Every farmer knows three things to be true: 1) When you want to make good things happen, get good people to work together; 2) You have to protect the things you value the most; and 3) If you make it great, people will want you to make it again. That’s what “Stewardship: Part of the Tillamook Way” is all about. (Some companies call it their “corporate social responsibility” but we’re a whole lot more “creamery” than “corporate-y.”)
This is our way of recognizing that success is about more than an incredible loaf of cheddar (although, that’s a darn fine start) and that what we do and make is all wrapped up in who we are and how we treat each other and the world around us.
That’s why we strive to do the right thing, and do it well, in everything we do. It’s how we bring to market the very best dairy products, made The Tillamook Way. Because everyone deserves real food that makes them feel good, every day.
It’s hard to say where our community ends and our work place begins, where handshakes mark the end of a meeting or the beginning of a friendship. That’s because we believe in real relationships based on the shared notion that being genuine and true leads to mutual success. Tillamook is the largest employer in Tillamook County, employing nearly one in 10 of the people who live there, cutting across generations and including multiple family members. We try to offer careers that can last a lifetime (our resident cheese-maker, Dale Baumgartner, has been with us for 45 years) and to create positions that are a fit for men and women at all education levels. Regarding women in particular, our latest numbers show that 45% of our employees are women – as is nearly 20% of our leadership – and that number keeps getting bigger.
Tillamook employees participate in our generous profit sharing retirement program and receive healthcare with very low employee contributions. Each year we award six promising college-bound students in our community a $2,000 scholarship — one of which is designated for children of our employees. And boy do Tillamook employees give back in kind. Last year alone they spent more than 200 hours volunteering at food banks, shelters, and community gardens in Tillamook, Tigard, and Boardman.
Over the years, Tillamook has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and millions of dollars of product to school lunch programs, food banks, and community groups. Soon we’ll be announcing our first-ever nationwide charitable giving program.
Ultimately, there’s a little bit of Tillamook in a whole lot of things in our community, from parade sponsorships to youth development programs, from partnerships with 4-H Leaders Association to the Tillamook County Fair, and much more, because working together is always the better way.
Conserving natural resources is the right thing to do for the world and for our business. We reduce, recover, and reuse water in our operations. We’re reducing our carbon footprint through improved transportation practices. Our energy use is under continuous improvement. And we’re finding ways to turn things we used to consider “waste” into valuable assets.
For example, whey was once a waste product of cheese but is now a useful ingredient in baby formula, nutrition bars, candy bars and other products. In fact, in 2014 we produced 8.2 million pounds of whey powder for sale and reuse. Recently, we got pretty excited when we developed new ways to pack trailers and increase tonnage to reduce trips and maximize efficiency with our fleet of trucks because we knew we were shrinking our carbon footprint. And as critical as water is in all of agriculture and manufacturing these days, it’s especially important that we treat all of our wastewater onsite in an award-winning plant that removes 99.88 percent of the impurities and produces 340,000 gallons of fresh water per day. People seem to be especially impressed, though, when they find out that we’re able to convert manure into electricity, fuel, fertilizer, and even fiber.
Even our famous ice cream pails find extended life as all-purpose totes and storage devices among other creative uses. Many of our fans even like to buy them for their own use in our visitors’ center!
No business can do good things if it’s not making good things. “Stewardship: Part of the Tillamook Way” is a circle that embraces all of our relationships and resources, but begins and ends with our products. We never cut corners. We never compromise on standards. We do things the right way, not the easy way. We make real food from simple, wholesome, and delicious ingredients chosen with care. And whether it’s the decision to preserve our century-old recipe for naturally aging cheddar cheese, or the choice to make sure our ice cream is made rich in flavor with butter fat, not air, it’s our co-op of nearly 100 local farmers that mulls it over, makes the commitment, and keeps the standards for making our products high.
And those products are only as good as the milk we start with. We use milk only from cows not supplemented with artificial growth hormones (rBST). Our standards for obtaining, treating, storing, and transporting milk are rigorous. In fact, we test our milk more frequently than most in the industry. We test every single batch of milk not only just before it enters our production facilities, but also before it even leaves the farm. The farm matters, because how good that milk is depends on how well our cows are treated. That’s why our owner-farmers adhere to the standards for best practices in animal welfare and quality assurance set forth in the National Dairy FARM Program standards – as well as Tillamook’s own wellbeing standards. If for some reason we receive milk that does not meet our standards we not only reject that milk but also visit the field and work with the farmer to ensure the highest quality care is being provided.