|The Diamond D team: Chisum, Jim, Joshua, Kristie and Meghann.
When Jim and Kristie Docheff started dairying in the mid-80s, they never dreamed that 20-odd years later they'd be processing their own milk or managing a fleet of home-delivery dairy trucks.
But the times they are a-changin' at Diamond D Dairy, located in the foothills of Longmont, Colo. The Docheffs still milk about 475 cows—225 Jerseys and 250 Holsteins.
Now they also manage a fleet of four diesel delivery trucks and process and home-deliver milk, liquid yogurt, ice cream and orange juice to 1,250 homes, several chain grocery stores, six independent "mom & pop” groceries and four to five dozen coffee shops. And they've done it all since April 2008.
This flurry of direct customer contact means the Docheffs are as connected with consumers as never before. Good service is a must. But quality and being local and fresh are key, Jim says.
Consumers want to know where their food comes from and who is producing it. So the Docheffs market themselves as local—and as the only milk processors in Colorado who actually live on the dairy with their cows.
Diamond D is always open for tours, particularly school tours. "We'll have 25 to 30 kids in a class come to tour, and we'll invariably pick up three to four home-delivery customers from that one trip,” Jim says.
"On tours, we'll get questions as to whether we are organic. When I explain the economics of organic production and go on to explain how we do things, people accept our approach,” he says. "Antibiotic use doesn't come up; people know they're not getting antibiotics in their milk.
"But we do get four to five calls a week looking for raw milk. There is strong interest in raw—but I won't even think about it.”
(A recent salmonella outbreak in a 20-cow, Western range Colorado dairy created a stir. The dairy was supplying milk to 600 clients.)
Diamond D offers
a dizzying variety of products for a startup processor: whole milk, 1% and skim in gallons and halves; 2% in gallons, halves and 16 oz. and 8 oz. chugs; and chocolate in halves and 16 oz. and 8 oz. chugs. It also offers cream, both half-and-half and heavy whipping cream. The dairy also offers Spanish-label milk whole, 2%, 1%, skim and chocolate.
And then there's Yoforia, "the happy-go-drinkable yogurt,” in six flavors: blueberry, mango, strawberry, strawberry banana, peach and vanilla. It's available in 8 oz. chugs or quarts.
While not recession-proof, Diamond D is holding its own. Store sales have dropped off 15% to 20%, Jim says. But that's not surprising since Diamond D has held its price at $3.14/gal. when supermarkets are offering store brand milk at 2 gal. for $5.
Home delivery is actually growing. The recession means Diamond D may lose a customer when a family member loses a job. But those losses have been rare—and the business has been adding 30 new customers per week through this spring. Business is so good that Jim has ordered a fifth $75,000 delivery truck to keep up with orders.