For more than 110 years, the Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) has been connecting farmers and food lovers through better-made dairy products while supporting its community and caring for the environment. Through partnerships, microloans, contributions and their cooperative volunteer program, Tillamook Cares, TCCA has successfully given attention to the needs of Tillamook County and beyond.
"We're committed to enriching our communities where we operate and we focus on three areas - agricultural advocacy, food security and healthful children - that we believe are integral to community resilience," said Sarah Beaubien, Senior Director of Stewardship for TCCA.
TCCA's goal is to increase investment in these priorities from 2.7% to 4% of profits in 2019 through more partnerships and support of local organizations to address food insecurity, agricultural advocacy, healthful youth and foster development of future farmers.
To address food insecurity, TCCA gave over $250,000 in 2018 in product and monetary donations to the Oregon Food Band and bought a delivery truck to allow the food bank to deliver food to pantries throughout the county. TCCA, also invested in a full-time position dedicated to mitigating and understanding the root causes of hunger in the county and supports affordable housing efforts and social services in Tillamook County; both of which are closely tied to food security. Moreover, TCCA partners with the Tillamook 4-H chapter where proceeds from the ice cream booth at the Tillamook County Fair benefit the program. Employee volunteers scoop ice cream alongside the 4-H kids and together, more than $120,000 has been raised for their 4-H program. TCCA has numerous other partnerships including Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington, Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council and has been a presenting sponsor of the KGW Great Food Drive for 13 consecutive years, helping raise more than 2 million pounds of food, this year alone, to reduce hunger in Oregon.
Oregon State University's Dairy Science Program
TCCA strives to help the next generation of dairy experts who will influence the future of Oregon's dairy and is currently working with Oregon State University's Dairy Science Program to steer its program to success. TCCA has pledged $1.5 million to support construction of a new dairy pilot plant at OSU, which will include space for innovative research, testing and teaching related to Oregon's dairy industry. The space will include a small-scale manufacturing plant with equipment to produce cheese, ice cream, cultured products and dairy-based products.
"We've been lucky to benefit from this program, too," said Beaubien. "TCCA's director of research and development, Jill Allen, is a graduate of OSU and has worked closely with the program. We also hire OSU interns from this program to contribute to our quality, sensory and research and development teams. And, we partnered with OSU to conduct several cheese studies."
In 2018, TCCA created a formal employee program, Tillamook Cares, that offers employees up to eight hours of paid volunteer time each year.
"The idea for Tillamook Cares was born in 2017, when we were about to start renovating our packaging line. At the time, we were faced with an important question: 'What do we do with our 40 employees who temporarily have no line to work on?' The answer was to pay them to develop their skills and pay it forward in our community," Beaubien said. "First, we did some training and team building activities. Then, we launched a Week of Service, paying our employees for a full week of volunteer time to make a difference in the community."
The effort was a success; employees volunteered a total of 2,300 hours to build school gardens, read alongside elementary school students, lead a reorganization of the Habitat for Humanity warehouse and cared for disabled folks at one of the assisted living facilities. Tillamook Cares was born.
"As a farmer-owned co-op, our work and our people are intricately connected to our communities. We have about 80 farmer-owners in and around Tillamook County, so it's important that we work hard to ensure that the region is healthy, vibrant and sustains our farmer-owner families for generations to come. It's not only good for the company's success, but it's also good for the whole community," Beaubien said. "We're not afraid to take on complex social challenges, but we cannot do it alone. That's why we partner with those doing the hard work on the ground. We assess their needs and co-create solutions. We volunteer with them and join in as board members. In fact, TCCA's CEO Patrick Criteser is on the board of the Oregon Food Bank and committed to ending hunger in the state."
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