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Milkman making a comeback

An East Berlin dairy farm is delivering milk to more than 100 customers and looking to expand.


Article from The Evening Sun

Josh Roth delivers milk in glass bottles from Apple Valley Creamery to a Gettysburg home Friday morning. The East Berlin dairy farm produces and delivers its own milk and other products to parts of Adams, York and Cumberland counties. When no one is home to receive the delivery, products are left in an ice pack that keeps them cold. (Evening Sun Photo by James Robinson)

With modern technology and a new business model on his side, the milkman is back.

The owners of Apple Valley Creamery, an East Berlin dairy farm and store, are giving the seemingly defunct tradition of delivering milk in glass bottles to the homes of customers another shot in parts of Adams, York and Cumberland counties.

But to make it work, Don Everett said he and his co-owners first had to determine what put the milkman out of business in the first place.

First, they realized, the cultural change that put both parents in the workplace meant that often no one was home to receive the milk deliveries. Apple Valley Creamery's solution: Refrigerated trucks and ice packs that will keep the milk cold until someone comes home.

Second, the rise of convenience and grocery stores made it nearly impossible for the old business model of home delivery to work. Their solution: Make home-delivered milk of such a high quality that customers won't want to go back to the grocery store.

Apple Valley Creamery co-owner Larry Stoner reads off the numbers of milk cows during a monthly test of their milk. Cows at the dairy farm are milked twice a day. The milk is then processed at the farm in East Berlin. Customers can purchase both raw and pasteurized milk. (Evening Sun Photo by James Robinson)

And finally, operate in an area where no one else is trying to rejuvenate the milk man.

"We're the only one doing it in a huge area," Everett said.

As a family-operated farm since 1928, Apple Valley Creamery is far from new to the dairy scene. But with the help of a $110,894 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2006, the farm began manufacturing its own milk products. The owners also opened a store on the property.

But Everett said the owners were still

"looking for a way to grow" and decided to give home delivery a shot in December 2007.

Beginning with only a few customers, the idea caught on mostly through the word-of-mouth of satisfied customers, Everett said.

"We realized that we really had something there," he said.

Today, Apple Valley Creamery delivers milk and other products like bread, eggs and cheese to 100 private customers and about 15 commercial customers throughout parts of Adams, Cumberland and York counties. Customers can order products online at Delivery fees are added on, but Everett said neighbors can split that cost by going in together with one large order.

Another benefit of home-delivered milk: Customers have the option of ordering raw milk, taken directly from the cow and which some believe has added health benefits. But Apple Valley Creamery also produces and sells pasteurized milk, Everett said.

"We try not to make any claims one way or another," he said.

Everett said coffee shops like the Ragged Edge in Gettysburg and fine-dining establishments like the Sheppard Mansion in Hanover are regular commercial customers.

"They're concerned about the product they're putting into their food," he said.

But the bulk of home deliveries are made to families, like Gretchen Natter's.

Together with five other neighbors, Natter, of Gettysburg, said she's been getting milk delivered from Apple Valley Creamery for months.

"It's just kind of changing your mindset a little bit about how you get your milk and when it comes," she said.

A mother of three daughters, Natter said she realized the difference between store-bought and home-delivered milk when she ran out of the latter one week.

She said she went to the store and bought a half gallon of "the stuff we used to drink." Her 13-year-old daughter didn't hold back her opinion.

"She literally spat it out," Natter said.

Everett said Apple Valley Creamery is on the verge of yet another expansion. They recently hired another employee and have some ambitious goals to meet by the end of 2009.

They'd like to turn 100 home-delivery customers into 400 or 500, he said.

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What: Apple Valley Creamery.

When: Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. The store is closed Sundays and Mondays.

Where: 541 Germany Road, East Berlin




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