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The Modern Milkmaid


I rode along with Debbie Parks, Reno’s pioneering milkmaid, as she delivered milk across town hours before the sun even came up. She starts her day here, at the Model Dairy milk plant. Listen to her story and what she does to get breakfast foods to doorsteps across town.

The Modern Milkmaid

by Jana Sayson | Next Generation Radio, Reno 2018

Debbie Parks loads the back of her refrigerated truck at 3 in the morning, carrying a crate filled with six gallons of milk. That’s almost 120 pounds. She is Reno’s first milkman—no, milkmaid. Clad in her blue jacket, thick ski gloves, and matching blue cap, Parks brings to life a 1950’s suburban tradition that many assume to be a thing of the past.

“I wish I delivered in glass bottles like it used to be,” she said. “Times have changed, but I still deliver the milk.”

Her routine starts hours before the sun even comes up. By 2:30 in the morning, she’s at the Model Dairy milk plant near downtown Reno, filling her truck with all the necessary ingredients for breakfast. Her products range from nearly a dozen different types of milk and cheeses in all shapes and forms to cartons of eggs and even packs bacon. Before heading off, she checks her customer roster in the on-board computer system in her truck. On her busiest day, Parks delivers 250 products to nearly 65 customers across the Reno area.

“At first, it did take me four hours,” Parks said. “Now it takes me anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours to do it just simply because I know where the houses are, I know most of the customers, I know what they want.”

Parks has been the milkmaid of Morning Star Distributing since December of 2017, and has been the first and only female home delivery person there. The job demands the physical strain of lifting heavy crates of milk and delivering to doorsteps, which sometimes requires her to walk across lawns and up several stairs to reach the front door. Parks said she has impressed her male coworkers.

“Yeah, I’m a female. Yeah, I’m little. I’m 5’5” and 110 pounds. I weigh as much as the crates I’m carrying,” she said. “My boss, when I first started, wanted to load my truck and I go, ‘No, I have to learn how to do this on my own because you’re not going to be with me every solitary day…This is something I have to do.’ He learned to back off and let me do it.”

Though most of her customers are still asleep by the time she comes by, she manages to connect with those who are up, making the effort to go out and chat with them. Her customers include families with children, elderly couples, and residents who have a physical disability and appreciate the convenience.

“I think that some of [them] don’t get to go out or talk to a lot of people,” she said, “but I’ve gotten to talk to them, know all of them…I ask if there’s anything I can do to make it easier for you.”

Even when some customers have stopped the service, she continues to maintain the friendship she has made.

“I’ve had a customer’s doctor say he can’t do dairy anymore,” Parks said. “But I still drop by his house every week…I’ll stop and get out even if it’s not my stop, pet the cat, chit chat a bit, and go on to my next route.”

Her dedication to give her customers the most convenient experience drives her to go above and beyond. Parks goes as far as even giving customers her personal cell number so they can directly contact her in the event they need more or less of the product on last minute notice. Sometimes, if a customer requests a product she is short on, Parks returns to the plant after her normal deliveries and uses her personal vehicle to deliver what was missed.

“Amazon does not do that,” she said. “Most delivery people…they’re there just to drop the package and be gone.”

Though she has never been a morning person, the payoff is worth it. In the cab of her truck, everything seems serene. Stars twinkle in the dark sky while a touch of orange brushes the horizon, hinting the arrival of the sun.

“I get to be up early; I get to see another side of Reno I don’t see in the daytime,” Parks said. “For me to be doing this is kind of odd, but I love it. I would not trade this job right now for anything.”

Debbie Parks is the milkmaid for Morning Star Distributing. She says she’s the first female to deliver milk to customers’ doorsteps.

Photo by Jana Sayson

Parks checks her customer roster in her on-board computer just as she takes off on her route starting at 3:30 am.


Photo by Taylor Harkader

Crates of milk stacked inside the enormous refrigerator warehouse at the Model Dairy plant in the heart of Reno. The milk comes from local dairies in Elko, Yerington, and Fallon and is processed in the plant.

Photo by Taylor Harkrader

Parks loads crates of milk into the back of her truck, preparing to head out to her deliveries.

Photo by Taylor Harkrader

“I have to have the gloves on,” Parks said. She has Reynaud’s syndrome, which may constrict her arteries when exposed to cold temperatures.

Photo by Taylor Harkrader

Parks drives this refrigerated truck filled with crates of milk, other dairy products, and breakfast foods.

Photo by Jana Sayson

A late 50’s Divco milk truck sits in the lot of the Model Dairy plant. Parks hopes to drive it one day to deliver her milk.

Photo by Jana Sayson

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