Image 1. Doorstep delivery: Jonathon, Tami, Ren,11, and Eve, 7, Flaum (clockwise from upper left) pose with their delivery truck. Jonathon will make weekly rounds through nine zip codes. Photo by Max Cooper
Image 2. Milkin’ it: Eve Flaum enjoys a glass of Maple View Farm milk. Photo by Max Cooper
Image 3. Not just nostalgia: Jonathon Flaum offers an updated version of an old-school business. Farm to Home offers online ordering for consumer convenience. Photo by Max Cooper
Image 4. Not just a pretty bottle: Maple View Farm milk is free from hormones and antibiotics. It’s flash pasteurized and homogenized on-site, so it gets to consumers faster than heavily processed, ultra-pasteurized milk. Photo by Max Cooper
Image 5. Blast from the past: For almost a century, Biltmore Dairy Farms provided Asheville with milk. Here’s their squadron of milkmen ready to make their rounds. Photo courtesy of The Biltmore Company
Jonathon Flaum is precisely the kind of person you want to show up on your front porch once a week. With a smile for everyone and a smart blue cap and coat emblazoned with the word “milk,” his demeanor is as wholesome as the product he sells. He’s a milkman.
With help from his wife, Tami Flaum, and their children, Eve, 7, and Ren, 11, Jonathon heads up Farm to Home Milk, an old-school milk delivery service, complete with a truck and glass bottles — and updates such as online ordering.
The massive, refrigerated truck bears the company's tagline: “Udderly fresh milk.” Its whimsical decals, coupled with its exaggerated scale, make it look like an oversized Tonka Truck. It's not a toy, but it sure looks fun; that's the effect the Flaums are hoping to achieve. “When [people] think about a milkman, there's no downside; there's just happiness,” Jonathon says. “I love the fact that we can do this simple, basic service and bring something to people that makes them happy and provides clear nourishment.”
The Flaums are big milk drinkers, especially Eve, who is enthusiastic about sharing one of her favorite drinks with the community. When she talks about milk, she throws out her arms and speaks in a tone that would be the envy of any advertiser. She's the business marketing arm, Jonathon says with a chuckle. The venture has been a family project. “We went through many, many iterations before we came up with this that you see in front of you,” says Ren, who helps his dad with website design and IT projects.
Before starting a delivery service, they considered bringing milk on-tap to grocery stores as well as traveling to festivals to vend milk as a kids' drink. But after a vacation to Denver, where Royal Crest Dairy has deployed a troop of milkmen since 1927, they settled on their current plan. “We were talking about what a milkman used to do and how it used to be,” Jonathon says. “The more we talked to people around, we found out that people were actually still doing it.”
Until now, Jonathon has worked as a writer and corporate leadership consultant. He founded the WriteMind Institute, which set up on Lexington Avenue for several years. There, he discovered his interest in food. He used activities like bread baking to bring his clients together. But that job required travel and left Jonathon longing for a way to spend more time with his wife and kids.
Farm to Home Milk will become a family business, Jonathon hopes. He's not just resurrecting the career of milkman; drawing from an earlier day, he wants to build something of a family trade. “It's really fun for the kids to have something to connect with,” he says. “They can't easily connect to me consulting a company in Chicago on their leadership practices, so it's super-nice to have something simple to talk about at the dinner table [that] everyone can brainstorm about.”
He's even started networking, and what better contact for the milkman than the mailman? Flaum chats route-making and delivery practices with his neighborhood postal carrier. “A friend was outside and snapped a picture and said, “That's what we like to see: the mailman and the milkman,'” Flaum says with a laugh.
The milky way
Before refrigeration, which wasn’t common until the '20s and '30s, the milkman was a major source of fresh dairy. “[My grandfather] grew up not just with a milkman but with an ice man.” Jonathon says. “He and I were super-close. He probably had the biggest influence on me of any other adult.”
As technology improved, large, industrial dairies developed. According to the Associated Press, recipients of home milk delivery decreased from 29.7 percent of the milk market in 1963, to less than 1 percent in the 1990s. Tami remembers when her family made the switch from doorstep to grocery store. “We all got used to big stores and supermarkets; it was convenient, but we lost something,” she says. “[Milk delivery] was just a nice, personal kind of experience.”
As it turns out, Jonathon has picked up on a national trend. He and his family are part of a contingent of milkmen and women that's growing nationwide. In an Oct. 2009 article, the Wall Street Journal proclaimed, “The old-fashioned milkman is making a comeback.” The authors tried out delivery services based in North Aurora, Ill., Seattle and Minneapolis. When they sampled the milk from Manhattan Milk in New York City, they declared it “better than any we have ever tried.”
Milk enthusiasts attest: The freshness of bottled-on-site milk sets it above the conventional, grocery store variety. “I will get the milk the same day as coming out of the cow,” Jonathon says.
Farm to Home's milk comes from Maple View Farms, a fifth-generation dairy in Hillsborough, near Durham. It’s free from hormones and antibiotics, and it’s flash-pasteurized and homogenized on site. Farm to Home Milk will stock the farm's cream and buttermilk and skim, low-fat, whole and chocolate milk. (Eve highly recommends the latter.)
A half-gallon of low-fat milk costs $4.40 (check the website for prices on the other varieties, including cream), along with a refundable $2-per-bottle weekly deposit, a $2.99-per-week delivery charge, a $1.50 charge for ice (if requested), and a 2 percent food-sales tax.
But the inventory doesn't stop at milk. The Flaums hope to provide other staples. That's particularly important to Tami, who does the shopping. She considers specialty grocery stores too expensive, but wants to buy healthy, humanely produced animal products. “I had certain pieces of our diet that I really wanted local and organic and as healthy as possible, and I was running all over town,” she says.
The Farm to Home inventory brings those pieces together. It includes City Bakery bread, Hickory Nut Gap meat and sausage, Farside Farms free-range eggs, chicken and duck, Sunburst trout, Wild Salmon Co. fish, coffee and tea, and goat’s milk from Round Mountain Creamery in Black Mountain. It also offers package deals, such as the “Complete Weekly Staples” pack, which incorporates a variety of their products.
Farm to Home Milk already has started taking orders on its website, and Jonathon will begin delivering milk and other products to area homes and offices on Jan. 8. His route of once-weekly deliveries will take him to nine zip codes that span Asheville and the surrounding area. All orders go through the website, so to see the full inventory and delivery area, and sign up for an account, visit farmtohomemilk.com.