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A Small Oregon Creamery Thinks Big with Sustainability

Rogue Creamery, a small Southern Oregon artisan creamery internationally known for its award-winning handcrafted cheeses, is taking home a new recognition during June Dairy Month, by receiving the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award for Outstanding Dairy Processing and Manufacturing.

A selection of Rogue Creamery’s cheeses.

In October 2019, Rogue Creamery was rewarded for its high standards as the first-ever American cheesemaker to be named Grand Champion at the World Cheese Awards. But owner David Gremmels’ commitment to excellence extends far beyond cheesemaking to business practices that create a culture around doing the right thing.

“The food industry is a challenging environment with an ever-changing landscape. It takes passion, energy, awareness of food safety and a high level of professional business skills to understand, create and adapt,” said Cathy Strange, Vice President of Specialty, Product Development and Innovation at Whole Foods Market. “My experiences with Rogue Creamery and their owners and employees is that they are committed to represent themselves, the dairy community and United States artisan cheesemakers at the highest level.”

Founder of Rogue Creamery, David Gremmels, with cows in his pasture.

The sustainability awards program is managed by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which was established under the leadership of dairy farmers and dairy companies. For 10 years, award recipients have been recognized for their commitment to dairy sustainability with nearly 80 winners and from more than 270 nominees.

This is the fourth recognition for Oregon’s dairy community since 2017. Rogue Creamery joins Rickreall Dairy (2017), Tillamook Creamery (2018), and Threemile Canyon Farms (2020) in exemplifying award winning sustainability efforts.

The heifer barn at Rogue Creamery’s dairy.

Rogue Creamery became Oregon’s first certified B Corporation in 2014, inspiring other like-minded businesses to follow suit and pursue this rigorous certification. And since 2017, it has consistently ranked in the top 10% of B Corps worldwide for its impact on people and planet. This recognition affirms Rogue Creamery as a force for good—balancing purpose with profit and considering the broader, community-wide impact of every business decision.

As a leading proponent of renewable energy and waste reduction, Rogue Creamery has installed solar panels, reduced packaging waste, and created an employee commuter program. And, through team volunteer days, giving campaigns, sponsorships and food drives, Rogue Creamery advances core goals, which include alleviating hunger, increasing access to education, and building awareness about sustainable agriculture. Its “Cheese is Love” campaign has resulted in more than 3,500 pounds of cheese donations for those who have been impacted by fires that ravaged Southern Oregon in September 2020.

The team in front of Rogue Creamery’s marketplace in Central Point, Oregon.

“Oregon’s dairy community has long embraced the importance of sustainability,” said Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council’s Executive Director, Pete Kent. “Dairy farms, co-ops and companies recognize that their businesses can be used to exemplify sustainable choices. We are proud to have Rogue Creamery represent Oregon on the national stage this year as a standard for these efforts.”

This small creamery’s commitment to quality, sustainability and doing the right thing has substantial, sustainable impacts within its local community and beyond – enlightening partners, neighbors, and customers worldwide.

Hindsight is 2020: Looking Back on the Year in Review

As we leave 2020 in the rear view mirror, we look back at a year that was unpredictable and exasperating for many.  Time and time again, Oregon dairy farmers, processors and those in the dairy community proved to be resilient and rose to challenge after challenge. Among them; the pandemic, temporary supply chain disruptions, increased hunger, and historic wildfires. Throughout it all, Oregon dairy farmers proved they were there for their communities while working to provide nutritious dairy products – all without skipping a beat.

March abruptly impacted any previously made plans for the year. With the beginning of a statewide lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19, toilet paper made headlines as Oregonians began stocking up on supplies, but they also started to clean grocery shelves out of butter, cheese, milk and ice cream. Stores, and all those throughout the supply chain, quickly adjusted to meet the increased demand for milk and dairy foods.  As restaurants and retailers closed their brick and mortar locations to the public, people were advised by government officials and medical professionals to Stay Home, Stay Safe and Stay Healthy.

Fuel Up to Play 60 Ambassador and former NFL football player Anthony Newman helped by promoting good nutrition and health for kids quarantining at home with our ‘Stay Healthy’ series.  His advice on how to stay mentally and physically healthy still resonates months later. You can now catch part of the series on the national Fuel Up to Play 60 Homeroom.  

