Local, organic agriculture. Environmental education.

The Milkman Delivers

My memory of the milkman is one of service rather than a memory of connection to the person, the product and the meaning. In a pale yellow truck, the Sealtest delivery would come to the side door on 49th Street in Washington, DC, adjacent to Miss. Eiker’s porch. I believe she too had a delivery of milk. I vaguely recall the gentleman was kind, elderly and may also have brought some sticks of butter, a dozen eggs and perhaps a few other items in the dairy family.

The milk may have arrived in a glass bottle or a half gallon or even gallon plastic or waxy paper box. If putting out a glass bottle each week was one less thing to do, then we called that progress, for the paper carton was disposable, along with the plastic. The concept of recycling (leaving something to be carted away to be made new) had not reached us in 1975.

And the milk delivery would also mean one less item for my father or mother to get at the grocery store. The chore of going to market was quite fun for me and my family. (I think, as I will need to explore that in another venue). We would often accompany my mom up the street after school to visit Frank the butcher at Charles’ grocery store for daily items. On Saturday morning, my younger brother and I would be up and at ’em to go willingly with my dad to follow him with the grocery cart for basics, then to the fish market, to Larimer’s meat market, to the bakery, (sometimes the camera store for film, sorry smartphone users) and then a walk to the farmer down the street who rang his bell to indicate his arrival.

He would bear apples in fall, root crops in early winter, lettuces in spring and tomatoes in summer. He also brought home made cookies baked by a neighbor to round out the shopping. Jim the farmer still visits that neighborhood on Saturday mornings, with an even greater collection of baked goods, peaches from the South and California olive oil. It was lovely to be at my father’s heels learning which store had which item in which aisle. Frozen pizzas too in the frozen food aisle. But my awareness as to who grew and procured that food is still something I am learning today.

At Holly Hill Farm, there is a robust Farm Stand with our diverse selection of crops such as greens, roots, tomatoes and garlic. In season, the produce varies and in a drought, the crops change, appear and disappear. We also make no qualms about sourcing apples from another farm, bread from a neighboring bakery, tomato sauce (gravy) from New Hampshire, pickles from another part of the state, fairly sourced coffee, hummus and cheese from Rhode Island. The list goes on as we try to further diversify the offerings for a possible one stop shopping at our farm stand on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

We also bring an great deal with us to the weekly Farmers Markets. It would be terrific to have our own certified kitchen to make some value-added products of our own. Zucchini bread, chard stem hummus, canned tomatoes and dilly beans come to mind. But we also know that we have lots to do to organically grow our own, make the compost, care for the animals, tend to the tools and machinery, as well as teach school kids about how this all sustainably works.

There is still a refurbished old truck in these neighborhoods with someone driving and delivering milk and other items to people’s side doors. With that practice and service, I hope the delivery includes a description and explanation about how and where those cows reside, what the bovines are eating and information about the hard work involved in getting that milk into those bottles.

Farming is hard. Dairy farming even more so, as Massachusetts only has 147 remaining dairy farms, a far cry from the many dairy farms that used to dot the state and even the hillsides of Cohasset and Abington, to name a couple.

Can you name a dairy farm you used to visit, or your parents used to know or a relative used to work? I wish I had asked the older gentleman from the Sealtest company who delivered milk to our door. It is not too late to find out now, to know a farmer and to learn about the work of providing food for our tables, pantries and frozen food aisles.

© 2016, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm

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