Farr Better Ice Cream
Celebrates a Century of Deliciousness!

Including History of The Quality Kid

BY MICHAEL D. FARR

Asael Farr & Sons Company

Celebrates 100 Years in Business

March 25, 2020

Asael Farr was born on October 17, 1866, just 18 months after the Civil War ended. He was one of 39 children of Lorin Farr: Ogden City’s founder and first mayor. Lorin established numerous businesses vital to encouraging successful settlement in frontier days, including building and operating the first lumber mill, woolen mill and flour mill in northern Utah.

Adjacent to each of Lorin’s mills, were mill ponds feed with water from the Ogden River. Lorin harvested ice from the mill ponds during wintertime using special saws for cutting ice blocks from pond tops. The ice blocks were then transported via horse drawn sled and stored in a sawdust insulated warehouse. Later, in the Spring. Summer and Autumn the ice blocks were sold for refrigeration.

Naturally harvested ice provided critically needed refrigeration to preserve food in an era before commercial refrigeration. Helping with the ice harvesting in wintertime and playing around the icehouse in the summertime were among Asael’s favorite diversions as a boy. In 1891, at age 24, together with his older brothers Valesco and David as partners. they created the Farr Ice Company and quickly became successful as a substantial supplier in the large and dynamic harvested ice industry of the day. The brothers secured a contract with the Earl Fruit Company of California, which at the time was the nation’s largest shipper of fresh fruits and vegetables. The Farr brothers had learned the Earl Fruit Company was actively seeking a supplier of ice located between the west coast and Omaha, with rail lines conveniently located to the ice supply. Asael and his brothers secured facilities consisting of three icehouses which could store up to 3,000 tons, or six million pounds of ice. The ice was transported by horse drawn wagons from the icehouses to the Ogden railyards. In their first year of operations the brothers shipped five million pounds of ice. In their second year, business increased to require eight million pounds of harvested, natural ice.

Asael and his brothers found economic success in the ice business. They parlayed their profits into additional businesses in the Ogden area. For his part, Asael obtained substantial acreage in fruit farms, acquired the Ogden Woolen Mills, Ogden Sugar Factory, the Equitable Co-operative Store as well as coal and fuel distribution businesses.

While financially rewarding, the work of harvesting, storing and delivering annually millions of pounds of ice was arduous. Asael’s other businesses did not place nearly the strain upon its owner as did the ice harvesting operations. In 1903 the Earl Fruit Company was acquired by Armour Meat Packing Company who, within a matter of years actively sought suppliers of newly developed, “artificial” or commercially manufactured ice, rather than, “natural” or harvested ice. Asael and his brothers, weary of ice harvesting and not willing to invest in newfangled ice manufacturing equipment, slowly allowed the Farr Ice Company to dwindle in sales and then eventually closed the business so that they might focus on their many other business enterprises.  

Asael and his wife, Jeorgina Julia were blessed with six children from among Lorin’s 296 grandchildren including, Jennie, Lawrence, Ellen, Asael Jr, Dexter and Vern. The boys shared their father’s entrepreneurial spirit and in time joined their father in his various business endeavors.

In 1920, Asael determined to consolidate his many businesses under a single business entity with various divisions that would also involve his sons in a mutual pursuit of success. Asael Jr. and Vern were already involved with the operations of Asael’s coal and fuel distribution businesses. Lawrence had persuaded Asael to invest in a new artificial ice manufacturing plant, which would put the family back in the ice business but, would require no ice harvesting. Lawrence wrote to his brother Dexter who was at the time working as a US Forest Service ranger in Pinedale, Wyoming, building fences and surveying for the US Geologic Survey, and asked if he wouldn’t return home to Ogden and together they would manage the new ice manufacturing operation. Dexter returned from Wyoming and the boys with funding from their father built approximately 2/3rds of the red brick building that still stands today and is widely recognized as Farr Better Ice Cream, located at the corner of 21st Street and Grant Avenue in downtown, Ogden, Utah.

On March 25, 1920 Asael and his children incorporated the family business under the laws of the state of Utah and named the company simply; Asael Farr & Sons Company.

Dexter purchased a new home for his expanding family, moving from a small stucco house on Liberty Avenue to a large, $10,000, all brick, 13 room home featuring a two-car garage on Marilyn Drive in Ogden. In doing so, Dexter realized that Asael Farr & Sons Company would not be able to keep up with the economic demands of six growing families. He decided the best strategy for the family business would be to expand into ice cream manufacturing and retailing. He had discovered that commercial ice plants had a strategic advantage when expanding into ice cream manufacturing. Dexter began lobbying his siblings and father to invest in an ice cream plant. Eventually, his efforts were successful.