As the entire country shifted to working and staying at home, online learning and experiences took off. Farmers tuned in to industry professionals on our Lunch & Learn webinars.  Local farmers and the Oregon Dairy Princess assisted with videos for classrooms and online farm tours. Even cows got in on the action, assisting Liz Collman from Cloud Cap Farms as she read books from their farm’s pasture to kids staying at home.

As the shutdown continued, restaurant and retail closures unfortunately followed throughout the year, with notable Portland establishments like Toro Bravo, Beast and the much-loved Cheese Bar closing permanently. The closures impacted dairy and many other locally produced foods that supply restaurants and food service companies.

More people took to making their meals at home, using pantry staples like butter, milk, yogurt and cream.  Stacy Foster, from our own team, joined in with her daughter, creating a delicious recipe from Food Hero.

Although though most summer events, like the Oregon State Fair, were cancelled due to the coronavirus, ingenious solutions were created to keep traditions going. The Oregon Dairy Women celebrated the 51st year of their Red Barn Ice Cream event by taking it on the road with the help of Wilco. By the end of the summer, they had visited five cities in Oregon and served hundreds people their famous cones and shakes.

Hunger relief efforts also intensified as more people lost their jobs and businesses stayed closed. Safeway and Albertson’s Nourishing Neighbors program helped donate $450,000 in emergency grant funding to 159 local schools that aided school nutrition professionals in getting food to kids and families in need. Tillamook County Creamery Association, Rogue Creamery, Briar Rose Creamery and others also donated to food banks and their local communities.

Free summer meals were extended throughout Oregon through the year, resulting in nutritious food boxes and assistance programs that helped kids and families across the state. 

And some farmers gave to their communities personally, like Rickreall Dairy, which celebrated the farm’s 30th anniversary by donating several hundred grocery bags full of food and milk to neighbors in need in their community. Tillamook dairy farmer Derrick Josi (aka TDF Honest Farming) bought meals for linesmen following a severe windstorm and for first responders during the subsequent wildfires.

In September, wildfires swept through California and Oregon, creating orange skies filled with smoke and haze that covered most of the state.  Farmers kept their cattle hydrated and worked together to move livestock and supplies, while also helping their communities and supporting fire fighting efforts.

Despite the many challenges, bright spots appeared throughout the year. In October, Governor Kate Brown named October 18th Blue Cheese Day in Oregon, in celebration of Rogue Creamery’s historic win of “best cheese in the world” at the 2019-2020 World Cheese Awards in Bergamo, Italy.

Threemile Canyon Farms won the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy for its work demonstrating how growing crops and milking cows can complement one another in a regenerative, closed-loop system, resulting in zero waste. This recognition was a testament to the vision, leadership and commitment of the farm’s general manager, Marty Myers, and will serve as a lasting legacy following his untimely passing in early December.

Throughout it all, Oregon dairy farmers have been there, supporting their communities in ways too numerous to count, with delicious and nutritious food, helping their communities and caring for their animals and the earth. In 2020, dairy truly made everything better for a lot of people.

From our families to yours, we hope this next year is a safe, healthy and happy one.

Top Ten Stories of 2020:

OREGON’S THREEMILE CANYON FARMS WINS NATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY AWARD

IN MEMORIAM: MARTY MYERS

MEET SIX WOMEN MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN DAIRY FARMING

NINE REASONS TO ENJOY REAL MILK IN YOUR HANDCRAFTED COFFEE DRINK

“BLUE CHEESE DAY” CELEBRATES AMERICA’S FIRST GRAND CHAMPION CHEESE

OREGON ICE CREAM TRAIL

DASH DIET EATING PLAN

THROUGH THE FIRE: OREGON DAIRY COMMUNITY SHOWS RESILIENCY, GENEROSITY

GET CONNECTED WITH DAIRY EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES ONLINE

VIRTUAL TOURS BRING DAIRY FARMS TO THE CLASSROOM

Going Rogue: Oregon Cheese Makes a Big Statement

Type the words “American cheese” into an online search engine, and the images that pop up typically appear more utilitarian than artisanal or gourmet. Perhaps that’s one reason why it came as a shock to some around the globe that an American cheese defied convention and brought home the title of “best in the world” at the 2019 World Cheese Awards for the first time in history. It was a statement win.

Based in Southern Oregon, Rogue Creamery proved what many Oregonians and cheese aficionados already knew – Oregon creameries make some truly extraordinary cheese. At the awards held in Bergamo, Italy, Rogue River Blue beat out more than 3,800 cheeses from 42 countries. After a photo finish with an Italian Parmigiano Reggiano, Oregon officially became home to the World Champion.

