Dean Tom Vogelmann of the University of Vermont’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) has spent quite a bit of time traveling around the state. Frequently, alumni and other community members would ask if the university might ever reopen its popular dairy bar. The beloved on-campus snack bar served ice cream made by the dairy science program using milk from the school’s educational dairy herd before it ended its long run in 1995.
This fall, the dean can finally answer in the affirmative with the rebirth of a version of the campus dairy bar, which is now scooping up fresh-churned flavors like maple cream and fudgy Catamount Tracks ice cream made with milk from the student-run dairy herd just down the road. UVM’s well-regarded CREAM (Cooperative for Real Education in Agricultural Management) program enrolls about 30 students annually and is a member of the co-op that owns Cabot. The co-op’s flexibility and support were instrumental in helping the university dining system get this very local ice cream back on the menu, says Kate Finley Woodruff, associate dean of CALS.
Among UVM’s many alumni with fond memories of sweet study breaks at the old dairy bar is Melissa Zelazny, now director of UVM dining. Within their broader goals to procure as much food sustainably and locally as possible, Zelazny and her team have been working closely with CALS to maximize buying from UVM’s own agricultural operations, such as sourcing syrup from the Proctor maple research center and vegetables from the university’s Catamount Farm. “This was the next logical step,” Zelazny says. “Alumni, students and everyone on campus had an overwhelming positive and excited response”
The effort has required coordination of several different steps involving local processing and distribution partners, explains Finley Woodruff. In a fun and historic twist, the ice cream flavors are blended at Wilcox Dairy in Arlington, Vermont. Howard Wilcox, an animal science graduate of UVM, actually worked in the dairy lab making ice cream back in the 1960s. “Wilcox purchased some of the original equipment when the lab closed,” Finley Woodruff says with a big smile, “and it’s now making our ice cream again.”
But without the CREAM dairy herd, the whole project would likely not have happened and the student-farmers take great pleasure and pride in the new dairy bar. Wearing UVM dairy bar t-shirts, Alex Fischer, a junior from Long Island, and Leslie Rivers, a junior from Virginia, explain that the CREAM program was a major draw for them in their decision to attend UVM. “Our cows are our lives,” says Alex. “We spend as much time in the barn as on campus.”
The two-semester commitment to the CREAM program is significant. Fifteen students work together during the school year, and another 15 are involved each summer. This cohort runs the dairy herd of about 40 milking cows under the supervision of Professor Norman Purdie and herd manager, Matt Bodette. This involves getting up at 3 am at least one morning a week to do the first milking, class two mornings a week, student-run meetings two evenings a week and eight to nine other specific weekly responsibilities including daily chores and learning about veterinary care, nutrition, breeding and business analysis.
Beyond the subject-specific learning, the young women point to broader additional benefits. “There are 14 other people who have equal status and we all may not necessarily agree. We are really learning to work with other people,” says Leslie. “You learn that all of your decisions have an impact and that everything impacts something else,” adds Alex.
With that depth of investment, it is no surprise that the students are gratified that their friends and classmates can now enjoy the end-product of all their hard work. “People get to see what we do,” Leslie explains. “Like my boyfriend says, it’s so cool that we milk the cows just down the street and then it’s here in the ice cream.”
“It’s just really nice to have something tangible, something we can share with everyone on campus,” says Alex. “And the alums are just so excited. We get to connect with history.” Pointing over to the list of ice cream flavors, Leslie says, “We even have a Melody mint chip flavor named after a cow in the herd who is descended from the original line of cows back in the 1930s. People can come to the barn and meet her.”
In addition to the University of Vermont’s CREAM Program being a longtime member of Cabot Creamery Co-operative, UVM has been an outstanding partner on many projects. Earlier this year, Cabot & UVM partnered to create an End of Life Doula Professional Certificate Program. Cabot has worked with the University to support Community Development, including developing a Cabot Marketing Class where local businesses compete for marketing planning, support and funding. Cabot has also been a strong supporter of the Sustainable Innovation MBA (SEMBA) program, one of the premier Sustainability MBA programs in the World. In 2015, a brick from the original Carrigan Dairy Science Center building was awarded to Cabot for outstanding partnership in education. UVM has been an incredible partner to Cabot, resource to our farm families and source of community pride. We’re looking forward to many productive and delicious years of partnership ahead!
The UVM Dairy Bar not only offers ice cream but also smoothies, many of them made with Cabot Greek yogurt with the option of a Cabot whey protein boost. The maple-blueberry features maple from the university’s own research farm and (shhhh….) kale, too. “Chocolate-covered Strawberry” made with cocoa powder is an indulgent-sounding, healthy choice.
Smoothies are a great, quick breakfast or on-the-go power snack. Check out some of our favorite combinations.
Melissa Pasanen is an award-winning Vermont-based journalist and cookbook author with a focus on food, farming, and sustainability. She was the writer for The Cabot Creamery Cookbook (Oxmoor House, 2015).