Hildebrand Dairy has expanded its online business through a partnership with online grocery delivery service Market Wagon.

Farm Store Manager Becca Hauschel said the door-to-door, online, farmers-market-style business will allow the local dairy to expand its reach far beyond what it could do on its own.

“Our benefit for us is that it creates a whole entire new customer base — especially on the Missouri side,” she said. “It also expands out to people that can’t make it in to locations where we’re at.”

It has expanded the dairy’s reach in the Kansas City area — where its presence has been small due to competition with another dairy that sells products in that area.

Hildebrand products are now being sold in places they could never have been sold in before. They now have the potential to read customers as far out as Warrensburg, Mo.

“Being that we’re farm use only, we can only go about 150 miles from here,” Hauschel said. “With (this new project), it’s expanded quite a bit onto the Missouri side.”

The Geary County-based dairy has been working with the online business for several months now, during which time the companies worked out a method to take care of bottle deposits remotely.

The business is based out of Illinois, Hauschel said.

“They’re based up in the Illinois, Midwest region but they have outfits all over the Midwest,” she said. “They started in KC and now they’re trying to expand out.”

Shoppers can order from a variety of different small farms and businesses using the website and have their goods delivered to their front door.

Hauschel described the business as one of the more profitable the dairy has worked with.

“In their top 10 bestsellers, last time I checked, six of them were Hildebrand products — so that’s kind of nice for us,” she said. “The number one selling product was our whole milk.”

Hildebrand sells white milk, flavored milk, butter and cream via Market Wagon.

“We’ve talked about doing ice cream mix too,” Hauschel said.

According to Hauschel, this kind of online ordering and delivery service is likely the future of many small businesses such as Hildebrand Dairy, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. She said the dairy had considered doing door-to-door delivery services itself locally but had not been able to make it work.

“We’ve had people since the beginning wanting to do door-to-door service even around here,” Hauschel said. “The problem with that is manpower. We’d love to do door-to-door, but there just haven’t been enough people to make it happen — that’s the biggest problem. And trying to keep up with it production-wise too.”

Operations Manager Melissa Reed said Market Wagon reached out to Hildebrand seeking a milk supplier.

“When it comes to door-to-door delivery, milk is their number one product they move,” she said. “So they were really focused on finding a milk supplier in their distribution area. And so when they reached out to us — we had been working with them — and (we) said, ‘yeah, I think this could really fit us.’ And so we have several businesses that we partner with — Kroger and Natural Grocers and Sprouts and a bunch of retailers. (But) this is our first door-to-door delivery company.”

Reed said her company was “excited” to be able to provide the service. She echoed Hauschel’s statement that people had expressed an interest in door-to-door delivery of Hildebrand products before.

“For years, people have asked us to do door-to-door,” Reed said. “I would love to. It’s just pretty labor-intensive and we run a very small farm with a (small) number of employees. So for us to make that leap would have been really tough on our own.”

According to Reed, demand is increasing across the country for locally-produced foods.

“I think COVID showed us — more than anything — that our food infrastructure, if we keep that local, it really does protect us,” she said. “It keeps us well-fed, we know we’re getting quality and we can put a face and a name to it.”

Hildebrand products are also sold in 180 locations across Kansas including restaurants and coffeeshops, including the farm store in Geary County. The farm has been producing dairy in Geary County for more than 80 years and bottling for about 13.

“We’re still going strong,” Reed said. “We’re trying.”

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