Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

The Cornell Dairy has been producing milk, yogurt and ice cream for 140 years, out of four different locations on campus over the years.

February 16, 2020

Ask The Sun: When Did Cornell Start Making Ice Cream?

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Ask The Sun is an explainer series where The Sun answers questions about the Cornell and Ithaca communities. Submit questions here.

Q: When did Cornell start making ice cream?

A: In 1880, Cornell began producing ice cream, yogurt and dairy out of a dairy plant in what is now Bailey Hall.

Shortly after its founding, Cornell Dairy moved around campus, according to a brochure found in the University archives. Dairy operations moved to Goldwin Smith Hall in 1893, then to East Roberts Hall — the site which now hosts the Kennedy Roberts complex — for a brief period in 1923 and finally to Stocking Hall in 1923 its home for nearly a century.

In the early 20th century, 3,500 gallons of milk — which local farmers would purchase—would be ready for packaging each day.

At the Cornell Dairy Bar in 1928, customers had two flavor options: white, with no added flavor, or a chocolate mix. The ice cream would be soft serve, and was run through a fruit feeder, a machine that adds nuts, chocolate chips or fruit pieces to the mixture. Having added the toppings, the ice cream is then frozen at -30 degrees Fahrenheit and transferred to a storage freezer at -10 degrees. 

From Monday to Friday, Cornell Dairy’s refrigerated truck left between 4 and 5 a.m., and would deliver products to Cornell Dining, campus vending machines, the Statler Hotel, fraternities and sororities in the 1920s, according to the brochure. 

One of the Dairy Store’s main uses was to provide students taking poultry dairy courses in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences a way to distribute their creations. 

Food science students facilitated milk production, and students from poultry sciences were at the helm of eggs production.

Prof. James Rice, poultry, sought to recruit students to the poultry program, according to the book Education and Agriculture: A History of the New York State College of Agriculture at Cornell University. 

Nearly 140 years later, the Department of Food Science is now in charge of Cornell Dairy, as it is responsible for creating its ice cream, milk and yogurt. The milk for Cornell’s current dairy products are produced by the University’s herd of 800 dairy cows. Cornell Dairy now boasts 19 ice cream flavors along with seasonal flavors.