Getting To Know John Aldrich/Mountain Milk, Inc.

We were pleased to speak with John Aldrich, owner of Mountain Milk, Inc. located at 2860 Dartmouth College Highway in North Haverhill, NH.  Mountain Milk is a bulk milk transportation service, transporting milk from local and regional farms to milk processing plants around the region.  Mountain Milk also tests the milk for antibiotics and bacteria as part of the loading process.  You can contact John at (603) 787-6791 or by email at john@mtmilk.com.

How did you get into the milk transport business?
I grew up on a dairy farm in Woodsville and when I was in high school, I used to ride along with the milkman and I enjoyed that.  I also always liked trucks from the time I was a kid but I didn’t enter the business immediately.  I was accepted into Keane State College to become a teacher but at the last minute I backed out and instead I went to the Thompson School at the University of New Hampshire where I studied Forestry for two years.  Then, I was drafted into the Army where I was in microwave communications.  I spent a year and a half in Germany and then came home and worked for a short time at Clareday’s Sawmill.  After that, I went to Mobile, Alabama to stay with my aunt and uncle and worked at Continental Volkswagen, one of the largest Volkswagen dealerships in the country at that time, as a Floor Supervisor.  I then came back to North Haverhill and went to work for Pike Paving for three years.  It was after that, I became involved in the milk business.  In 1975, I worked with with my younger brother and the guy that used to pick up my father’s milk.  In the Spring of 1976, my brother and I went into a partnership.  We had just two six-wheeler trucks at the time.  In 1987, I bought my brother out and we have continued to grow from there.

What does your business look like today?  How much has it grown since those early years?
Quite a bit.  We currently have 11 trucks and 16 employees.  We handle about 20 million pounds of milk a month.  We pick up milk from local farms and from farms as far away as Lancaster, Danville and Peacham and even go down as far as Newport, NH and White River Junction, VT.  We deliver milk to Franklin, MA; Agawam, MA; Springfield, MA; and Cabot, VT and sometimes to Middlebury, VT and Concord, NH as well.  We pick up from big and small farms.  We handle farms with volume as low as 1500 pounds every two days to farms that ship around 110,000 pounds every day.  Our business is running 7 days a week, 365 days a year and we have trucks on the road for nearly 24 hours a day.

What do you like most about this business?
Well, I always liked trucks since I was a kid and, as I said, I grew up on a dairy farm.  I can tell you I wouldn’t want to milk cows but I really love the dairy industry.  I have a great relationship with the farmers.  They have become like family over the years.

What are your biggest business challenges?
Regulations.  The business is doing OK but I can tell you that profits are down because of regulations. They over-regulated the railroad industry years ago and now they are doing the same thing with trucking.  Small businesses are struggling to compete and small dairy farms can’t keep up with it.  Of course, some regulations are needed, but I feel they are overdone.  For example, we have our own lab and test the milk but due to regulations, I and others on my staff also now have to be certified to test the milk and we have to renew those certifications every year.  We’re also inspected annually and bi-annually.  One new regulatory challenge we have is that by December 17, 2017 of this year, we have to be done with paper logs and have to use electronic on-board recorders.  It’s a huge expense for us and we also have to now hire someone to come in to train us on how to use this new technology.  Things like this really cost small businesses like ours a lot and eat into our profits.  I just went to the National Milk Haulers convention in Alberta, and it’s not just us, haulers from all over the country and around the world face the same thing.  Also, it’s not just in the trucking industry, many other industries are also heavily regulated and face similar challenges. Getting good employees is a challenge too.  There’s a lot of competition for truck drivers.  It seems like we’re always short one employee.  It’s hard to keep a full staff.

How has the milk hauling business changed over the years?
It’s amazing how many old farmers I talk to that used to haul their own milk.  A lot of times they did it on the sidelines from farming.  They would haul milk and then go back to their farm to finish their chores.  I would bet you that 70% of the older farmers in the Northeast have hauled milk at one time or another. When I started it would be all done by 6 and 10 wheeler trucks and reloaded into trailers.  Now, 90% is direct loaded into trailers and delivered to the processing plants.