Tillamook Has Been Around Longer Than You Might Think

For those unfamiliar, Tillamook County Creamery Association is a farmer-owned co-op located in Tillamook County, Oregon. The organization includes farming families who run and earn money from this business, working with suppliers, processors, and distributors. Everything Tillamook does relates to dairy, selling butter, cheese, ice cream, sour cream, and yogurt, all in a sustainable way. The co-op is a certified B Corp, which (per Cultivating Capital) is a company verified for going out of its way to conduct business in an environmentally friendly, openly fair, and socially responsible manner. And Tillamook cares about more than just the environment and its farms, helping the community it is a part of to combat food insecurity and encouraging kids to get involved in agriculture.

With a focus on quality, Tillamook prefers to keep things natural, with its members promising to never use artificial flavors, colorants, growth hormones, high-fructose corn syrup, or preservatives. Tillamook products can be found in restaurant kitchens and grocery store shelves, as well as on its online shop. For an in-person Tillamook experience, you can visit the Tillamook creamery, farm store, or Portland Airport market, or try to catch the co-op's ice cream truck out on the road.

With such a wide array of services and a conscientious streak to match, Tillamook may seem like a thoroughly modern company, yet the business' roots go way back.

Over a century of dairy

In an article for Fortune, Tillamook president and CEO Patrick Criteser discussed staying true to the co-op's roots while also building a better future. For Tillamook, it all comes down to adaptability and a fluid company culture. Criteser claims that leaders should add to their organization's strong backgrounds by being open-minded in order to grow. But what exactly is this proud history Criteser and the rest of the Tillamook team are diligently trying to protect and build upon?

The Tillamook County Creamery Association was founded over a century ago, in 1909, per Dairy Processing. In the 19th century (prior to the co-op coming into existence) settlers arrived in what would later be dubbed Tillamook County, Oregon and began raising cows, selling their dairy to the burgeoning settlement in Portland. Of course, Indigenous peoples had already been residing in the area, including the Tillamook tribe, from whom Oregon Encyclopedia reports the county (and therefore the dairy co-op) gets its name. Tillamook respectfully acknowledges the region's Indigenous history on its company website, directing dairy fans eager to learn more to the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde community website.

Rocking the boat

It wasn't all smooth sailing for those early dairy farmers, however. Tillamook explains their forebears' butter and milk products would often go bad during long trips on the mountain roads to Portland. So, they turned to the water, as Criteser recalls in an op-ed for Fortune: The Morning Star (which the company website states was the first ship ever officially built in Oregon) was constructed in 1855 to transport fresh dairy to Portland in a timely manner. This opened a whole new world of success for the farmers, and at the beginning of the 20th century, these creameries decided to band together to capitalize on their success and support one another.

"The coolest part of the Morning Star story isn't that our predecessors decided to build a better boat," Criteser wrote for Fortune. "It's that they allowed room for the kind of people who would suggest it." Indeed, that's the sort of attitude that is propelling this century-old co-op into the 21st century.