Remember the milkman? He came every week, leaving milk, butter and cream in glass bottles that clinked as he set them on the porch. Or so I have seen on television: Home-delivered dairy long ago went the way of home-delivered ice in my corner of the universe.
But the milkman is emerging from black-and-white nostalgia thanks to Artisan Foods Delivered, a partnership between Albany's Sugar River Dairy and Barneveld's Blue Marble Family Farm that will bring the farmers' market to your door. You can't order fruits and vegetables, but you can get milk, yogurt, cream, cheese, meat, eggs, honey, maple syrup and more, all from local producers located within 150 miles of Madison. Over 200 people in the Madison area have so far expressed interest in the service, which the partners hope to launch next month.
"Artisan Foods Delivered gives people the ease of delivery while also promoting the sustainability of Wisconsin agriculture," says Chris Paris of Sugar River Dairy. Producers that have signed on include Tomato Mountain, Just Coffee, Cedar Grove Cheese, Pecatonica Valley Farm and The Summer Kitchen, with more to come.
Artisan Foods Delivered solves one of the biggest problems facing small producers: distribution. At Sugar River Dairy, for example, Chris Paris and husband Ron realized early on that making their signature yogurt would be a full-time job, and that they would not have a lot of extra time to reach out to potential customers.
The idea of a home delivery service first occurred to Ron in 2004. Like many small producers, he had been trying to find a way to lower his driving miles and delivery costs, while increasing sales. Around the same time, dairy farmer Nick Kirch, owner of Blue Marble Farm, opened a Grade A dairy plant and began bottling his own milk and cream in reusable glass bottles. Kirch hoped to start home delivery at some point, because his glass bottles did not fit most supermarket milk shelves, which are outfitted for cardboard and plastic containers.
With delivery as their shared goal, Paris and Kirch formed their partnership and found two more partners with warehouse and delivery experience. Artisan Foods Delivered was born.
"It's all about low miles and real food, local food," says Ron Paris. Sustainability is so important to the partners that all four of their refrigerated delivery trucks run on biofuel, and two of Artisan Foods Delivered's managers also serve on the board of the PrairieFire BioFuels Cooperative in Madison.
Weekly orders must total at least $25 and include a $2.50 delivery charge. You also can create a standing order, which a driver will pre-pack and deliver each week. Because many of the food items are perishable, Artisan Foods Delivered will, for a nominal charge, provide a cooler to protect the food from the weather and from wandering hungry animals.
Artisan Foods Delivered is currently taking names and addresses to determine routes in the Madison area. You can sign up online at www.artisanfoodsdelivered.com, or visit Blue Marble Farm's stand at the Westside Community Farmers' Market. You also can contact Sugar River Dairy at 608-938-1218, or Blue Marble Family Farm via its Web site, bluemarblefamilyfarm.com.