According to Rogue, the winning cheese embodies their signature terroir with flavors of sweet pine, wild ripened berries, hazelnuts, morels and pears:

“Rogue River Blue is an organic, cave-aged blue cheese that is wrapped in Syrah grape leaves that are soaked in pear spirits. It is made exclusively with milk from Rogue Creamery’s certified organic dairy farm in Grants Pass, where the cows graze on pastures bordering the Rogue River. A seasonal product, Rogue River Blue is only made for a few months each year beginning on the autumnal equinox, when cooler temperatures bring renewed growth to the pastures and our cow’s milk becomes richer and higher in butterfat.”

Since the big announcement on October 18, people have been taking note. From Martha Stewart to renowned authors, international journalists, chefs, foodies and even fellow cheesemakers – all have been singing Rogue’s praises, as stores are quickly selling out. Many Oregonians are expressing pride in the recognition, including U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, who had some fun with this Tweet:

In addition to Rogue’s top honors, TMK Creamery of Canby brought home a Silver Medal for their Garlic Dill Cheddar Curds, and Tillamook earned a Bronze Medal for their one-year aged White Cheddar. These award-winners and many more creameries are listed on the Oregon Cheese Guild’s Oregon Cheese and Food Trail. While nobody knows where the best cheese in the world will come from in 2020, there are plenty of worthy candidates that make a case for a repeat performance from Oregon.

Of course, great tasting cheese starts with high-quality milk, and Oregon is consistently ranked toward the top in the nation. Oregon’s 124,000 cows and 200 dairy farm families produce roughly 2.6 billion pounds of milk annually (more than 302 million gallons). Oregonians love their milk so much, it is literally the official beverage of the State of Oregon.

Oregon’s dairy industry is a vital economic engine for communities statewide, with an estimated impact of $2.7 billion. Dairy is Oregon’s fourth largest commodity by farm revenue after only cattle, greenhouse and nursery products, and hay. Further, dairy farms create a ripple effect in both the agricultural economy and the economic well-being of rural communities, supporting 12,222 jobs.


RELATED LINKS:

Rogue River Blue Wins World’s BEST cheese!
Oregon Cheese Guild, October 18

USA cheese named ‘Best in the World’
USDEC, October 21

For the first time ever, a US cheese is named best in the world
CNN Travel, November 1

The World’s Best Cheese? It’s Blue and Comes From Oregon
The New York Times, November 1

American cheese named world’s best for first time, here’s how much it costs
Fox Business, November 2

France in shock over Oregon cheese winning ‘Best in the World’ honor
Statesman Journal, November 4

Want to taste the Oregon-made, recently named ‘Best Cheese in the World’? Better hurry.
Statesman Journal, November 6 

This may be the moment American cheese, true American cheese, has been waiting for
Washington Post, November 6

Crowdsourced Oregon Ice Cream Trail Showcases Top Shops

How do you create a new food trail that showcases the top ice cream shops across an entire state? Simple. Ask the experts! And that’s just what the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council did when they crowdsourced the new Oregon Ice Cream Trail.

Crowdsourcing is the process of enlisting the services of a large number of people, typically via the Internet. In this case, it was ice cream aficionados. Starting with an assortment of 10 landmark ice cream shops, people were encouraged to submit and vote for their favorite shops in Oregon. The result? You can now choose your own ice cream adventure to include more than 50 stops clustered within seven geographic regions.

“Building this trail reaffirmed something we already knew – people are passionate about their ice cream,” said Josh Thomas, Senior Director of Communications for the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council. “Thanks to the hundreds of votes we received, this trail showcases the top shops and some of the best ice cream you’ll find anywhere in the world.”

The Oregon Ice Cream Trail includes all varieties of scoop and soft serve ice cream, custard, gelato and even frozen yogurt – all made in Oregon. All stops are featured on a free, downloadable map at OregonIceCreamTrail.com.

So that’s the scoop on the Oregon Ice Cream Trail. If you’re still looking for a good excuse to hit the trail, National Ice Cream Cone Day is coming up on September 22.


RELATED:

New Girl Scouts Dairy Patch Unveiled at Oregon Dairy Day Event

What do you get when you combine a fun and informative creamery tour with dairy farmers and princesses, and top it off with delicious cheese samples and ice cream? At the special Oregon Dairy Day event at Tillamook Creamery on October 20, you got 200 very excited Girl Scouts and family members. They were there to be among the first-ever to earn the new “Oregon Dairy” patch.

Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington, in partnership with the Tillamook County Creamery Association and Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council, designed this new patch program to educate girls about STEM concepts, farms and food production, and the Oregon dairy industry.

The patch program encourages Girl Scouts to learn through five hands-on steps: visit a dairy farm, discover how milk is transformed into dairy products, explore dairy nutrition, and learn about careers in the industry, from dairy farmer to food scientist to food marketer. The program concludes with a taste test.

Volunteers from the Tillamook staff, along with the Oregon Dairy Princess Ambassadors, hosted interactive stations at the Tillamook Creamery Farm Experience Center to help the Girl Scouts earn their patch.

The first station featured a visit with local dairy farmers, Taryn Martin and Logan Lancaster. They were available to answer any questions the Girl Scouts had regarding milking, cow care and farm practices. “I really enjoyed the event,” said Taryn Martin. “When I was finished for the day, I had met parents and Girl Scouts from all over Oregon and Washington and was impressed at how far some of them had traveled for the experience and education. It was so much fun to answer questions from both the parents and the scouts!”

Girl Scouts also visited a station focused on nutrition and balanced diets. Oregon Dairy Princess Ambassador First Alternate Megan Sprute explained how and why milk is a good source of calcium, nutrients, and vitamins.

To learn about different careers in the industry, the Girl Scouts conducted food science experiments, creating their very own yogurt flavor, complete with a variety of toppings (including edible glitter sprinkles)! They were also able to visit with a veterinarian to learn about cow care and a scientist to learn how to use a microscope to look for bacteria. The dairy scientist explained that all bad bacteria is kept out of milk.

The Girl Scouts finished their patch requirements by taking a tour of the Tillamook Creamery, where they watched the milk turn into cheese and the employees prepare packages for shipment. And of course, they were able to taste test samples of delicious Tillamook cheese and ice cream.

“The Oregon Dairy Patch program is a great opportunity for girls to discover the local food chain. It encourages them to be curious about where their food comes from, and what it takes to get it from the farm to the factory to their table,” said Lisa Gilham-Luginbill, Program Manager for Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington. “We hope they’ll learn something new along the way, and perhaps discover an interest or future career in the process.”

RELATED LINKS:
Girl Scouts Oregon Dairy Patch curriculum
Tillamook Creamery
Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington
Kids Corner
Careers Page

USDA International Agricultural Trade Officers Tour Oregon Agriculture

On the 21st of August, individuals from all over the world, including Asia, Europe and South America stopped in Tillamook to tour a dairy and the Tillamook Creamery.

It was just one stop on a tour of Oregon’s diverse agriculture as twenty-one locally employed staff supporting the USDA’s Agricultural Trade Offices at American embassies and consulates traveled the Oregon coast.

Their first stop on this week-long tour of American export opportunities was in Washington DC for tours, trainings, and meetings with the USDA. On Saturday they flew from Washington DC to Oregon. And Sunday, they began exploring everything Oregon grown, from pears to blueberries, barley and hazelnuts, to seafood and dairy.

“Dairy is such an important part of Oregon agriculture, and it’s such a longstanding tradition for this state,” said David Lane, Agricultural Development and Marketing Manager for ODA. “It’s important that we connect the world to Oregon’s dairy industry. So to get this group onto a dairy and into a creamery helps create that connection.”

At Oldenkamp Farms, tour guests were able to see robotic milking and automated feeding in action. The Lely feeding system is one of only four of its kind currently in the U.S., affectionately named by the Oldenkamp Family after Dr. Seuss’ “Thing 1 and Thing 2”.

After a visit with the cows and farm family that produce some of the milk for Tillamook cheese, the group of internationals continued on to the Tillamook Creamery Visitor’s Center for a self-guided tour and lunch. “This is the best cheese I have ever tasted,” said Annie Qiao, Marketing Specialist for the Agricultural Trade Office in Shanghai. Annie explained that current trends in Shanghai for exports are focused on American foods for ingredients in Chinese meals.

“For those companies that are interested and ready [to export], the world is open for American products. And the world is really open for Oregon products” said Lane.

Stacy Foster from the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council helped to organize the dairy portion of their tour. “It was a privilege to meet so many people from around the world that were not just passionate about American products, but specifically the products we offer here in Oregon. I hope we made a lasting impression.”