One of the highlights of Leah and I’s recent trip to Oregon was the tour we took of the Tillamook Creamery in Tillamook, OR. This is the factory where the Tillamook County Creamery Association makes a lot of their cheese. Growing up in the area, we always just called the association “Tillamook Cheese,” and the place where they produce the cheese “the cheese factory.” Fact: until this trip I didn’t know that the “company” is actually a co-op of farmers—which is pretty cool—and I didn’t know that the word “creamery” existed (though I did know it was all named after an Oregon county/Native American tribe). So anyway, now you know, and the tour was great. And especially considering that the factory’s open-to-public area just finished renovation this last year, so it was new to my family as well.
My dad had done the tours many times in the past—before retiring he was a science teacher, and the creamery was a great place for field trips. Tillamook is a brand of cheese you are probably familiar with, especially if you live in the Western United States. They are most famous for their cheddar, though my favorite type of cheese is their Pepper Jack. People in Oregon and beyond also love their ice-cream, which we got to sample (along with a LOT of other diary products—lactose intolerants, I’m sorry). The whole tour was self-guided, and took place above the factory, with huge windows that we could see in through. As we walked through you learned about the process of getting milk from cows and transporting it, and then we got to see curdling, separating, pressing, and packaging in action.
Up the road from the main facility is a smaller factory where cheese is smoked, and it smelled GREAT when driving through. Sadly, the main cheese production floor didn’t smell through the windows, though perhaps that is a good thing—I doubt all stages of the cheese making process are… nasally pleasing. Everything looked clean, I was impressed by how fast the process of forming blocks, cutting bricks, cutting loafs, and vacuum sealing cheese went, and when the tour was over Leah and I bought a package of cheese curds. I love cheese curds, but perhaps because I have fond memories of my grandparents going to the Oregon coast and then bringing them back for my sister and I. Also, they squeak on your teeth as you eat them, so worth checking out.
Other highlights of our Oregon trip: seeing my parents, playing with their dog, eating at both Mo’s and Pig ‘N Pancake—two famous waterfront restaurant chains—and showing Leah the tide pools at Cannon Beach which I have such fond memories of, and Haystack Rock. On our last morning Leah and I put on our swimsuits and braved the cold water (it was frigid in March, though let’s not kid ourselves—it’s always frigid in OR), and there was a lot of card and board game playing going on as well. We went up the Astoria Column in Astoria, OR, hiked in some forests, got caught in a hail storm on the water, and saw an old Bumblebee Tuna factory.
On that last note, the old factory is a pier on the water that is now coffee shops and lawyer offices, which reminded me a lot of the mill. Now Leah and I have been back for two weeks, and it’s packing, packing, packing time. So sadly, no more mill life for us after Thursday, though we’re really excited about this next stage in our life. We’ll keep you posted on how it goes!
–Jeff and Leah