Carl Hollifield came to NC State from Asheville in 1997 to study agricultural business management, earning his degree in 2001. Twenty years after his arrival, he’s now one of the staff members responsible for bringing Howling Cow to ice cream lovers at NC State and around the greater Triangle area.
We sat down with Hollifield to discuss all things Howling Cow, and to learn a little more about the two decades he’s spent on campus.
How did you get to NC State, and what do you do here?
I grew up in Asheville, went to high school in Buncombe County, and got accepted to NC State in 1997. I completed an agricultural business management degree with a minor in economics, and graduated in 2001.
I started working at NC State in 2003 as an accounting clerk working in the dairy applying invoices and the position transitioned into more of an accounting or business manager. My current boss, Gary Cartwright, director of Dairy Enterprise Systems wanted me to help grow the business of NC State Milk and Ice Cream, which we branded as Howling Cow in 2008. Today, I am assistant director of business operations for Howling Cow, and I am the assistant director of the Southeast Dairy Foods Research Center, where I also manage contracts and grants.
How did Howling Cow come to be distributed at NC State?
We went to the North Carolina legislature to get an exemption to the Umstead Act to sell Howling Cow to the public on campus. Without an exemption the only places we could sell to were other state agencies.
University Dining started selling ice cream at the Emporium at Talley Student Union. I then worked closely with University Dining and the NCSU Libraries to put in the ice cream store at D.H. Hill Library. In 2009, we decided we wanted to have control over our whole milk supply. So we asked our dean to give us operational and managerial control over the dairy farmout on Lake Wheeler Road, which has about 300 animals. That was when we started calling it the Dairy Enterprise System.
How is Howling Cow involved in teaching, research and extension at NC State?
The Dairy Enterprise System is dairy education, outreach and research from the farm all the way through to processing to the sale of milk and ice cream. We work very closely with the College of Veterinary Medicine out at the farm, and the animal science and crop science departments engage in teaching and research there. The milk from the farm comes here to Schaub Hall and to the dairy processing facility where we work very closely with faculty within our department – Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences – on dairy science projects and to teach students about dairy processing and dairy nutrition.
Our outreach includes the sale of the milk and ice cream products to our campus community. Currently, we have milk and ice cream in the Common Grounds at Hunt Library, a beautiful store at Talley Market, and in D.H. Hill Library, and those are all run by University Dining or Campus Enterprises. We also supply the dining halls and when you go to get milk, you see a magnet on the milk dispenser that says “Our Cows. Our Milk. NC State Howling Cow.”
How does Howling Cow support student success at NC State?
We’re working with students every day on every aspect of Howling Cow. On the farm, we have six full-time employees and employ 20 students. They’re learning everything from how we manage cattle feed, health and welfare, all the way through the milking systems and where we process the milk. Two or three animal science classes are taught on the farm every week. There are also students from the College of Veterinary Medicine that are working with our animals once a week.
At our processing plant, we work with food science faculty. We have the very large Southeast Dairy Foods Research Center, which runs out of Schaub Hall, that I administer and MaryAnne Drake directs. Various industry groups can come and conduct dairy research here. Six students work at the dairy processing plant and they’re learning about the way dairy products are processed, and how we make and package milk and ice cream.
What is next on the horizon for Howling Cow?
We’re working on a $1 million facility on NC State’s Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratory that will focus on dairy education, biosecurity education and agritourism. This will be a great teaching tool where people can see how ice cream and milk are made, and the science behind that. The public can stop in and buy some milk and ice cream, walk out the back door and take a tour of our farm and see cows getting milked, and then hear from a student who can tell them about what happens on a dairy farm. We think it is really important to have that outreach to the community. We just had the groundbreaking and would like to see the facility ready sometime in late summer/early fall 2019.
There are also a few new Howling Cow flavors in the works. We’re testing a Key Lime pie and a vanilla cinnamon right now. We’re also in the process of updating our coffee ice cream.
What is your favorite Howling Cow flavor?
Chocolate peanut butter. When I was a student, the Ben & Jerry’s opened across the street from Meredith College, and they had a chocolate peanut butter that was really good. When I started working here, I realized we didn’t have one. But we have a fantastic peanut research group in this department.
I reached out to our peanut researchers and they put me in touch with a peanut processor in Edenton, North Carolina — Jimbo’s Jumbos. They grow jumbo peanuts, and make a peanut butter that’s delicious. I bought some and we tested it in our ice cream, and it tasted great. I’m proud that our chocolate peanut butter ice cream is a local product, and it was the first flavor that I started when I got here.
What is something that people may not know about Howling Cow or dairy at NC State?
NC State pasteurized the first milk in North Carolina in 1918, and this is our 100-year anniversary of pasteurizing milk. That was done in Patterson Hall, which is one of the original buildings on campus. The first NC State dairy farm was on the property where Reynolds Coliseum is now. We have a strong dairy history here and I hope that Howling Cow is continuing to promote dairy within North Carolina.
What is your favorite NC State memory?
My favorite NC State memory was when we used to camp out for basketball tickets at Reynolds Coliseum. I’ll never forget camping out for Carolina basketball tickets in front of Reynolds Coliseum, and Herb Sendek bought pizza for all the students that were there. It was also one of the last times that NC State played Carolina in Reynolds Coliseum.
I’ve been at NC State since 1997, and this really is a dream job. I get to come in every day for work at the university, get to make ice cream, and interact with students, faculty and staff. It could not be a better job for me and it is why I have been in the position for 15 years.