In 1929, the components of an ice cream plant were purchased. New construction on the red brick ice plant costing $5,000 added to it, 1/3 of the building as it stands today, which included an ice cream manufacturing plant and ice cream parlor. The new ice cream manufacturing equipment was installed, including two, 10-gallon batch freezers for a total capacity of 20 gallons per hour.

The new ice cream plant began producing vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream flavors and then shortly thereafter six or seven additional fruit and nut flavors were added. A heaping scoop of ice cream was sold for a nickel in an ice cream parlor adjacent to the plant. Word spread quickly about the delicious ice cream available from

the new ice cream plant in downtown Ogden. Crowds began gathering, almost from the parlor’s inception, clamoring for the soon-to-become famous ice cream. Then suddenly, and unexpectedly, just weeks after opening the ice cream operations, on October 24, 1929 the US stock market crashed triggering the 11 year Great Depression.

Discouragement settled upon Ogden, just as it did throughout the country. Yet, timing for Farr’s new ice cream could not have been better. Farr’s Ice Cream provided a cheap and relatively affordable diversion from the gloom of the Great Depression. A mere nickel could raise the spirits of men, women and children as folks grappled with the challenges of life. Although other ice cream shops had opened throughout Ogden, including notably Brown’s and Paramount, customers reasoned that somehow Farr’s Ice Cream was just better than the other brands. So many customers insisted that Farr’s was better, that soon the expression, “Farr Better Ice Cream” was coined and has become a slogan recognized throughout the western United States for almost a century.

The ice cream division of Asael Farr & Sons Company was successful right from its start. With so much demand on him, Dexter needed help in the manufacturing plant. He turned to a close friend and fishing buddy Von Allred, who also happened to have a Dairy Science Degree from Utah State University and recruited him to become the ice cream plant manager. Von eagerly agreed and hired his wife Lola to assist him. Over the next couple of decades, Von and Lola developed over 600 different ice cream flavor recipes, many of which are still used to this day.

The 1930’s, 40’s and even to some extent the 1950’s were a time when ice cream was primarily purchased from ice cream parlors or shops, as the grocery trade was slow to embrace the frozen food industry. During these decades, Farr Better Ice Cream sought to reach the public through a grow- ing number of company owned ice cream shops. A Farr Better Ice Cream Shop opened at the northeast corner of Harrison Boulevard and 24th Street in Ogden. Then a third shop opened at about 38th Street and Washing-ton Boulevard as well as a shop and wholesale depot in the 700 east block of South Temple Street in Salt Lake City.

In 1956, Dexter recruited his son, Dexter Duane, recently graduated from Utah State University, to join the business. Though doing so was not Dexter Duane’s plan he could see that his father was shorthanded and felt as if he could be of some help. Dexter Duane was assigned to work in every position in the ice cream business, except as a pasteurizer as that position required a state license. Dexter Duane was then appointed as Sales Manager for the company. At that time the business had one, 150 gallon per hour continuous ice cream freezer and the two original 10 gallon per hour batch freezers providing a maximum capacity of 170 gallons per hour. In addition to its company owned shops, by 1956 Farr Better Ice Cream was also sold to 139 wholesale customers consisting mostly of grocery stores and restaurants.

Dexter Duane’s affable personality and passion about the family’s brand combined to steadily grow Farr Better Ice Cream. One of the more memorable marketing efforts he orchestrated included an advertising campaign featuring The Quality

Kid. In the 1950’s and 60’s “cowboy westerns” on television and at movie theaters reached their zenith. From Daniel Boone coonskin hats, to The Rifleman’s toy rifles, not only adults, but also children were enamored with wild west heroes. Capitalizing upon the popularity of western cowboy themes, Dexter Duane imagined an ice cream cone comic strip-type character, donning a ten gallon cowboy hat and western bandana, who would espouse the positive features of Farr Better Ice Cream and be affectionately known as The Quality Kid. Such a character, Dexter Duane believed, could become the company spokesperson and be featured not only in the newspapers of the day, but also on posters and signs in grocery stores and billboards along roadways.

