Chances are if you are older than a baby boomer, you probably don’t remember the days of the milkman when fresh dairy products, emphasis on milk, were delivered right to your door.
The milkman – known for the classic white suits and black bowtie look, and those shiny glass bottles filled to the brim with milk they carried to your doorstep – is making a comeback. Now modern-day versions of the bygone practice are reemerging around parts of the country such as The Modern Milkman based out of Ellington, Conn., as part of Oak Ridge Dairy.
“A desire to support local agriculture….it’s the farm-to-table concept that has become popular today,” said Seth Bahler, founder of The Modern Milkman, about what is fueling the return of the milkman.
Milk was once delivered daily to homes in America to help prevent spoilage before modern refrigeration became widespread. Milkmen used horse-drawn carriages in the 1800s before the advent of the milk truck. But along with progress, including more cars and supermarkets, they came to an end along with those glass bottles that milkmen once would leave and pick up when they returned. As for those glass bottles – which many collect as antiques today – they were replaced in supermarkets with plastic and carton containers.
Ellington’s Oak Ridge Dairy is the largest dairy farm in the state. Founded in the late 1890s by the Adolph Bahler family, it was one of the many farms scattered across New England raising not only cows but also growing tobacco and potatoes as cash crops. Over the years, dairy emerged as their true passion, and while time moved on and other dairy farms were closing their doors, they pushed forward, eventually building their current facility in 2016 that is 318,000 square feet.
“The dairy business has certainly been challenging over the past several years. But we are in it for the long haul. We are really looking to a future in the commodity business, selling our milk to a processor who bottles it for different brands that you might find in Walmart or Costco. We believe all milk is good and nutritious and don’t like to talk bad about any brand,” Bahler said.
“We grow 2,000 acres of corn and about 1,000 acres of grass that we harvest to feed our cows. We recently built a brand new state-of-the art facility where we milk around 2,600 cows who produce about 25,000 gallons of milk a day. To do all of that it takes a team of roughly between 40 to 50 employees depending on the season,” he added.
A statement on the Oak Ridge Dairy website best describes the concept of The Modern Milkman and the dairy’s future:
“Now well into a 5th generation, our goal is to get great tasting milk from our parlor to your home as quickly as possible so you’re drinking fresh quality milk that you can trust. 50 years ago your local milkman would deliver fresh milk to your doorstep. Every family knew the farm it came from. And you knew it was fresh. Thus began our latest endeavor, The Modern Milkman, where old fashioned farming and service meets today’s day and age. The Modern Milkman is a weekly subscription-based box service that delivers fresh Oakridge milk (milked less than 24 hours ago) along with local farm fresh eggs, butter, yogurt and cheese right to your doorstep. While a lot of our milk is still being supplied to Guida’s Milk in New Britain, CT, our heart is in The Modern Milkman and believe this is the future of dairy, where community and honest dairy come together.”
“We had people asking us if they could buy our milk, but we needed a way to figure out how to get our milk bottled. We looked at other farms, other bottlers to help us and worked with them to get other local products out to the consumer while promoting their brands as well,” Bahler said.“
So, last year we began to build a really good, user-friendly website to deliver on the promise of ‘fresh from the farm’ and The Modern Milkman was born,” he added.
Customers go to The Modern Milkman website, modernmilkman. com, and choose the box that is right for them. A full share is $29.99 per week and includes a choice of six products, half shares cost $22.50 and include four products. Among the products to choose from are Oakridge Dairy milk which is bottled and delivered within one day to your doorstep, farm fresh eggs, farm made yogurt, cookie of the week from LuAnn’s Bakery in Ellington, Swiss Wecka Bread which is also from LuAnn’s, cheese of the week, smooth and creamy butter, and cottage cheese dip of the week.
Feeding the hungry is also on their minds.
Customers who may be going on vacation or who have too much already stashed away in their refrigerator, have the option of having their box sent to a family in need through Hockanum Valley Food Pantry. The dairy’s Food Partnership Program also gives a charitable customer the opportunity to select the donate option when signing up. Each box is then packed with fresh, nutritious products that often do not make their way to local food banks. At the end of the year, customers are provided with a tax-deductible receipt from a non-profit organization.
For the Bahlers, it is all about sustainability as milk bottles make a return.
“Glass is sustainable, recyclable, and earth friendly unlike plastic bottles which contaminate landfills. Our delivery boxes are also recycled for future use and insulated with ice liner packs that can also be recycled and returned to us with the box on our next delivery, not to mention the milk bottles,” he said.
The Modern Milkman currently delivers only to several areas in Connecticut, including Enfield, Somers, Stafford, East Windsor, Ellington, Tolland, Vernon and South Windsor.
“We hope to expand our delivery area in the future, as well as to add more local baked goods and other farm products, including eggnog and different flavored milks,” Bahler said. Oakridge Dairy is located on 80 Meadowbrook Rd. in Ellington, Conn. The farm holds a variety of educational events, field trips, programs and tours throughout the year. To schedule a private tour for your group, call 860-375-2968.
For more information, visit modernmilkman.com
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