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Dairy farm turns to GoFundMe for survival

A Wisconsin family is turning to crowdfunding to save their dairy farm, which dates all the way back to 1873.

Dale Cihlar, a fourth generation dairy farmer and grandfather of nine grandkids, had reached a new low – with several prized dairy cows dying, the price of milk plummeting, and another $1,600 monthly payment for the manure storage system the county required them to install. So he and his wife Karen were pressed to take out a loan.

When Dale and Karen went to take out a $35,000 loan to purchase half a herd of cows from a fellow farmer who was going out of business, they were denied time and time again because of projected milk prices. But the last banker they talked to gave Karen an idea.

“The last one said to me to do what you have to do and don’t worry about what others think, so that night I did the GoFundMe page,” Karen told Fox News, adding she didn’t know what to expect but put it in God’s hands.

“I am asking for help to keep [our] small family dairy farm going,” Karen wrote in her plea to save the family farm. “My husband is to[o] proud to come on here, but my gut says give it a try.”

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Dale and his wife, Karen, are pictured above. Dale is recovering from foot surgery.  (Dale Cihlar)

And immediately they started seeing people help out. Following the publishing of this article, they exceeded their goal of $35,000 – as of Friday night, more than $75,000 had been raised.

“Wow, it was awesome to get blessings, good luck, and well wishes from so many strangers and fellow farmers,” Karen said.

Dale told his wife he didn’t think they’d get a single penny, so he said it was overwhelming to see people care about a farmer.

“It’s also really sad, “he said. “I’ve been milking cows for 40 years now. I always seemed to have money and be able to help other people out. Now I guess I’m on the receiving end…Farmers are pretty independent. We don’t like asking for help unless it’s really necessary.”

The couple said the money will go towards getting more milk cows, hay, and other farm loans.

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The Cihlar Farm has 40 milking cows, but the family is looking to add to the number to keep the farm going.  (Dale Cihlar)

But even with the help, the Cihlars still face an uphill battle.

Dale had foot surgery Thursday, putting him off his feet for the next four to six weeks, while his wife, sons, and 13-year-old grandson are giving extra help around the barn to pick up the slack. Karen has had to take time off work to help while Dale can’t go to his part-time job he started a few months ago, delivering parts for manufacturers, but through it all, the Cihlars know they’re not alone in their struggle.

Over the past year, the state known as “America’s Dairyland” has lost 500 dairy farms, according to the State Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and something Dale has seen firsthand.

“When I first started dairying in the 1980s there were 13 farms and we’re down to four farms now,” Dale said. “There’s a lot of empty barns.”

While Governor Scott Walker convened a task force to help address the problem, Dale said he believes the price of milk is more of a federal problem that needs a federal solution.

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Dale Cihlar, a fourth generation dairy farmer, is hoping to pass on the farm to one of his children or grandchildren.  (Dale Cihlar)

Dale said that, while he’s not a fan of tariffs, he believes Trump’s work on fair trade deals is going to help farmers.

“Trump is president of the whole United States, and I think as a whole he’s doing what’s best for the country right now,” he added.

And while the farm is still not what it used to be, the couple remains hopeful.

“We just keep praying and one day at a time, we’re better off today than we were six months ago,” Karen said. “My goal with all of this is that we can pay it forward, that someday we can help out someone else the same way so many people have donated to help us.”


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