Although, Dexter Duane could imagine The Quality Kid, he was not a commercial artist and could not actually bring The Quality Kid to life. So, he turned to a local commercial artist by the name of Burke Mattsson, whom he commissioned to not only create The Quality Kid character, but to also use Dexter Duane’s concepts for advertising messages in newspaper serial ads. Together, Dexter Duane would suggest the content and message of the ad and Burke would draw the delightfully charming and often amusing comic strip type advertisements. These iconic, 1960’s style ads ran in newspapers in northern Utah and southern Idaho including the Ogden Standard Examiner and Idaho State Journal. The Quality Kid, and the insights about the fine qualities of Farr Better Ice Cream which he would share with other characters in his vintage comic strip world, became a unique and well recognized advertising effort further endearing consumers to Farr Better Ice Cream.

Eventually, The Quality Kid’s creator, Burke Mattsson made his way to southern California where he became a Disney artist and worked on such classic Disney movies as The Jungle Book, Thumbelina, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and dozens of additional movies. But, members of the Farr family, who from time-to-time stumble upon old Quality Kid ads in the company’s archives, gently smile as they realize that as great as some Disney classic movies are, they may not have been so great, if not for The Quality Kid and the opportunity it provided for a young, Ogden artist to make good in Hollywood.

In the early 1960’s Dexter Duane replaced his father Dexter, as General Manager of Asael Farr & Sons Company where he continued to lead the company for more than 40 years. Farr Better Ice Cream continued to grow both in terms of volume, or gallons produced, as well as geographic reach as its market area expanded. However, its brand influence remained strongest in northern Utah, southern Idaho and western Wyoming. A truly privately held family business, the Board of Directors consisted of six members, one representative from each of Asael’s six children. While other Farr family members joined and worked in the business from time-to-time, in large measure it was Dexter Duane’s efforts which enabled Farr Better Ice Cream to become a household name and a multi-generational, family legacy business. At the time of his retirement from fulltime service with the business, Farr Better Ice Cream had grown from 170 gallons per hour capacity and 139 wholesale customers, to servicing thousands of wholesale customers and maintaining a plant with daily production capacity of mix making and ice cream freezing exceeding 20,000 gallons daily.

Dexter Duane has three sons; Michael, Darin and Nathan, who each joined the business fulltime in the 1980’s and 90’s following their respective graduations from Weber State University. The brothers each assumed various management rolls and were instrumental in moving the company into a much more aggressive and broadened distribution strategy. Under their influence, Farr Better Ice Cream sought out and obtained multiple distribution agreements with regional and national brands, such as Ben & Jerry’s, Haagen Dazs, Good Humor, Breyers, Well’s Blue Bunny, M& M Mars and many others. Stewardship for these brands required that Farr’s greatly broaden its distribution influence by expanding its distribution area.

Farr Better Ice Cream grew from a predominantly northern Utah and southern Idaho footprint, to enjoying significant market share throughout all of Utah and surrounding states. A greatly expanded distribution area supported by additionally expanded frozen warehouse capacity and products portfolio led to dramatically increased sales for Farr Better Ice Cream Company. By the turn of the century the business had completely outgrown its downtown Ogden facilities and the brothers turned their attention to either building or purchasing larger facilities.

On September 15, 2000, Asael Farr & Sons Company acquired the Russell’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream plant and business in Salt Lake City. This acquisition not only provided desperately needed and greatly increased manufacturing and storage capacity, but also gave the Farr family a foothold into the soft serve ice cream mix business. With the acquisition of the Russell’s business, Farr’s became the market leader in soft serve mix; manufacturing and selling ice cream, frozen yogurt, frozen custard and gelato mixes in addition to its many hard frozen ice cream products.

Michael, Darin and Nathan represent the fourth generation of Farr’s to lead Asael Farr & Sons Company and its trademark brand Farr Better Ice Cream. The business has further expanded, vastly increasing its foodservice sales to restaurants throughout the mountain west. Farr branded or manufactured products can now be purchased in thousands of grocery stores, convenience

stores and restaurants across 17 states. Today, the Farr family proudly produces millions of gallons annually of ice cream and distributes millions more of novelty servings. Recently, the question was asked, “How many servings of Farr Better Ice Cream have been consumed over the years?” Records are no longer available to determine for certain, but a very conservative estimate reveals that over one billion servings of Farr Better Ice Cream have been consumed over the last century. That’s a lot of Burnt Almond Fudge and Black Licorice and Pralines ‘N Cream and Vanilla and Chocolate Marshmallow and Rainbow Sherbet and Mint Chocolate Chip and Almond Divinity and Cookies ‘N Cream, and Brownies on the Moon, and so on, and so on, and so on.