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SWFL woman helps struggling dairy farm during the coronavirus pandemic

Businesses around Southwest Florida have closed during the coronavirus pandemic and another group hit especially hard are dairy farmers. Many have been forced to throw away gallons of milk that can’t be sold, but a woman in Southwest Florida found a better way to use it this weekend.

Dakin Dairy Farms was supposed to start selling milk at A&B Restaurant in Englewood at 11 a.m. Saturday. People showed up early to support the Manatee County dairy farm.

A line of community members started wrapping around the restaurant an hour beforehand, all to support their local farmers. People waited more than an hour to get their hands on gallons of Dakin Dairy Farms’ milk.

“He told me they have the best chocolate milk,” said Robin Wik, who stood in line with her husband Mike Wik. “So of course we stocked up on chocolate milk.”

Englewood is another stop around Florida for Jennifer Osterling in what she calls the “Ryder Milk Maid,” a box truck she’s using to sell Dakin Dairy Farms milk.

“I’ll keep going until the line is done,” Osterling said.

Osterling is trying to make sure smaller communities have the milk they need while also keeping the dairy farm afloat during the crisis.

“These dairy farmers cannot survive,” Osterling said. “What happens when we can’t provide you food?”

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges to the dairy industry. Dairy farms across the country have been forced to dump milk.

Between 2.7 million and 3.7 million gallons of milk could be disposed of every day during the pandemic, according to the Cooperative Dairy Farmers of America. That’s partially because grocery stores across the country have put a cap on the number of gallons customers can buy and the decrease in demand for other milk products in places like restaurants.

That means hundreds of thousands of dollars down the drain for dairy farms.

“If we all go together, pack together, help the farmers, we can survive,” Osterling said.

So when Englewood heard the “Ryder Milk Maid” would be in town, Englewood showed up.

“We want our community to thrive,” Robin said.

Many of the customers here have been paying it forward, paying for the next person’s milk and leaving tips. Osterling says whatever milk is left will be donated to a local homeless shelter.

Osterling said she’ll take a break from traveling and selling milk for Dakin Dairy Farms on Sunday, but she’ll hit the road again soon. She plans to come back to Englewood because the response has been so great.

“Help your small businesses,” Osterling said. “It’s the only way we are going to survive.”

Reporter:Andryanna Sheppard
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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