Passionate volunteers take 97 Milk effort to next level

New website and online store launched

97MilkWebsitePhoto (1)

The 97milk.com website has a whole new look, new options, more content, and a new online store for ordering whole milk promotion and educational items.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, June 5, 2020

EPHRATA, Pa. — Just in time for June Dairy Month 2020, the 97milk.com website has been revamped to include more information, more milk facts, new activities for children, more recipes, an area for farmers about forming chapters, and most exciting, a new online store that makes ordering 97 Milk materials easy.

“We knew the old site was outdated. Ordering needs to be easy for people. Now, whether it’s one item or 500, it’s all at your fingertips,” says Jackie Behr, marketing manager for R&J Dairy Consulting. She serves on the 97 Milk LLC board of directors, and she volunteers her time managing the website and social media, including the online store, as well as designing many of the education and promotion items.

It has been 15 months since a group of dairy farmers began meeting monthly in the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania area to start a milk education effort and website in conjunction with the Drink Whole Milk 97% Fat Free painted round bales that were initiated in late December 2018 by Berks County dairy farmer Nelson Troutman.

Operating as volunteers, 97 Milk LLC is funded by donations.

Now, the new online store at the upgraded website makes it easy to order single items and bulk items, while returning a small margin to keep the creativity going.

With just a few clicks, items can be ordered, placed in the online cart, paid for and shipped. All prices include shipping.

Some of the items available at the online store are 97 Milk T-shirts, bumper stickers, two sizes of magnets, four styles of banners, two-sided 6 inch by 6 inch whole milk education handouts, stickers with QR codes for milk cases, pens to give out, and “I Love Milk” stickers for kids.

This is just the beginning.

Farmshine reader called the newspaper office recently wanting whole milk education cards to include with milk coupons he was funding for a local food pantry that did not have a way of storing actual milk to give to families in need. Since he was funding these coupons for people to buy milk, he wanted the whole milk information cards to accompany the coupons, and was able to purchase them through the new 97 Milk online store.

Before the website renewal was launched two weeks ago, the process of ordering 97 Milk items, such as information cards and T-shirts, was a bit cumbersome.

“As long as we have the item you order in stock, we ship the next day,” says Behr, adding that items needing to be made or printed typically ship within a week.

Currently, the online store is mainly promotional items for consumer education, and the 97 Milk T-shirts have been a big hit since the first ones were made a year ago for sale during summer events where 97 Milk has operated a booth for face-to-face consumer interaction.

“We are looking at hats, but we are so limited in our funding,” says Behr. The group is hoping funds from purchases at the online store will help them be able to turn around and buy additional types of inventory to offer, as well as allowing a small margin to come back into 97 Milk to keep the website running and fund future promotion activities.

“The goal of the online store is making it easier for people to get involved and to share the information, but it has to be a click, it has to be easy. So we spent the time and money to get here, and we hope to add more items as we go,” Behr explains.

She is quick to point out that for June Dairy Month, a new downloadable activity for children is also available at the 97milk.com homepage, and Behr will be posting fun recipes and will be refreshing the website regularly with new content to keep people interested in coming back and to generate more new activity through online searches.

In addition to the online store, the upgraded website also has a download area where people can download and print off many of the educational posts that have appeared on social media pages.

To keep the movement going, those interested in helping the Drink Whole Milk consumer education effort can also make donations to support the cause.

The “Donate” tab at 97milk.com offers two options.

1) To donate to help 97 Milk keep up the milk education efforts, click under “Help us make a difference.” Since 97 Milk is operated by passionate volunteers, 100% of donations go to 97 Milk’s many educational efforts. In addition to donating online, donations can be mailed to 97 Milk LLC, P.O. Box 97, Bird-In-Hand, PA 17505.

2) To donate funds specifically for purchasing milk through a partnership 97 Milk started last month with Blessings of Hope food pantry due to COVID-19 hardships, use the “donate milk” button, where it says “Help support dairy farmers and community members in need.”

People have been asking for these educational items for milk donation events, farm tours, trade shows, and the like. In the past, 97 Milk would send small quantities of information cards to people, or help them order bulk quantities or explain how to download the files to take to their own local printers to make banners and handouts.

As more requests came in from across the country for handouts, T-shirts, banners and other items, and as 97 Milk is solely dependent upon donations and volunteers for what they accomplish, the best way forward is to give everyone the opportunity to purchase the items easily online.

The new website also has a brand new “For Farmers” area, where producers can find out what to do to start their own 97 Milk chapter.

“We have people interested in forming a chapter for their area, but no new chapters yet,” Behr reports.

She is excited by how the complete overhaul of the 97milk.com website has more than doubled daily online new users since the launch on May 18. The website used to get around 50 new users daily. Now, in the first two weeks since the renewal, it’s been attracting 120 new users a day.

At the same time, the 97 Milk social media pages, such as Facebook, have seen an uptick in new followers and new activity since the website revamp. The Facebook page has amassed 11,500 followers in just 15 months.

“The website now has more milk facts. We have quadrupled the information. Having more written text is what drives google search engines,” Behr says, explaining that with more information available, the website pops up more frequently when people do internet searches – and on a wider variety of topics.

“We are ready to take 97 Milk to the next level,” Behr observes. “We want to continue to be the milk education backbone for other chapters and be a resource for people doing ideas in their own communities — a place they can come for information and materials and to bring ideas.”

The money raised through donations and online orders goes right back into purchasing more educational materials inventory, billboards, and future activities

As 97 Milk evolves, the main mission of “milk education for our community” is the same, and the message is resonating with dairy farmers and with consumers across the country.

Dairy farmers from east to west and north to south are sending in photos and ideas for social media and inquiring about forming chapters. In addition to a how-to guide for forming a chapter, the ‘For Farmers’ tab at the website suggests other ways farmers can help.

Organizers hope to see a nationwide movement and “ripple effect” grow as people collectively participate by doing something, no matter how small it may seem.

“We saw dairy farmers across the nation were ready for a movement like 97 Milk, and consumers are more interested in ever in learning how to support local dairy farms,” says Behr. “That is why we have been successful so far is that we are that bridge between the two.”

In the same way, when people see the Drink Whole Milk 97% Fat Free painted round bales, signs, banners and vehicle magnets, all with 97milk.com emblazoned on them — connections are made, and minds are opened.

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