Since January of 2019 almost 300 dairy farms have called it quits in Wisconsin according to Wisconsin Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection data.
It’s a continuation of a trend over the last few years that have seen the number of dairies in the state dwindle by the thousands.
Some farmers are getting creative in their attempts to hold on. Including turning to online fundraising sites like GoFundMe.
“I didn’t know if it was going to help or if it was going to do anything or anything, but I guess I was at my wits end and I thought what have I got to lose?” said Mary Reickmann, a dairy farmer in Fremont, WI.
The farm has been in Reickmann’s husband’s family for four generations. The couple bought it in the 60’s from her husband’s dad and they expanded it to a dairy operation. They’ve always had between 40 and 50 cows.
“We worked hard at it and we got it to where it’s a nice place now and now things are hard again, and they’re very hard,” Reickmann said.
So far the GoFundMe has brought in more than $19,000 for the couple. Reickmann said they’ve used it to buy feed for the cows and fuel, though they’re still struggling to get by.
“We don’t expect to get rich on this or anything else, but just see a little bit of daylight,” Reickmann said.
A friend helped the Reickmann’s set up the GoFundMe. They first heard about it from another farmer who set one up.
It may be a growing trend. Family Farm Defenders, a Wisconsin organization that advocates for dairy farmers in the state, says they’ve seen more and more online fundraising campaigns like this one.
“Farmers need to use every tool available to survive today and don’t be ashamed to use GoFundMe,” said Joel Greeno, president of Family Farm Defenders.
Greeno recommends farmer use it if they think it’s appropriate, he says it can be a tool to keep the farm running.
“Do what you need to do to get by, there’s hope, you just need to fight for it,” Greeno said.
Reickmann recommends it too, she says she knows it can be tough to ask for help.
“I didn’t think it would ever come to this, but it did and it’s a terrible feeling when you don’t know which way to turn,” she said.
You can find the Reickmann’s GoFundMe here.
Greeno says farmers struggling can also reach out to Family Farm Defenders at 608-260-0900 and they may be able to help them get resources.