Saturday, March 22 2008 @ 06:21 PM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
South Mountain Creamery began the service in Baltimore late last month, and is the only dairy believed to be delivering milk to customers' doors in Maryland, according to agriculture officials and industry experts. The farm joins a small number of others around the country that have rekindled a promising niche market.
Customers are paying a premium for the convenience in part because of higher gasoline and milk prices.
The weekly delivery costs $3.50. And a half-gallon of the farm's milk costs $3.09 - about 70 cents more than at a local grocery store.
The delivery, which can include other products from mostly local farms such as yogurt, juice and goat cheese, is left in a small cooler on a customer's porch.
"Outside of the nostalgia of getting the milk out of the cooler, it really is a great service to have," said Marie Fortuno-Schifflett, a Mount Washington resident and mother of two teenagers. "It really does taste better, and the fact that it's not laden with byproducts like hormones makes me feel a little bit better."
Family-owned South Mountain Creamery started delivering milk in 2001 from the back of a Ford Explorer in an effort to gain control of its prices. Now the dairy farm of 200 milking cows has grown from delivering to 13 homes to about 2,600 residences in the Washington-Baltimore region.
"I never intended to go as far as we have," said Tony Brusco, who runs the creamery portion of the farm's business.
Although the farm isn't certified as organic because of the cost involved, it does not give its cows growth hormones. The animals graze on pastures devoid of pesticides and eat hay grown on the farm. The milk is delivered in reusable glass bottles.
Brusco said Baltimore customers expressed interest in South Mountain Creamery's products for a few years but he never had enough business to make the 60-mile drive worth it. His general rule is that there needs to be one customer per mile.
Mike Siegel, a Mount Washington resident and law student, wanted the delivery service to come to his neighborhood for environmental reasons as well as for the convenience. So, through a Mount Washington e-mail discussion group, he recruited about 80 customers.
"I'd rather pay the guy that produced it rather than the retailer who pays the distributor who then pays the producer," said Siegel who is a fan of the farm's non-homogenized cream-topped milk.
Although South Mountain began delivering to Mount Washington three weeks ago, the farm's products have been available in a few neighborhoods since July. That's when P.J. Keating, owner of his own delivery service called Hey, Milkman!, began purchasing the products at wholesale and reselling to about 20 residents in Federal Hill, Canton, Mount Vernon and other Baltimore neighborhoods.