It all starts in a small community in Tillamook, Oregon where people still take pride in what they do.
Photo: Courtesy of Tillamook
There are more cows than people in Tillamook county. 30,000 cows vs. 25,000 humans
… only 4,700 of those actually living in the city of Tillamook.
My kind of story. Their kind of story. Our kind of story.
Heather of Farmgirl Gourmet
They enjoy coming to work, take pride in making a first class product, and they believe all the extra steps they take, steps their competition would consider frivolous / unnecessary are what makes their products, literally, the best in the world.
Tillamook has been winning awards for it’s cheese since 1904!
Including World’s Best Medium Cheddar (2010)
After spending a few days with them and having the unique opportunity to REALLY get to know them, I wholeheartedly agree.
What’s happening there isn’t assembly line mass production. It’s love & care & family.
And it shows.
When I arrived at Tillamook, we met CEO Patrick Criteser . He welcomed us on our tour, told us how happy he was for us to be there and how proud he was of what we were about to see. Then he sent us on our way, not to “hear” more about it, but to experience it … <– love that!
And experience it I did, with all 5 of my senses.
The company seems big, what they are doing is HUGE.
Tillamook holds 10% of the world’s cheese supply in their cold storage warehouse — that’s 55 million pounds of cheese!
But they are actually rather small — 450 employees in their factory, moving 163,000 pounds of cheese per day. 101 family farms, many of who wake up at 2:30 in the morning to start their long days caring for their cows.
The people we met hadn’t just been working there for years, they’ve been a part of Tillamook their whole lives. Their husbands/wives/daughters/sons work there, they are second and third generation family owned farms. They are truly a community-owned company, and together they have created a legacy.
Like JP, who’s been there since high school; who has her very own flavor of fudge on the menu, check out JP’s Jalopy next time you’re in town; who has taste buds you & I can only dream about and ensures nothing but the best quality products leave their walls.
Or the sweet little lady who helps out with the fudge station; who’s son-in-law sits on the board of directors. Then there was my ice cream twin, we both adore Tilamook’s White Chocolate Raspberry ice cream (oh my gosh!!) and their new for this year … Oregon Blueberry.
Just one taste and you’ll be hooked. For you die hard chocolate lovers Peanut Butter Chocolate is a Tillamook employee favorite! Be sure to check out all their amazing flavors.
Outside of the plant you’ll find the best of the best PR team you’ve ever seen, a genius brand ambassador program that tours the country bringing good cheer and good cheese to all. And who could forget loafy? The wittiest loaf of cheese I’ve ever come in contact with. Find him on Twitter and you’ll see what I mean.
Gillian & Katie the fresh, stylish faces of their brand who ooze cheesy goodness and good times wherever they go.
You may think I’m crazy but after spending three days with them I am seriously considering packing up my family and moving to Oregon. I honestly loved the essence of everything they do that much. I’ve already asked my husband if he’s ever considered a career in the cheese industry … and since he grew up eating Tillamook all of his life, it might not be such a hard sell.
Not to mention the beauty that is Oregon, it’s unlike any place I’ve ever been … and I have been A LOT of places.
You’ll know all of this comes from my heart … and NOT from my full stomach because I am actually lactose intolerant. The beauty of Tillamook lies in the care they take with their production process and their desire to stay as natural as possible. Their cheeses are almost completely lactose free. The key is in the separation process, the way they separate the whey and the curds means I can enjoy their cheeses without worrying about my tummy. THANK YOU TILLAMOOK!
The ice cream though … is worth an indulgence. If only I’d had some lactaid on my trip.
On my next trip I’ll be prepared! Yes, I am already planning my next trip.
Fun Fact: Tillamook makes cheese every day of the year. When operating at full capacity, the factory receives 1.8 million pounds of milk (which becomes 167,000 pounds of cheese) per day.
It’s no wonder a visit to the Tillamook Cheese Factory is a top tourist destination in the Pacific Northwest, welcoming more than 1 million visitors annually. The Tillamook Cheese Factory is open daily year-round, with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas days. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Labor Day through mid-June, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. mid- June through Labor Day.
And best of all, its FREE. With plenty of tasty samples
Last but not least, I received this statement in an email after my tour and I was so proud of what they had to say, I just had to share it with you:
Our farmer-owners have each signed a pledge to never use artificial growth hormones and require the same commitment from all dairymen that supply milk for our products. Additionally, every tanker load of milk received is strictly tested for antibiotics. If any tanker tests positive, even if a trace amount is detected, the entire load will be disposed of immediately, never reaching our consumers. We take care at every level to handle milk gently and to maintain high safety standards; from cooling milk within minutes of milking the cow to adhering to strict safety measures at our cheesemaking operations.
Have you ever visited Tillamook?
Or maybe I should ask, have they ever visited you!
Here’s hoping you have a chance to meet Loafy and the Tillamook team sometime soon.
Disclosure: I met Tillamook and Soda Pop PR (<-- best PR team I have ever worked with) while they were on tour in Texas, they invited me on this trip for a true Tillamook experience in hopes I would share my thoughts with you, but I encourage you to see it / taste it / experience it for yourself.
And if you're ever in Oregon, here are two great places to stay: Hotel DeLuxe and Inn at Camp Kiawanda .