When Wendell Crow’s wife, Rhonda, told him that she wanted to make goat cheese, his answer was emphatic. “There’s no way I’m making that crap,” Wendell (pictured) recalls saying. “I’ve had goat cheeses, and they were all bad.” Turns out, they were bad because Crow hadn’t tried the good stuff.
Crow’s Dairy has been operating in the Valley of the Sun for more than a hundred years, starting out as a cow dairy in 1919. In the mid-2000s, Wendell and Rhonda decided to sell the cows and went on what they called a two-year “cheese vacation” to figure out what to do next.
“We went up and down the East and West coasts,” Wendell says. “During that trip, we found a couple of places that made fantastic goat cheese, and they told us what makes the difference. After I tried their products, I said, ‘Right on. I can sell that.’ ”
That was how Crow’s Dairy went from a cow dairy to a dairy that exclusively makes goat cheese. Being a dairyman, Wendell knows the importance of quality products, and he says what sets Crow’s cheese apart from others on the market is the use of Nubian goats. “You can’t make good cheese out of bad milk,” he says. “We know how to produce a fantastic goat, and that makes all the difference in the world.” He adds that Nubian goats’ fat and protein content leads to a better-tasting milk.
“When you buy a national-brand cheese, some of those processors can get their milk from 300 dairies, and you’re going to get an average-flavored milk, which makes an average-flavored cheese,” Wendell says. “We hope we never have to buy milk from someone else.”
Much like at other local businesses, the effects of the pandemic are still lingering at the dairy. Before 2020, the Crow’s milked around 250 goats, but it’s now down to 150 after having to sell some to stay afloat. But Wendell says the love of animals and running his own business
keeps him young and is what motivates the family through the long days. “I usually start around 6 a.m. and find out what’s broken for the day,” he says with a laugh. “Then we start packaging that day’s cheese orders.”
A crew of six people, including Rhonda and the couple’s son-in-law, keeps the farm running. The goats are milked twice a day, each time producing about half a gallon of milk from each animal. The cheese plant runs all day long, making about 200 pounds of cheese daily.
Rhonda, whom Wendell and the rest of the Crow family lovingly refer to as “Dr. Quinn,” keeps the animals healthy and spends much of her time researching and solving health problems they encounter. “We both love the animals, and we love what we do,” Wendell says. “I get to make all my decisions, do or die.”
The farm supplies specialty goat cheese to more than 30 local restaurants and businesses, including Pizzeria Bianco, Beckett’s Table and The Vig. Jeremy Pacheco, the culinary director at Genuine Concepts (the parent company of The Vig, The McMillan and other Arizona restaurants), started buying goat cheese from Crow’s Dairy in 2010. Back then, Pacheco was working as the executive chef at Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn and was the first wholesale account for the farm. More than a decade later, he still trusts Crow’s Dairy to supply his restaurants. “You can really taste the freshness in the cheese, and it comes from the focus on quality milk that Wendell takes,” Pacheco says. “And with the product being local, you know it’s always fresh.”
While Crow’s Dairy primarily sells to restaurants, its products are available at local farmers markets during the spring and summer months.
11300 S. Dean Road