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onCampus--Ohio State's faculty/staff news

Vol. 38, No. 18

By: Adam King

Ag campus home to tasty treasure

The Parker Dairy Store’s beginnings in ice cream are still front and center for patrons to see.
There’s nothing tastier on campus than what’s being served at the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Since 2001, with the simultaneous opening of the Parker Dairy Store and the Parker Food Science and Technology Building near Woody Hayes and John Herrick drives, the university has continued its tradition of selling ice cream.

The ice cream sold at Parker Dairy Store is not made by Ohio State students, but it may be in the near future. Smith Dairy now provides the ice cream, and, of course, the store carries Drumsticks — the cone confection that two Ohio State scientists helped improve.

As part of the university’s agriculture curriculum, OSU built a dairy plant in the first half of the 20th century that included a creamery, allowing students and faculty to make ice cream on campus.

The creamery first opened as part of the Department of Dairy Technology in the basement of Townsend Hall and later moved to the Vivian Hall basement in 1951. OSU opened a store on the first floor and sold its own prepackaged ice cream. The retail aspect shut down in 1976, but ice cream-making equipment is still used in classrooms on the agriculture campus.

“The students eat what they make in class and give it to the staff,” said Julie Townsend, an administrative assistant in FAES. “Amazingly, we still find a way to lose weight over here.”

Tom Parker, the chairman and president of Big Drum Inc., approached OSU in the late 1970s for help in finding a way to keep the sugar cone his family first began manufacturing in 1928 from becoming soggy due to the ice cream. He first asked commercial researchers in Columbus, but they wanted to charge him more than he was willing to pay. Faculty John Lindamood and Paul Hansen decided to help for free and came up with the idea to coat the inside of the cone with chocolate.

That’s still the process today, and in appreciation Parker gave a $3 million donation so the university could build the two buildings that now bear his name.

Those in the college are hopeful the store will return to its made-from-scratch roots.

“I’d like to see it grow into something where we can use it as a means to make products and actually give commercial training to students and provide a truly Ohio State product,” said Jim Harper, professor and holder of the J.T. Parker Chair in Dairy Foods.

To put OSU-made ice cream back on the menu, however, FAES will have to secure funds to purchase a $45,000 commercial milk pasteurizer.

“We were hoping someone would donate it,” said Denise Smith, chair of the Department of Food Science and Technology. “It would be very exciting to our majors to see a product they made available across campus and then hopefully someday they could come back as alumni and stop in and tell their children, ‘Hey, I used to make this product.’”

The store has expanded its menu as patrons suggest new things to include pizza, salads, soups, yogurt and hot dogs.

Up to 100 people from FAES and veterinary medicine make the Parker Dairy Store their food destination daily, and that has turned it into a bona fide place to network.

“You will often see faculty, department chairs and deans all come over for lunch,” said Smith. “It’s a good meeting area that’s very convenient.”

And yet, those in the OSU community can spend years on campus and not know the store, which recently became a WiFi hotspot, is there. Its hours of operation are short, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., and the store only accepts cash.

It’s a breakeven operation to fund the salaries of the student employees. Any extra money goes to improve tables, chairs and equipment and to paint the lobby.

“We really just serve the community because our faculty, staff and students don’t have eating options on the ag campus,” Townsend said. “We keep them from having to leave.”

Hidden Treasures” appears periodically to spotlight unique and maybe unknown areas at the university. Suggestions are welcome. Contact Associate Editor Adam King at 292-8419 or king.1088@osu.edu.

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