A few years back I had the opportunity to shed some sweat on an Illinois farm. It was for a series of newspaper articles about farming. About once each week from April to November I spent a day with the McLachlan family who worked about 800 acres in the central part of the state. Flat as a pool table, their land was blessed with black soil eight feet deep. They grew corn and beans from their porches to the speed limit signs. The family had been working the same land for more than 100 years.
I helped them plant in late April, walked beans in May and July, went to a church picnic, and a county fair. In the fall I drove a combine, and visited the hospital when the family's third child was born.
Obviously it was an experience I'll never forget, and one that traveled with me the two times that I've visited the home of Tillamook Cheese in Oregon. Dairy Foods' 2005 Processor of the Year is a company that's made up of farm families like the McLachlans. To be exact, there are 142 farm members in the cooperative which is officially known as Tillamook County Creamery Association. Most of the families have been running dairy operations and making cheese for a century or more.
In the dairy industry the Tillamook name is synonymous with quality cheese, and the organization is known for its professionalism. In helping us select our 2005 Processor of the Year, members of our editorial advisory board overwhelmingly indicated that Tillamook continues to live up to its reputation.
There are lots of smaller companies making great cheese in the U.S., but few make great cheese in 40 lb blocks.
Tillamook has overcome a number of obstacles in building and maintaining its name, and it has also taken some risks, including the recent decision to discontinue the use of rBST. The company has grown substantially in the past ten years and is currently in the midst of transforming itself into a national player, a process that required the bold step of establishing a second production facility far from the comforts of home. For all these reasons, Tillamook is a great choice for our processor of the year.
If I ever get back to the McLachlan farm I have a story to tell them about the farmers who make cheese among the fir trees and the fishing boats along the rugged Pacific coast.
Processor of the Year CriteriaDairies are nominated by suppliers, staff and our editorial advisory board. Criteria are:
- Financial and management success.
- Market leadership (including new product development, marketing and innovations that spur the industry).
- Industry service.
- Commitment to quality.
Past Recipients of Dairy Foods' Processor of the Year2004 HP Hood
2003 Stonyfield Farm
2002 Marigold Foods
2001 HP Hood
2000 Leprino Foods
1999 Suiza Foods
1998 Dean Foods
1997 Mid-American Dairymen
1996 Agropur Cooperative
1995 Good Humor-Breyers
1993 Anderson Erickson
1992 Ault Foods
1991 Dean Foods
1990 Wells' Dairy
1989 Wessanen USA (tie), Land O' Lakes (tie)
1988 Mid-American Dairymen
1986 Southland Dairies Group
1985 Mayfield Dairy Farms
1984 Land O' Lakes
1983 Kroger Co.