On Jan. 22 to 25, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) held its IDFA Dairy Forum in Orlando, an event attended by a record number of leaders from across the dairy industry exceeding 1,000 individuals.

During his address to attendees, Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of IDFA, emphasized a message that we as an industry are “stronger together.” This collective strength not only applies to the dairy leadership who gathered in Orlando, but across the board as we continue to tackle industry challenges related to the supply chain, economic hurdles, governmental support, sustainability goals, and more. 

The 2023 IDFA Dairy Forum also offered a theme of “inspire,” a thread that ran throughout the proceedings as presenters and attendees engaged to forge new pathways forward.

The 2023 IDFA Dairy Forum was also a time of accolades. During the lunch session on Jan. 23, Dairy Foods presented its 2022 “Dairy Processor of the Year” Award to Patrick Criteser, president and CEO of Tillamook County Creamery Association (see “Tillamook County Creamery Association named the 2022 Dairy Processor of the Year” for the complete story). The selection of Tillamook as the 2022 “Dairy Processor of the Year” meshed wonderfully with the predominant IDFA Dairy Forum themes of “stronger together” and “inspire,” as the Tillamook, Ore.-based company embodies so many of the winning and admirable characteristics that collectively help lift the dairy industry to new levels of excellence.

Dairy Foods began publication in 1905, and four years later in 1909, farmer-owned Tillamook founded its business. Both are long-weathered stalwarts of the industry. And while understanding our industry’s history is vital to forging strong paths forward, it’s what’s happening today that really matters. And on that front, Tillamook — with Patrick leading the charge — is a clear leader worthy of inspiration.

Tillamook, which makes cheese, ice cream, yogurt, cream cheese spreads, sour cream, and butter, has steadily expanded nationwide, with retail sales up 50% during the past three years —impressively hitting the $1 billion sales landmark in 2021. But even as the co-op broadened its scope, it still maintains a strong focus on its local Oregon community. This was particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Tillamook continued to employ the roughly 100 individuals who staff its popular Visitor Center after temporarily closing its doors. 

During the unprecedented days of the pandemic, Tillamook provided grants to small businesses in the area to help fuel the local economy. As a Certified B Corporation, Tillamook is also helping lead the way in sustainability efforts, including a commitment to 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2030.

As Tillamook goes, so should the rest of the industry — an example truly worth following — with an inspiring commitment to its local community and a clear vision and action plan that encompasses the nation.