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History of the Creamery

Penn State has been recognized for its amazing students, incredible academics, accomplished alumni, and one of its biggest claims to fame, ice cream. When Penn Staters visit and revisit the University Park campus, they have many stops to make, including one to the Berkey Creamery.

The Berkey Creamery and Penn State’s dairy program is a part of the College of Agricultural Sciences that focuses on the processing of fluid milk and the manufacturing of other dairy products.

In an average year, the Creamery produces approximately 225,000 gallons of ice cream, frozen sherbet, and yogurt in addition to dishing out 750,000 hand-dipped ice cream cones. Check out how this incredible campus treasure has come to be:

  • 1865: The first Creamery was established in the “college barns” located behind present day Old Main, which also included a blacksmith shop and a hayloft.
  • 1889: The Creamery was built as part of Dean Henry Prentiss Armsby’s attempt to improve the dairy program by upgrading the college’s instruction and research in dairying and also served as a bulletin for dairy farmers.
  • 1889: Dairy short courses which later became the ice cream short course began and became so popular that the herds could not keep up with the milk demand needed to teach the course. This may have been the case because Pennsylvania’s number one agricultural commodity is dairy products.
  • 1892: Penn State began to offer the first college-level instruction in ice cream manufacturing.
  • 1904: The Creamery was obtaining cream and milk from 100 different farms in the county to keep up with the demand of dairy products.
  • 1932: The Creamery moved twice by this time. The second time resulting in its current location across from Borland Laboratory.
  • 1961: The salesroom was added where cheese, milk, yogurt, hand-dipped, and packaged ice cream are sold.
  • 2004: Penn State Board of Trustees approved the plan for a new Food Science building housing the new Berkey Creamery, named for the generosity of Jeanne and Earl Berkey who started the ice cream instruction course. The building contains laboratories, classrooms, offices, and pilot-scale processing facilities. In addition, outdoor seating and a new salesroom and café were built.

Famous Visitors

Over the years, the Creamery has had many famous celebrities, politicians, television networks, and publications drop by for a visit. National Geographic, People Magazine, Food Network, and ESPN have all come by to name just a few. Celebrities and politicians who have visited include Mr. Rogers, Maratha Stewart, Bob Costas, and Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was actually the first and only Creamery visitor to receive two flavors on the same cone!

The Nittany Lion enjoys some ice cream at the Berkey Creamery.
The Nittany Lion enjoys some ice cream at the Berkey Creamery.

In addition to famous visitors, various ice cream manufacturers representing some of the most well-known ice cream brands have come to take the course including Ben and Jerry’s, Colombo, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Haagen-Dazs, Baskin-Robbins, and countless others.

Stay tuned for a post on the process of how ice cream at the Berkey Creamery is made. Can’t wait until then? Take a look at Penn State historian Lee Stout’s book, Ice Cream U: The Story of the Nation’s Most Successful Collegiate Creamery.