British Columbia

'It's like getting a growler filled at a brewery': Vancouver Island dairy puts milk on tap

Growlers are a popular way to bring home local beer in B.C., but in an unusual move, a small dairy on Vancouver Island is offering milk growlers.

After completing regulatory hurdles, milk dispenser flowing at farm in Parksville, B.C.

People can bring their own containers or purchase bottles at the dairy to use the milk dispenser. (Wes Holmes)

Growlers are a popular way to bring home local beer in B.C., but in an unusual move, a small dairy on Vancouver Island is offering milk growlers.

In what the owners say is a first in B.C. — and maybe Canada — the farm has installed a milk dispenser at its store.

The machine, purchased in Switzerland, allows people to fill their own container with milk, or fill a reusable bottle purchased at the farm.

"We are not used to buying milk on tap, so to speak, and we are not used to buying milk from farms," said Raymond Gourlay, co-owner of Morningstar Farm in Parksville, B.C.

"For a certain generation it's reminiscent of the milk-man coming by and getting your fresh bottles of milk delivered, and for another generation it feels familiar because it's like getting a growler filled at a brewery." 

Uncharted territory

Until a few months ago, all of the milk at the small dairy was processed into cheese for Little Qualicum Cheeseworks.

The idea of a milk dispenser, something Gourlay says is more common in Europe, was only possible because there was already processing and pasteurization equipment onsite for the cheese factory.

Even so, there were plenty of regulatory hoops to jump through before the milk could start flowing.

"They just wanted to make sure it was done right because this is kind of uncharted territory," he said.

"Certainly all of the regulatory bodies we have worked with in British Columbia...they have never seen anything like this before."

So far, Gourlay says there's been a lot of local interest in the novelty of the milk dispenser.

He hopes it will offer an alternative for people who like to support local agriculture and don't want to buy milk in single-use plastic containers.


Megan Thomas


Megan Thomas is a reporter for CBC in Victoria, B.C. She covers stories from around Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast. Follow her on Twitter @meganTcbc.


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