Utah State University is a school built on traditions.
From True Aggie Night to the annual Day on the Quad or from sledding down Old Main to singing “The Scotsman,” today’s USU students benefit from the Aggie Family that came before them.
No tradition is more delicious than a stop at the Aggie Creamery for a cup of famous Aggie Ice Cream. With 52,000 gallons of ice cream produced and sold every year, Aggie Ice Cream has become one of the most iconic symbols of USU.
When the Utah Agricultural College, or UAC, was established in 1888, emphasis was put on crops and other forms of agriculture because there weren’t fridges to keep dairy products cold. As technology advanced, however, the potential for the dairy industry increased.
Aggie Ice Cream became a staple of the Logan campus in 1921, when the dairy department of the UAC hired Gustav Wilster, an Australian professor. When Wilster arrived on campus, he envisioned making famous ice cream in Utah and teaching students how to make it, too.
While there had been a creamery in the basement of Old Main prior to Wilster’s arrival, it had not been used for ice cream and had not been a focus of the college with the onset of World War I. After the war, the college invested in new equipment to allow for a greater focus on dairy production.
Wilster soon began to teach classes on ice cream production and experiment with different flavors and recipes. In the summer of 1922, the ice cream, milk and cheese produced by Wilster and his students were fed to about 2,500 people who camped out on campus for an annual Farmer’s Encampment. Flavors of ice cream included chocolate, vanilla and raspberry.
Wilster’s influence grew from there. Many of the students who graduated from USU’s dairy program started successful creameries throughout the state, including Casper’s Ice Cream and Farr’s Ice Cream.
The Creamery Today
After Aggie Ice Cream was sold in the Animal Science Building on the Quad for many years, the Aggie Creamery and retail location were moved in 1975 to the newly built Nutrition and Food Sciences Building, where the creamery remains today.
Dave Irish began working as the creamery manager in March 2017. He obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from USU and had been working as a research scientist prior to his current position. As manager, he sees the effect the Aggie Creamery has had on the state.
“Everybody who makes ice cream in the state of Utah learned it from us,” Irish said.
The operation has grown over the years, but its goals remain the same: to make famous ice cream and to provide a research facility for the students and faculty of USU. The creamery operates within the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, or CAAS, and works with the college to provide deeper learning to its students.
“The creamery provides our students with invaluable opportunities for hands-on experience in dairy processing that gives them a significant advantage over other students when competing for jobs following graduation,” Ken White, dean of CAAS, said in an email.
Among the creamery’s 23 regular flavors, Aggie Blue Mint is the customer favorite.
“It is by far the most popular flavor. It is 20% of everything we make,” Irish said.
Other popular flavors include Cookie Dough, Cookies and Cream, Vanilla, True Aggie Night, Salted Caramel, and Aggie Bull Tracks. Flavors like Peppermint Bark, Centennial, and Aggie Birthday Cake are also rotated through the selection as the seasons change.
With the parlor recently renovated, students continue to serve Aggie Ice Cream to crowds of people every year.
Sidney Downs, a history major, has been working at the creamery since April. Her favorite flavors are Salted Caramel or Pumpkin Spice. She didn’t think she’d end up scooping ice cream for work, but she needed another job and found it through Aggie Handshake.
“I love working here. I love our waffle cones. They’re so good, and obviously, the ice cream is delicious,” she said.
For many Aggies, ice cream has become a family tradition. Aubrynn Sloat, a senior majoring in history, has been visiting the creamery since she was a child.
“I would go on dates with my dad and we would always get chocolate chip cookie dough milkshakes, so that’s always been my favorite flavor,” Sloat said.
While Aggie Ice Cream can be found at retail locations as far away as Payson, Utah; Park City, Utah; or Island Park, Idaho, the creamery also ships online orders around the world. According to Irish, they recently sent a shipment of ice cream over 5,000 miles away to Switzerland.
How It’s Made
All of the milk used to create Aggie Ice Cream comes from the Caine Dairy Teaching and Research Center in Wellsville, Utah, in the south end of Cache Valley. As one of the leading dairy research centers in the country, the farm hosts a herd of 120 cattle for students and faculty to use for research.
According to Irish, each cow creates about 8 gallons of milk per day, so the Caine Dairy produces roughly 900-950 gallons of milk every day. Because of the close relationship between the creamery and the dairy, the creamery can make requests for how much milk they need every week, and the milk is delivered via truck.
The milk is then transferred to a holding tank inside the creamery, where it waits until workers need it for things like ice cream, cheese or chocolate milk.
When the time comes to make ice cream, the milk passes through a network of metal pipes to a processing tank. In this tank, milk, sugar, cream and other ingredients are combined to create an ice cream mix.
The concoction is then sent through another maze of pipes to be homogenized, pasteurized and aged.
After the aging process is complete, the magic happens: flavors like vanilla or cheesecake are added to the mix. As the ice cream begins to freeze, workers add inclusions like nuts or cookie dough bits.
Because ice cream doesn’t freeze until it’s under 23 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s kept in a freezer that stays around 17 degrees below zero, which Irish compared to a Logan winter.
When it’s almost time for the ice cream to be served, it’s moved into another freezer that is around 5 degrees Fahrenheit, which, according to Irish, is the perfect serving temperature for ice cream.
The dairy and creamery also produce and distribute the milk available at on-campus dining locations like The Junction and The Marketplace.
Another product the Aggie Creamery makes is cheese. While the 5,000-6,000 pounds of cheese produced every year pales when compared to the amount of ice cream produced, having the equipment to make cheese allows professors, students and companies to perform research with cheese and make test batches.
What’s in the Future
2021 will be the centennial year for Aggie Ice Cream. Irish is working with the university to host a celebration of 100 years of ice cream in Utah. He hopes to include companies like Casper’s Ice Cream for the event to show the reach of Wilster’s dream of making famous ice cream and teaching others to do it. Irish also plans to revive some flavors from the past for the centennial.
“We’ll do some older ones like Rum Raisin and Cherry Vanilla, which was popular in the ’50s and ’60s,” Irish said.
With its long history, Aggie Ice Cream continues to be an essential part of the USU experience, serving students, researchers and happy customers along the way.