Bandon Cheese History
A special thanks to our friends at the Bandon Historical Society who have researched and preserved the history of the city of Bandon and the past it has had in the cheesemaking industry.
The photo below and further details can be viewed at the Bandon Museum, located just south of Face Rock Creamery on Highway 101.
BANDON CHEESEMAKING HISTORY
Bandon Oregon has cheese in its DNA, and has been home to cheese making since the 1800’s. During the 1880’s there were 10 large cheese makers in the area, and many more small Farmstead producers. In 1914, the first of two major Bandon, Oregon fires burned down much of the town’s architecture. Loving Bandon, many people stayed and rebuilt the town, cheese making also continued as a large and expected aspect of the community. Cheese making in Bandon has extensively followed the hand-made artisan style of cheese making.
In 1936, another fire, sadly excited by the gorse, brought to the area by some of the original pioneers, burned the town of Bandon again. Gorse is an intense “briar-ed” bush that holds an exuberant amount of oil. The flames from gorse fires are extremely hot and hard to extinguish.
After the last “town fire” of ’36 cheese making again was restarted. This time around, only one cheese maker rebuilt, and the cheese making building was erected along what is now hwy 101 and set next to 3rd street. Through the years, the building was added onto and became known as the Bandon Cheese Factory. Both residents and visitors alike toured the factory regularly and took advantage of the hand-made artisan style of making cheese.
In the year 2000, another, but larger, cheese maker purchased the Bandon Cheese Factory and within just a short time, shut the factory down and demolished the building and left the site as an eyesore at the north entrance to the town of Bandon. This was a sad and upsetting day to Bandon residents and tourists alike. Many people today still ask: “Where is the cheese factory?” “What happened to the cheese factory?” Or, “Why in the world did that happen?”…when being told that the cheese factory in Bandon was torn down.
WHY CHEESE IN BANDON?
Great cheese begins with great milk. Bandon is located on the Southern Oregon Coast, in the “Banana Belt” of Oregon, which provides a warm and temperate climate all year round. This is great weather for growing grass, and raising cows! Just inland to the East of Bandon is the lush and fertile Coquille River Valley. This valley has been producing milk for hundreds of years and has been recognized by many experts as some of the richest dairy land in the Country. The Valley is defined by the meandering Coquille River, which moves slowly through the valley, depositing minerals and nutrients in the soil. It is this river that gives the Valley its unique character and terroir. Terroir is used to describe the flavor of a particular land, area, and climate, unique to itself. According to our cheesemaker Brad Sinko, who has been making cheese in the area for over 20 years, milk and thus cheese from the Coquille area has a unique taste, and is instantly distinguishable flavor, making it recognizable among all other dairy areas.
Bandon is located at the mouth of the Coquille River, where the nutrient rich water terminates into the Pacific Ocean. Before roads, boats would carry milk from the valley out to Bandon for processing. Once the cheese was made and aged, it was then sent all around the country from of the Port of Bandon. Roads are now in place, and trucks have replaced boats, but the same basic milk and cheese system continues to flourish with Face Rock Creamery.