They say everything old becomes new again and 46-year-old Michael Sweeney is finding that’s true as he brings back old-time milk deliveries in the same truck he drove back when he delivered at Lundgren and Jonaitis Dairy in Shrewsbury.
With home delivery of food and goods on the rise and buying local a popular philosophy, Mr. Sweeney saw a market for delivery of local products and so, as Ragged Hill Dairy, he recently began delivering local milk in glass bottles that can be reused.
And his delivery service includes more than just milk.
“Actually, we deliver products from local farms throughout Worcester County and Hampden County,” Mr. Sweeney said, adding that some products also come from Hampshire County.
So in addition to milk: whole, skim, 1.5 percent, chocolate and strawberry, there are also meats, cheeses, eggs and, when the weather gets better, Mr. Sweeney hopes to add produce, all locally grown.
“I’m going back to the old-school milkman,” he said. “So what else is usually in a milk truck when it comes to your house? That’s what we’re outsourcing from people who live right in the local area. We have cheese, pasture-raised pork, pasture raised beef and eggs.”
While he’s competing with larger companies that deliver from grocery stores, Mr. Sweeney said he is able to keep his delivery charge to $3 which he believes is a good deal for people who are localvores, recyclers and earth-conscious consumers. Customers must order a minimum $9 in products for delivery for a total with the delivery cost, of $12.
“Technically it is a little bit more expensive than the Walmart because they mass produce it, it doesn’t come from any place local so they’re able to provide it to the consumer cheaper,” he said.
But he believes buying local is a better option, even with the slightly higher price, “and you’re supporting a local farm.”
Ryan Witkos of Hardwick has been getting dairy products delivered for a few weeks and said the service is great. He especially likes having fresh cream for his coffee.
“Everything’s very fresh,” he said. “The milk was wicked fresh and getting two quarts of cream for six bucks? I’m sold.”
Mr. Witkos said he’s also happy to support a small local business that is helping other area agribusinesses to thrive.
Mr. Sweeney, who grew up in Worcester, said some of his customers have fond memories of a milkman dropping by and tucking a few glass bottles into a milk box on the porch. Back then many simply walked in through unlocked doors and stuck the milk directly into the refrigerator. Mr. Sweeney’s dad was a milkman and he sometimes went to work with him in those days. Later, he went to work for Lundgren and Jonaitis Dairy, too.
“I always enjoyed it,” he said. “I always enjoyed working there but unfortunately they closed.”
He spent several years driving trucks and then bumped into a friend who owns Maple Farm Dairy in Mendon and delivers milk. The two talked and Mr. Sweeney, who has been buying milk in glass bottles at Gibson Farm’s on Sunderland Road in Worcester, realized the area near his new home in West Brookfield was untouched and rife with opportunities for delivery.
“I decided, why don’t I give it a shot,” he said. “Being out this way and having more access to local products can keep my costs down as opposed to being in Worcester and having to have everything shipped in.”
With a bit of planning and collaboration with local farmers, bakers and dairies, he was underway and started making deliveries several weeks ago.
He even got himself a milk truck — the same one he excitedly drove when it was brand new “with the plastic still on the seats” back when he worked in Shrewsbury.
To get a delivery, go to www.raggedhilldairy.com and order products by 8 p.m. on Tuesday for weekend delivery. Customers need a cooler or a milk box — which can be purchased on the website — or an accessible refrigerator in a garage. Mr. Sweeney said he’ll even bring the milk inside if a customer wishes. Once an order is submitted, the customer will be assigned a delivery date between Saturday and Monday and Mr. Sweeney will deliver and pick up any glass milk bottles from previous orders.