an organization dedicated to promoting agriculture to our communities in a positive manner. The goals were simple: to aid children’s homes with year-round dairy products and to educate the community on the dairy industry.

Local children’s homes benefit from our work, including New Mexico Christian Children’s Home, New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home and Pippin Youth Ranch.

At the end of each month, the sponsor families who bring these children into their homes turn in their bills for dairy products, and we pay for them. There are around 180 children spread among several of the sponsor family homes.

I have grown up in New Mexico and attended school with kids who lived at the children’s homes, so I have always felt connected to the cause. As an adult now, it is an honor to be able to do something for them.

Our largest fundraising event is the Milk Lovers’ Ball, which is typically held in February. We have many wonderful sponsors, and community members buy tickets and tables to the event. This year, we held our first annual Ute the Man Triathlon at Ute Lake, New Mexico. Our athletes refuel after the event with many different dairy products.

In the future, we plan to continue to hold our Milk Lovers’ Ball to raise money for the children’s homes. We would also like to focus on not only dairy as a healthy product, but also incorporating dairy into a healthy lifestyle. This will include continuing our triathlon every summer.

The children’s homes also have many other needs beyond dairy. Every year, they provide the children with the school supplies they need for the year. We hope to be able to provide some of the school supplies needed through funds raised during our triathlon.


Jim Ostrom
Milk Source
Kaukauna, Wisconsin

Dairy Cares


Our mission is to give back. Many of us in this industry have been blessed with success, and along with success comes the responsibility to help others.

Dairy Cares was started four years ago by a group of people in the dairy industry, including fellow dairy producers Gordon and Cathy Speirs and Laurie Fischer, executive director of the Dairy Business Association.

We wanted to give back in a meaningful way, and we found that nearly everyone we talk to knows or has a family member who has been affected by a childhood disease. We felt that the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin was a cause that many of us could rally around, and one in which others could identify.

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is a world-class hospital that focuses on the needs of sick children. The primary facility is in Milwaukee, and there are multiple branches throughout Wisconsin. However, care is provided to children and their families from across the country.

Dairy Cares is funded entirely by donations, corporate sponsorships and participants in our annual garden party. Each year at the garden party, we highlight certain children who have been helped. Often, these children were young in life when they were helped, and they are there to show the success of the hospital.

We started with a garden party for 30 people and raised $35,000, and it has grown to 250 people and raised $107,000 last year. So far, we have given a total of $200,000.

There is nothing more important than helping our children. We feel passionate about the cause and making sure others are able to give through an event like ours.


Mike Eby
Pequea Registered Holsteins
Gordonville, Pennsylvania

Dairy Pricing Association – Blessings of Hope


Through DPA , dairy farmers are purchasing products and then donating them to food pantries so that people in need have widespread access.

Our mission is to establish a minimum price the dairy industry receives for its production, while at the same time maintaining a level of milk production to meet the needs of the consumer.

Members pay a voluntary monthly assessment of 10 cents per hundred pounds of milk produced. This assessment is used to purchase surplus dairy commodities. The products purchased, whether cheese or milk, must be bought back from DPA members’ milk.

We have a working relationship with Blessings of Hope, a food bank ran by donations from churches and small businesses, to distribute food throughout Pennsylvania. Blessings of Hope serves as the “hub of the wheel” to other organizations that are smaller and in need.

The largest purchase to date is 30,000 gallons of whole milk. Last fall, we were able to send 6,000 gallons of milk through Blessings of Hope to the Hurricane Sandy victims in New Jersey and New York. DPA has also purchased blocks of cheese in Wisconsin for distribution through Second Harvest Foodbank.

I think farmers, as a whole, are people of a giving nature. When we see catastrophes or people in need, we help each other. When we reach beyond and help those who cannot afford to purchase or do not have access to dairy products, it can erase negative images and enhance neutral or positive ones. It really is a win-win.

I look at this as a pilot program right now, and – if nothing else – a great way to feed those who cannot afford our products. PD

To find out how to get involved with the efforts of these groups or to tell us about your dairy’s own charitable activities, contact us by email .

Dairy producers are at the heart of Dairy Cares, a charity that benefits the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Dairy Cares.


Peggy Coffeen
Progressive Dairyman