Iowa State University Creamery history in a timeline

Our long tradition started in 1880 with Iowa State University's first Dairy Lab. From 1927 to 1969, the Iowa State Creamery provided students with hands-on, farm-to-table dairy production experience. Today, we’re picking up where we left off.

Researched and written by Jack S. Myers

1800s

  • 1858    Iowa State College founded as a State Agricultural College and Model Farm
  • 1862    Congress passed the Morrill Act, establishing agricultural-based Land Grant Institutions.
  • 1865    Campus’s first dairy barn constructed sometime following the close of the Civil War. It was the need for fresh milk on-campus that initiated the purchase of dairy cattle.
  • 1880    Seaman Knapp began teaching the first course in dairying.
  • 1881    The first creamery was constructed on campus in 1881 and it was where the Food Sciences Building presently resides. The building was in close proximity to the Farm House, near where cattle were housed on campus. A wood structure, the first creamery was very small and was probably only designed to handle fluid milk, along with a few value-added dairy products, most likely butter.
  • 1892    A new, larger creamery is built and the original creamery became the farm manager’s residence. The new creamery was located just to the south where East Hall now sits and was also completely constructed of wood. The new creamery subsequently led to the establishment of a four-year dairy program.

1900s

  • 1905    A third, even larger creamery is built with the capacity to train students in market milk handling, butter manufacturing, ice cream manufacturing, and cheese making, and to house administrative offices and research facilities. This building has since been renamed East Hall.
  • 1909    Martin Mortensen became head of the Dairy Department, starting what Dr. Earl Hammond, late chair of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, would later call, “The Golden Age of Dairying at Iowa State.”
  • 1906    Iowa State enacted an agricultural extension program
  • 1912    Congress passes the Smith-Lever Act, establishing agricultural extension programs.
  • 1926    The Iowa State Legislature funds new dairy building on campus to accommodate the increasing enrollment. 
  • 1927   The new dairy building cornerstone is laid in a ceremony on November 29 (it can still be seen at the northwest corner of the Food Sciences Building on Farm House Lane).
  • 1928    The new building is dedicated on November 14, 1928. With space for manufacturing butter, handling market milk, making cheese, condensing milk, drying milk, testing dairy products, cold storage, and space for chemical and bacterial analysis of dairy products. The new campus creamery was named Dairy Industry, to mirror that of the department’s name, a name which the present-day Food Science Building still bears on the front facade. Additionally, the building contained manufacturing laboratories that served both for teaching and as a commercial creamery. The commercial operations created a convenient source of funds for the department. Everything produced was sold, and students learned by working in these laboratories.
  • 1928    Creamery operations and dairy processing classes on campus were organized into the Dairy Industry Department. Iowa State College was noted as having the finest butter in all of the state of Iowa. Furthermore, Iowa State’s Dairy Judging Team, as it was called then, won the National Dairy Products Evaluation Contest from 1924-1928. Only one other team, South Dakota State University, has won the national contest this many times in a row. The dairy products judging team would also go on to win in 1931, 1939, 1940, 1948, and 1950. With the completion of the Dairy Industry building, the department grew tremendously and was quite esteemed among other dairy programs around the country.
  • 1937    Professor Bernard Wernick Hammer and graduate student C. B. Lane develop the Lane-Hammer process for making blue cheese with homogenized milk. Enrollment waned through the Great Depression and World War II, Enrollment increased across campus after WWII, in particular in the Dairy Industry Department, after many of the veterans on the G. I. Bill left, enrollment steadily diminished and many faculty members also began to leave.
  • 1968    The Dairy Industry Department changed its name to the Department of Food and Dairy Technology
  • 1969    The Iowa State Creamery closes. Dramatic changes in the dairy processing industry heightened challenges for small-scale dairy businesses.

2000s

  • 2008    Iowa State University Sesquicentennial. The Dairy Science Club made a special flavor in honor of the celebration: a vanilla base, with cake batter and red and yellow sprinkles added to the mix. The Dairy Science Club presently sells ice cream as its primary fundraiser in Kildee Hall every Wednesday during the fall and spring semesters.
  • 2009    After several decades without a dedicated dairy food scientist in the department, in 2009, the Food Science and Human Nutrition department hired Dr. Stephanie Clark, who earned a B.S. in Animal Science, and M.S. and Ph.D. in Food Science from Cornell University prior to teaching at Washington State University. Dr. Clark immediately re-established the Dairy Products Evaluation Team, teaching dairy food science courses, and conducting dairy research.
  • 2020    After a 50-year hiatus, Dr. Clark re-established the Iowa State University Creamery. In addition to offering hands-on training to students and short courses to entrepreneurs, the ISU Creamery makes ice cream from scratch and will produce cheese for sale in their retail shop, located in the former Dairy Industry building.

Iowa State University’s history in dairying extends far beyond the campus in Ames, with active Extension programs meeting the needs of farmers and processors, and alumni of production and manufacturing serving in all fifty states and throughout the world. With the volatility of dairy prices, questions about the sustainability of the dairy industry in the U.S. and globally, it is uncertain what the future may hold. However, with Iowa State University dairy scientists’ commitment to build upon the scientific knowledge and achievements made in the past and continue to demand sound research and communication, dairying shall prevail.  For generations, the teaching, research, Extension, and outreach conducted in both the Animal Science and Food Science and Human Nutrition Departments have helped shape the dairy industry for farmers, dairy processors, consumers, and will do so for generations to come.

1923 class in the creamery
1923 Class in Creamery
1933 - Making cheese
Making cheese in 1933
1934 - Selling cheese
1941 - Serving ice cream
1940 - Serving ice cream
1948 - Packaging ice cream
1948 - Students packaging ice cream