SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
You may not remember the milk man. Chances are your parents and grandparents do. Well, he or she is back, part of a fast-expanding trend of food deliveries. WEEKEND EDITION's food commentator, Bonny Wolf, explains.
BONNY WOLF: You don't even have to get out of your PJs to go to the farmers market now. All over the country, trucks are delivering fresh milk, organic vegetables and humanely raised chickens to your door. Though in New York, the deliveries come by bike.
Fifty years ago, about 30 percent of milk still came from the milkman. By 2005 - the last year for which USDA has numbers - only .4 percent was home-delivered. While we don't yet have the official government numbers on this trend, there's no doubt that bottled milk is once again showing up on stoops in the predawn hours. South Mountain Creamery in Maryland began home delivery in 2001 with 13 local customers. Today, they have 8,500 home delivery accounts in five states. They promise there will be no more than 48 hours between the time the cow was milked and the bottle arrives at your door.
It's happening all over the country. Louisville has a dairy that delivers milk three times a week. Vegetables and meats are delivered to homes in Michigan, Kansas and Colorado. What are the reasons behind this trend? Well, processed foods, E. coli scares and factory farms mean we want to know where our food comes from and who's growing it. These services tend to be by subscription, but also flexible. Once a week, once a month. They're on demand. It's usually all-organic or all-local or some of each.
And it's more than just produce and milk. Farmers and dairymen have tapped into regional networks of food producers. And they now offer grass-fed meats, hand-churned butter and pesticide-free lavender, gluten-free bread and unprocessed honey. The source may be a sixth-generation farmer, but it could also be a newcomer to farming - say a lawyer-turned-beekeeper. The websites tend to use the same vocabulary. Words like authentic, simple, community and connection. Farmhouse delivery in Texas, for example, refers rather nostalgically to a, quote, "return to the family table." It's just one of many producers who wax lyrical about a time when local food was a matter of course and everyone had a milkman and an ice man. We're still not very likely to see the ice man again, but the milkman indeed cometh.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MILKMAN, KEEP THOSE BOTTLES QUIET")
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) Milkman, keep those bottles quiet.
SIMON: Bonny Wolf, managing editor of americanfoodroots.com. This is NPR News.
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