Down On The Farm
Goodlatte Gets Close Look At Mount Crawford Creamery
MOUNT CRAWFORD — Rep. Bob Goodlatte might not have known all the ins and outs of milk production when he arrived at Mount Crawford Creamery late Wednesday morning, but he was certain about one point.
“One thing about dairies,” the congressman said, “it’s always long hours.”
Members of the Will family took time out from their long workday to give the Roanoke Republican a tour of their farm and processing plant and explain how they prepare milk for retail sale.
Goodlatte said that because he’s the vice chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, he tries to visit farms throughout the year.
“We want to encourage innovative agriculture products,” he said, “and that’s what’s going on here. I’m glad to see their processes and hear that they’re providing their products to a pretty wide region.”
The congressman got a top-to-bottom look at the creamery’s operations, from the processing plant and milking parlor to the herd and calf pens.
As part of the tour, he received a primer on how the business processes raw milk from its 68 cows and turns it into finished products that can be sold to consumers.
Last week, company officials learned they had been selected to receive a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through its Value-Added Producer Grant program.
‘People Want Cheap Milk’
Goodlatte quizzed family members on all facets of their business, including if any regulations were hindering their operations and what could be done to help the enterprise.
The main issue identified, though not clearly as a state or federal requirement, is that Mount Crawford Creamery isn’t allowed to use water left over from its bottling process to clean equipment after a production run.
“The water’s already 100 degrees,” plant manager Jeremy Will said. “Why can’t I use it to wash my lines out?”
Co-owner Kenny Will told Goodlatte that the creamery trucks its milk, buttermilk, cream and butter to retailers from Luray to Lexington.
Its products also are sold in Northern Virginia, Charlottesville and Richmond because other people or companies take them there to sell.
Mount Crawford Creamery has been able to get into two Valley Kroger stores and is trying to arrange deals with other local supermarkets, but it can’t compete with big manufacturers from a pricing standpoint.
“The big thing we run into is people want cheap milk,” sales manager Nancy Hill said.
“Cheap milk and cheap meat,” Kenny Will, her father, added.
But people are buying Mount Crawford’s products.
Hill said that so far this year, the company’s sales include about 35,000 gallons of whole, 2 percent and skim milk; more than 34,000 half-gallons of whole, 2 percent, skim and chocolate milk; 26,000 pints of chocolate and whole milk; 3,000 pounds of butter; and 300 gallons and 1,200 pints of cream.
Regulations aside, another challenge for the company is the fact that some consumers aren’t used to products made the Mount Crawford Creamery way.
One customer, Kenny Will said, found that butter from the store had gone bad quickly after it was left out of the refrigerator.
“They’re used to leaving their margarine sitting out,” he said.
Nancy Hill said it’s common for customers to question whether their milk is bad because of the ring of cream on top.
“They’ve never had anything but homogenized milk,” she said of the common drink with the cream dispersed evenly throughout the liquid.
Before drinking milk that hasn’t been homogenized, consumers should shake the carton thoroughly to mix the cream and milk.
“It’s a challenge in grocery stores,” Hill said, “because we’re not there to explain it to them.”
Contact Vic Bradshaw at 574-6279 or email@example.com