When I was growing up, we had an insulated metal box outside the side door to the kitchen. This is where the milkman left our regular delivery of milk and eggs and butter and such.
Does that make me an antique? Many of you may be too young to remember the milk man. He arrived in a big, white step-up truck, wore a uniform with a hat and carried the milk in a kind of metal basket that had little nests for the glass bottles. When we finished a bottle, we'd clean it out and put it back in the metal box for the milkman to take on his next delivery.
That, in the old days, was how you got your milk. This was before bovine growth hormones, before cows were routinely injected with antibiotics to stave off the diseases that arise when animals are jammed together too long indoors, before genetically engineered corn. All that changed with the advent of industrial agriculture. Most consumers have no idea anymore what's in their milk or how the cows have been raised. And milk became something you had to buy at the grocery store.
Well, this week we stepped back into the future. We recently learned that a certain dairy in Frederick County, Maryland, was making deliveries to the District of Columbia. We took a look at the company's web site, liked what we saw, and signed up for a weekly allotment. We took our first delivery yesterday: glass bottles of milk, half-and-half and raspberry smoothie, tubs of unsalted butter and a dozen eggs.
Prices are comparable to what we pay at the local Whole Foods: $2.25 for a quart of 2 percent milk, $4 for a quart of half-and-half, $3.50 for a quart container of smoothie, $3 for a dozen eggs and $4.75 for a pound of butter. Delivery is $3.50. This would be our standing weekly order (unless we change it), but you can add any of a number of different items, including cuts of pork, beef, lamb, turkey, chicken as well as cheese, yogurt, bread, jams, honey and even prepared meals.
The name of the dairy is South Mountain Creamery, apparently the only dairy in Maryland that processes milk products on site. I learned about it when I began looking for places where I could photograph a commercial yogurt operation for the food classes I teach. The more we looked, the more we liked the idea of supporting a local dairy that makes deliveries.
South Mountain is a family operation that started in 1981 on rented land. They now own the land and have several employees. They don't claim to be "organic"--I'm not sure exactly why--but insist that their products are made "naturally" without bovine growth hormones or antibiotics. The cows get a choice of feed mix in the barn or grass in the open pasture. "What the cows are fed here, is raised here. " Their beef cattle, according to the company website, are grass fed.
Cheeses and yogurts are made on the premises, but pork, chicken, turkey and lamb are grown elsewhere, some locally, the chickens purchased from a farm in New York State.
"We had a tough time finding a local person to raise and process chickens, so we had to go and find someone who meet our high standards," according to the website.
The farm is always open to the public for visits. Visitors can watch the cows being milked in the afternoon, or help bottle feed baby calves. Every so often customers are invited to the farm for a festival of barbecue, hayrides and family entertainment. What's not to like?
South Mountain Creamery is located in Middletown, MD, 60 miles from our home. Gas prices being what they are, I worry what the effect will be on a local dairy trying to maintain its delivery base of some 2,200 customers. But as Humphrey Bogart once famously said to Claude Raines, we are hoping this is the beginning of a wonderful friendship.