Return of the Milkman in Ohio


Like the rest of the country, Ohio is the in the midst of a dairy crisis that shows little sign of getting better for most farms producing raw milk for pasteurization. Yorkshire farmer, Dan Kremer who also owns and operates the Eat Food For Life buyers club, believes that family dairy farms, particularly those producing organic milk, can stay in business by producing raw milk for direct consumption. Kremer who raises beef, poultry, and eggs also distributes raw milk through a herd share agreement; his brother-in-law manages a herd of Jersey cows on the same farm.

The distribution of raw milk through herd share agreements is legal by policy in Ohio1; Kremer thinks that distribution capability is key to success and that this hinges on restoring the tradition of the milkman–the raw milkman.

In 1995, there were 6,800 dairies in Ohio; today there are about 2,000. In recent months, the average price of milk conventional farmers receive is around 30 percent (30%) below the cost of production. Dairy cooperatives are sending suicide hotline numbers along with milk checks. Organic dairies can’t compete with the certified organic mega-dairies in Texas and Colorado that are flooding the market with “organic” milk while violating federal regulation on the amount of time their herds should be out on pasture.

Kremer says, ”Many in the industry consider the disappearance of the family dairy farm as inevitable. We do not. In fact, we are convinced that this crisis event is an opportunity to strengthen the economic base of this demographic and re-establish it under its own branding.”

“To continue in dairy, the farmers will need an alternate market. We are encouraging them to consider the real or raw milk market. It would mean having direct and independent access to the public, a sufficient margin for their family’s economic viability, and the opportunity to work collaboratively with those of us they would serve to ensure the integrity and safety of their product. Most importantly, it will mean restoring the direct relationship between us and them.”

The first milkman in the U.S. was a raw milk man; home deliveries of raw milk began in Vermont in 17852,3. In the 1950s over half of the milk sales were made through home delivery; even though these sales were mostly pasteurized milk there were still home deliveries of raw milk. By 1963 29.7% of milk sales were made through home delivery4; the growth of supermarkets and other factors contributed to the decline. By 2005 only 0.4% of milk sales were made through home deliveries.5

Since 2005 home deliveries from the milkman have started to make a comeback. Distributors are delivering not only pasteurized milk but other foods such as meat, eggs and produce.

Deliveries of raw milk and raw milk products have been on the rise for a while as well but these deliveries mainly take place at a central drop-site and not door-to-door. It is the hope of Kremer that he and others will have enough demand to start home deliveries of raw milk to individual shareholders who request it.

American consumers like their convenience; door-to-door raw milk delivery fills this need and tries to give raw milk drinkers no reason not to order the product. Home delivery is becoming an increasingly important part of the overall competition for the food dollar; chains like Whole Foods are using the delivery service Instacart to drop off food orders at customers’ homes. Instacart claims it can make deliveries in as little as an hour after the customer places the order. Raw milk sales can help dairies currently producing only pasteurized milk remain in business; the easier the dairies make it for the consumer to obtain their products the better their chances of success.

Many baby boomers who grew up in the 50s and 60s nostalgically recall the milkman as someone who was part of their community or as someone who was like an extended family member. There’s no reason that can’t happen for the raw milkman; a familiar face in the neighborhood can bring on additional demand.

Kremer is starting a campaign to grow consumer demand for raw milk through increased participation in herd share programs. He hopes increased demand will encourage more dairy farmers to make the transition to producing raw milk for distribution through herd shares; bringing back a piece from our cultural past and restoring the tradition of the milkman–is part of the path to success.

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[1] In Darke County herd shares are legal by judicial decision thanks to a 2006 court ruling in the case of Daley v. Schmitmeyer
[2] Drink Milk in Glass Bottles. “The Day the Milkman Went Away: A History of Home Milk Delivery” [Blog post]. Last retrieved 12/5/2018 from http://www.drinkmilkinglassbottles.com/a-quick-history-home-milk-delivery/
[3] Stanpacnet. “Brief History of Home Milk Delivery Service” [Blog post]. Last retrieved 12/5/2018 from
http://www.stanpacnet.com/a-brief-history-of-home-milk-delivery-service/
[4] Eve Tahmincioglu, “Remember the Milkman? In Some Places, He’s Back”, New York Times, December 16, 2007. Last retrieved 12/5/2018 from https://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/16/business/yourmoney/16milk.html
[5] Ibid.