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Tillamook dairy finds winner in ‘coffee milk’

Not too sweet. Just enough coffee. And, above all else, creamy milk. These combined flavors are what is earning Rose Valley Creamery’s “coffee milk” its own fan group.


Rose Valley Creamery is a small, family-run dairy located in Tillamook. The farm is primarily operated by married couple of 31 years Devin and Elena Johnston, with assistance from their five adult children.


“Our two daughters Ruth and Louisa are a vital part of our daily life and business,” Elena said. “Not only do they help with the bottling plant, they also help with chores and herd health decisions on a daily basis. Our son Isaac is our mechanic/fabricator/builder and stepping into the role of forest manager. Worth helps with delivering milk, haying, and he and our son Sam help wherever is needed. They are such a big part of this.”

The farm has been in Devin’s family for 84 years with five generations of dairy farmers having worked the land.


“Ever since I was a little kid, this is what I wanted to do,” Devin said, looking out at his herd of 20 cows.


Milk from the dairy was produced for several different creameries through the years include the Tillamook County Creamery Association, and most recently, Organic Valley Creamery out of McMinnville.


In November 2022, Devin and Elena decided to switch gears and bottle and sell their farm-fresh milk themselves.


“That was a big decision. It was frightening,” Elena said.

The Johnston’s farm has been certified organic for 14 years, but the family has been farming in that manner before “organic” was even a category. Even after leaving Organic Valley, the Johnstons have maintained the practice.


“We’ve remained a grass-fed cow dairy,” Elena said. “Our cows don’t eat any grains.”


Every 12 hours, the herd is moved to a fresh section of pasture on the Johnston’s 70-acre farm.

The cattle forage on grasses and forbs of: clover, kale, chicory, dandelion, plantain, peas, vetch, and chickweed.


“We're trying to get a variety of species because they all have medicinal purposes,” Elena said. “They’re really good for the soil and it's good for the cows.”


Rose Valley Creamery cows’ diet is supplemented with certified organic or non-GMO hay, and no hormones are used on the dairy.


“Their diet and stress levels makes a huge difference,” Elena said. “So, the funny thing about that is as our cows have gotten healthier, they also live longer. Then, we have a whole bunch of old cows that have geriatric problems. It’s stuff that we've never had to deal with before, like arthritis.”


The oldest cow on the farm is 16 years old.


“My dad and grandpa had this way of thinking for farming,” Devin said. “I mean, we like our cows. Why wouldn't we want them to live as long as they possibly can?”

The cows diet is not the only thing the couple pays attention to when it comes to the herd’s health.


Twice a day cows are brought in for milking. Elena does the milking, while Devin feeds them. Between the two sessions, 80-90 gallons of milk are collected.


“We were updating the parlor and saw an article in a dairy magazine about lameness,” Elena recalled. “It said that the more a cow turns on a cement surface, an increase is seen in lameness in the herd.”


The Johnstons reconfigured their parlor to eliminate the number of turns for the cows in the milking process.


“When we built this, we wanted them to come straight in and pretty much straight out,” Elena said. “Literally within a month, we had no more lame cows. It was immediate, which was really interesting. You wouldn't think it would be something that simple.”


After collection, the milk is processed, pasteurized, and bottled all onsite at the farm. Rose Valley Creamery describes their pasteurization process as “low and slow” which helps the milk retain nutrients and enzymes typically lost in high heat or ultra-high heat pasteurization.


“Our quality has always been very high,” Devin said. “If we can provide a high-quality product for people at price they can afford, that makes us happy.”


The milk is “cream top” meaning that it is in the form as it comes from the cow. In each bottle, the cream will float to the top of the container. Shaking gently is suggested prior to consuming.


Rose Valley Creamery sells bottles of whole milk as well as seasonal flavors such as coffee milk, chocolate, and maple spice.  


“We looked at a lot of companies that make mixes for people who want to make [flavored milk],” Elena said. “But, then we looked at the ingredients and it was icky. So, I have a propane stove in the plant and I mix up my own syrups. It’s all homemade.”

Once bottled, the Johnstons distribute the milk themselves. In Tillamook County, Rose Valley Creamery milk is sold at Tillamook Grocery Outlet, Valley Fresh Produce, Fresh Foods Manzanita, Bear Creek Artichokes, and Cape Kiwanda Marketplace. Rose Valley Creamery milk is also served at JAndy Oyster Company. Additional vendor locations can also be found in the Willamette Valley area. Look for the watercolor painting of “Rose” the cow on their label.


“We want to be a small farm and have it make enough money to pay the bills,” Elena said. “We can’t afford to pay to have anybody help us. But, on the other hand, we like having quality control over every single aspect including putting it on the grocery store shelves.”


The Johnstons credit the Tillamook Bay Small Business Development Center for creating a connection to Grocery Outlet that then led to their milk products being carried in additional locations in Seaside, Beaverton, Portland, Dallas, and Independence.


Rose Valley Creamery recently received a Dairy Business Initiative Grant from USDA to purchase butter equipment.


“I've made butter in the kitchen for a long, long time,” Elena said. “But, doing it on a bigger scale could be really different. So, we'll see how it goes.”


For locations of bottled products and more information on Rose Valley Creamery milk, visit their website at


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