'Milkman' expands Independence dairy's reach with private home delivery service

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While a student at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Jeff Brunton earned the nickname "The Milkman" by returning to campus each week with a cooler of fresh milk from his family's farm in Independence.

He shared the milk with fellow players on the Golden Tornadoes football team and soon became known as The Milkman to all on campus.

The nickname stuck, and now he has worked the moniker into a company name for his milk delivery company, a one-man show delivering mostly Brunton Dairy products door-to-door throughout portions of Beaver and Allegheny counties.

"People ask, 'Who do I make the check out to?' I say, 'The Milkman,' " said Mr. Brunton while delivering milk in Moon last week.

While home delivery of Brunton Dairy milk isn't new for the family farm, which has offered limited home delivery since the mid-1980s and wholesale delivery in Beaver County, Mr. Brunton began expanding his delivery routes to create his own home-delivery business, separate from the dairy, in July 2012.

"We love The Milkman. It's so nice, like the olden days," said Lisa Kinest of Moon, who received a delivery of milk, eggs and ground meat last week. "It's convenience. I love natural stuff. ... And, it's local. You have to support the local businesses and farmers."

The Milkman delivery company began expanding just a few months after the farm began bottling milk again after cooperating in what was a nine-month hiatus from production. This suspension was first enforced by the Allegheny County Health Department and later the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture due to a suspected contamination of the bacteria Yersinia, which normally is destroyed during the pasteurization process. "As far as we can tell it was an error on their part. They never found anything here at the farm," Mr. Brunton said.

During the time, family members took jobs off the farm to make ends meet, but never once thought of giving up their family livelihood. "[This is] always what we wanted to do, and we're moving on and making this work,' said Mary Jane Brunton, Jeff's mother.

The Milkman is making the situation work for him, too. While expanding routes in Ambridge, Wexford, Robinson, northern Beaver County and other areas, he spends his afternoons and evenings working as a coach at Hopewell High School.

In 2008, he passed on a full-time teaching position in Virginia to return to the farm after the death of his father, James A. Brunton Jr., because "family is more important." He worked locally for some time as a substitute teacher while picking up his father's Hookstown-area delivery route and some chores on the farm.

"You could only deliver so much milk, because you were needed on the farm, too," Mr. Brunton said.

"It was kind of like I was working for free. That's real noble and all, but at the end of the day I didn't own anything," he said.

By creating his own business he is able to manage his own time and be available to work as a coach. He spends his mornings in the milk truck and his afternoons and evenings coaching football, basketball and track at his alma mater. His days start at 4:30 a.m. and end around 8 p.m.

"It's a constant all-the-time drive," Mrs. Brunton said. "Jeff's just finding a way to do it, to be here, without the 24/7."

By removing himself from the farm chores, he is able to add new areas and more stops to his route, a trend he hopes to continue. He's also modernized the process by allowing text and online ordering through his website, http://bruntonmilkman.com.

Credit card payments are accepted on the truck, and customers are provided receipts via email.

The 200-acre farm, first deeded to the Brunton family in 1832, supports five families who actively work it. The family currently processes milk from 90 Holstein cows that are milked twice daily.

"We can only do so much. We can't be everywhere people want us to be, with us getting our work done," Mrs. Brunton said. "Him doing this enables us to sell in a broader area."

Besides whole, 2 percent, 1 percent, fat free and chocolate milk and buttermilk, in glass half-gallon bottles from Brunton, The Milkman also delivers Seibel's eggs, butter, bacon and ground beef. Cottage cheese, chip dip, sour cream and half-and-half from Schneider's Dairy also is available.

Brunton ice cream may be available in the summer, as Mr. Brunton considers the purchase of a freezer box for his refrigerated delivery truck.

Milk and additional products are also available at the dairy, 3681 Ridge Road, Independence.

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Sonja Reis, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com


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