The Will family story dates back to December 1924 when Thomas Will purchased land in Mt. Crawford, Virginia. Will moved his family from Timberville to Mt. Crawford and began operating a general livestock farm. In 1952, Will’s grandsons, Melvin and James began operating a dairy farm in addition to the livestock. They started the dairy farm business to sell milk to the local co-op in the Shenandoah Valley. In 1979, Melvin’s sons, Kenny and Frank Will, continued working on the dairy farm and purchased a second general livestock farm in 1989.
Kenny’s children, Daniel, Jeremy and Nancy, grew up working on the farm. Now, 10 members of the family are currently working on the farm. Despite having worked together for their entire lives, they love what they do because it’s what they have done for their whole lives together. While each family member has a main task, they all know what one another does and will help out where they can. They know all of the “ins-and-outs” of the farm. Melvin passed in 1997, leaving Kenny and Frank with a very large estate tax that depleted their cash reserves.
In 2008, Kenny Will told us things were going “to hell in a handbasket” in the milk market. Kenny knew they had to do something because they wanted to keep the farm running. They did their research before making the decision to open a creamery. They visited the Homestead creamery in Burnt Chimney, VA. They called Virginia Tech but never heard back from them. They read an article by the University of Iowa and Kenny said they helped extensively with the process. After two years, in 2011, it was decided that processing and selling their own milk was the best option.
Daniel and Frank went to Ohio to buy the equipment. They came back and began the building for the processing plant. They received the equipment in October 2012 and in May they started bottling. As the first and only dairy farm processing and bottling milk in the Mt. Crawford area, the Will family built their milk processing plant in 2012. Mt. Crawford Creamery opened for business on May 11, 2013. Mt. Crawford is approximately 70 acres (30 acres of crop land, 30 acres of grazing and the remaining for buildings and homes). The cow herd is made of Holstein and Holstein-jersey cows that are milked twice a day on milking days. Depending on the season, about 60-80 cows are milked, or about 130,000 gallons in a year. On average, one cow can produce about 210 gallons in a month equals to about 2,500 gallons per year.
After the cows are well fed, cows are milked by a machine and the milk then undergoes a cooling process. The milk is then tested for antibiotics and pasteurized. Pasteurization is the process of heating the milk to a high temperature in order to kill bacteria. Milk is then stored in a refrigerated room until it is ready to be delivered.