WHEN Melissa Johnson first suggested the idea of selling raw milk in bottles from a vending machine, her husband thought it was a “stupid idea for hippies”.
More than three years and two vending machines later, the Southland partners in life and business are delivering hundreds of bottles to thousands of customers throughout the south every week.
Following a decision to downsize and do their own thing, the former contract milkers started their milk business, Farm Fresh South in Woodlands, with 35 calves in 2017.
Mrs Johnson said during a trip to Golden Bay she spotted a raw milk vending machine and fell in love with the idea.
While her husband, Logan was not a big fan of adopting it initially, he eventually came around.
“People love it, they say it tastes better [than heavily pasteurised milk]. There’s a lot of people who like the idea of it being in glass bottles because it takes them back to old times, and there’s also the environmental element,” she said.
The original plan was to solely run the vending machine at their Woodlands milking shed and enjoy a quiet life.
However, slowing down was not on the cards for the Johnsons.
As well as the on-site vending machine, the pair, with the help of two drivers and an “all-rounder”, delivered hundreds of bottles of raw and pasteurised milk each week, and also supplied it in shops, cafes and local supermarkets from Wanaka to Rakiura/Stewart Island.
In addition to bottles of their milk, they had vegetables, meat, eggs, nuts and other Southland and Otago producers’ goods on their delivery run.
“We haven’t had a day off since… we have a lot of area covered when it comes to deliveries.”
Last month, they launched their second vending machine with pasteurised milk at Bliss Cafe in Windsor.
Mr Johnson said he was waiting in the car outside the cafe when the idea popped into his head.
“I saw how much foot traffic there was with the supermarket right there.
“I ended up pulling the car over on the way home to ring up the owner and ask them [if we could put a machine there].”
While the owners were on board, unfortunately, getting another vending machine did not run as smoothly as they would have liked.
On its way from Northland, the movers had not tied it down properly and it fell apart.
“They ended up leaving it in Balclutha and it took a few weeks to get it fixed and get it here.”
Now up and running in the Invercargill suburb with a busy customer base, they had not ruled out establishing more vending machines in the region and expanding the business.