This year the tour visited West Coast cities from Seattle to San Diego, plus markets in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Texas, Oregon and Washington. Los Angeles is a particular challenge for Tillamook because of its large population. It is the only city on the West Coast in which Tillamook cheese is not among the top three best-selling brands, Allison said. But when one factors out Hispanic cheeses and mozzarella, Tillamook is close to third place, according to the company.

This boots-on-the-ground campaign goes one-on-one with consumers and teaches them about the cheese, how it is made, who the farmers are and why the premium product tastes better than store brands and other national brands.


The dairy co-op

The approximately 1.5 million pounds of raw milk that is delivered every day to the processing plant comes from the approximately 105 dairy farmers who belong to the co-operative. No one knows them better than Bryan Gibson, the co-op’s field manager. Gibson, who grew up on his parent’s dairy farm in New Zealand, explained that farmers can earn premiums by hitting targets for milk cleanliness or component levels. The monthly premium check, which can be thousands of dollars, is especially important to a farmer when feed costs and other inputs are rising. But the co-op does more than buy milk, Gibson said. It offers services like animal health care and low-interest financing of equipment.

Co-op member Norm Martin relocated his dairy farm from California to Tillamook County partly because the cooler temperatures are better for the cows, he said. With 1,000 cows, Martin’s farm is larger than most members’. In the milking parlor, cows line up to enter a carousel where farmhands attach the milking machine.

“That milk will be cheese within 12 hours,” Martin said.