The old practice of home milk deliveries has been revived in regional South Australia, as food producers around the country adapt to changes to their businesses due to coronavirus.
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Thomas O'Reilly and Jessica Hawkins say it was an easy decision to support local and order a home delivery (ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

Husband and wife team David and Julie Hinchliffe’s dairy operation at Robe is geared towards cheese sales through restaurants and their farm shop.

But restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus have seen the closure of those restaurants and the end to farm visitors.

Ms Hinchliffe said everything had been turned upside down.

“We’ve probably lost getting close now to 80 per cent of our business, so we’re going to fight to stay alive,” she said.

With 13 cows currently milked once a day, they need to stay in production to ensure they have a herd to kick-start cheesemaking once restrictions are lifted.

“At the end of this — whether it is three months, four months, six months, whatever — we need to have some cows that we’re milking,” she said

The couple have upgraded their online shop and started a delivery run for locals, focusing on milk and yoghurt.

Giving options

Ms Hinchliffe said many people in Robe — which had a significant older population — were self-isolating at home.

“You go into the main street, there’s no-one around, it’s a ghost town,” she said.

“We had people phoning up before we had the home delivery set up, asking for it, so that’s when we started to think — right, this is the right time to do it.”

Makes life easier
Jillian Davidson is self-isolating at home in Robe with her extended family, including her granddaughter Bronte.

She said they were trying not to leave the house except to exercise, and home delivery made her life easier.

“We are really, really fortunate to have people like the dairy prepared to deliver otherwise we wouldn’t be able to have it.”

Brings back memories

Ms Davidson said there was something nostalgic about the home delivery, which is why her granddaughter was so excited about it.

“It’s that old-fashioned memory that we have of being children and having the milkman come and waiting for the milkman and then running out and getting it,” she said.

Delivering more than just dairy
Robe locals Thomas O’Reilly and Jessica Hawkins had a box of cheese and milk delivered.

Ms Hawkins said she thought about social distancing requirements when deciding to get the dairy items delivered.

“Going to the supermarket can be a social outing, even to get essentials,” she said.

“I think it is really important to limit that contact and I think home delivery provides a really good opportunity to keep that distance up, to protect our community.”

The new service is connecting the Robe community in new ways.

Mr O’Reilly said his first delivery was an exciting moment.

“It’s kind of easy to have something delivered to your front door and, you know, a chance to have a quick chat albeit with all the social distancing going on.”

Mr O’Reilly said it was a charming way to think about the new milk delivery.

“I’m sure a lot of us — we all grew up with the milko run — and it’s a bit of a throwback.”

For Mr O’Reilly and Ms Hawkins, their purchase is not only about a love of dairy — supporting a local producer is a huge part of it.

Tradition giving hope for the future

Ms Hawkins said a significant part of Robe’s local economy was based on tourism.

“The tourists aren’t here at the moment — which is a good thing — but we need to make sure that where we can, we can help put the money back into the local economy.”

Ms Hinchliffe said consumers needed to think about what businesses they wanted to see at the end of this period of restrictions.

“All we can do is just hope they consider the local options when they buy their food.”

Ms Hinchliffe said the new delivery service was a last resort.

“Something is better than nothing. If I can go and deliver a heap of milk and yoghurt and cheese and make people happy, it’s worth it,” she said.

“We’re not even doing a minimum order, so someone can order two litres of milk and we’ll take it to them.

“It’s a business decision to do it, but it’s also nice for us to deliver something that people enjoy.”

The giant Holstein cow with spots arranged as a map of the world is designed to celebrate the farmer-owned cooperative’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

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