It’s the last stop on the Kansas State University campus tour for potential students and their parents, athletic recruits from out of state and elementary school field trips. A sweet treat at the Call Hall Dairy Bar is arguably the best way to cap a visit to the K-State campus at Manhattan, Kan.
SCOOPS TO YOU: The most popular flavor of Call Hall ice cream, by far, is Purple Pride. It’s a true blueberry flavor developed specifically to feature the dairy goodness of the university’s milk.
But even more delicious than the treats, is the learning experience the Dairy Bar provides to students, says John Kessler, operations manager for Call Hall Dairy Bar and Call Hall at the Student Union for the KSU Department of Animal Sciences and Industry.
Pasture to cone
K-State students have been selling dairy products as a fundraiser since 1901. Sales were so strong that by 1923, the Department of Animal Science had organized a dairy outlet, according to the Kansas State Historical Society.
When Call Hall was built in 1964, a 9,600-square-foot, state-inspected, modern dairy processing plant was included for teaching, and for Research and Extension. It’s just on the other side of the wall from the Dairy Bar. The production plant processes the raw milk from the university’s dairy herd into pasteurized fluid milk, cheese, butter and ice cream — not only for Dairy Bar customers, but also for the dining halls on campus and the sports venues. The plant can manufacture new products and study ingredient functionality, and it has a lab for quality-testing raw ingredients and finished products.
TAKE HOME: If you live locally, it’s easy to stop by the Call Hall Dairy Bar, or one of the many Dara’s Corner Market locations in Manhattan, and take a delicious treat home for the family.
The entire production process is housed at K-State, and that’s the secret to the popularity of the dairy products that are sold at the Dairy Bar, Kessler says. You’re tasting the Flint Hills in every scoop.
“What makes Call Hall ice cream the best, we feel, is our supply chain is completely contained within our campus,” he says. “This is the effort and the work of the students in research and development and testing everything that goes into this ice cream. It’s a part of our educational process. Everything is self-contained within a half-mile of our location.”
Each step includes student workers, from milking the university’s herd of several hundred dairy cows, to working in the dairy production plant in Call Hall, to working the sales counter at the Dairy Bar.
Today, the Call Hall Dairy Bar not only sells ice cream by the scoop, but also cheese, milk, eggs, beef, pork and other meat products, all from livestock that have been raised and cared for by K-State students as part of their education. Kessler says profits are put back into the business to help future students, just as they were more than 100 years ago.
“We do a hand-scoop program, where you can get anything from a kid’s scoop all the way up to a quart that we hand-pack,” Kessler says. The production plant can make more than different 50 flavors of ice cream, but not all are in regular production. Some may be trial runs, or seasonal flavors that you can only get a few months out of the year.
MORE DAIRY PRODUCTS: The K-State dairy herd’s milk is also available processed into fluid milk, cheese and butter for sale at the Dairy Bar. Customers can also choose from meat from the university’s teaching herds and eggs from the university flocks.
Call Hall machine-packs 3-gallon service tubs of the most popular flavors for use in food service on campus, and half-gallon containers of their popular flavors for retail sales in the Dairy Bar, at the K-State Union, and at Dara’s Corner Markets locally. Kansas State Fair visitors can buy Call Hall ice cream at the Kansas Dairy Bar in the grandstands during the fair each fall.
But, don’t look for Call Hall ice cream regularly for sale outside of Riley County any time soon.
“We’ve built ourselves as a regional favorite,” Kessler says. “We’ve had a lot of inquiry, even from national distributors, to see if they can offer our products.” Even though the recipes would stay the same, the flavor never quite matches the ice cream that is produced on campus from the campus herd, he says.
“Our most popular flavor at this point in time is Purple Pride, which is a flavor that was designed for our program by the professor who started the program,” Kessler says. “It is a true blueberry flavor, but we call it ‘blueberries and cream.’ The flavor was actually designed to highlight the dairy program, so when you take your first bite, or even a sample, you’ll taste the dairy first, followed by the light blueberry aftertaste.”
The popularity of Call Hall ice cream goes beyond K-State fans and locals.
“Some of my favorite days are actually when KU will come here for a game, whether it be football or basketball, because even those fans make sure they come into our location for ice cream,” Kessler says with a grin. There are summer camps on campus, elementary school tours and adult educational tours that stop by the store for a taste of the university.
“Just last week we had somebody traveling to Kansas City from Colorado, and they called ahead to make sure that we were open,” Kessler says. “They were going to actually plan their trip to stop here while we were open so they could carry ice cream to Kansas City with them.”
To check on hours of operation for your family’s next treat stop, visit the Call Hall Dairy Bar webpage. Call Hall Dairy Bar webpage.