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The 800 pound butter sculpture of a scene off the farm (seen here on the World Dairy Business Blog) is usually the headliner at the Dairy Building of the New York State Fair.But people wait in a long line for another hot item being used to promote New York’s dairy industry: a cup of milk that costs a quarter at the dairy bar.That includes a young James Moore, who says "It’s the best chocolate milk and white milk I’ve ever tasted in my life." "The Chocolate is more chocolaty and it’s nice and cold."The milk is all whole milk, which probably helps. Chocolate milk rules overall. The milk bar serves five cups of chocolate for every cup of plain milk.Mary Ellen Chesbro, agricultural manager for the fair says the total cups served goes up every year. This year, she's hoping the milk bar will top 400,000 cups of milk out this year.The whole operation is run by a task force of volunteers from the dairy industry, from farmers to distributors. The goal is to promote New York dairy – the state’s biggest agricultural product.Seventeen-year old Dale Durant, who serves milk to fairgoers says it can get pretty busy at the counter."Really nice days there’s a lot of people here. Weekends we get really busy."So to get a taste, go when it’s raining.And keep an eye out for the other smart entrepreneurial move in the Dairy building - the Syracuse bakery selling cookies next to the milk bar.

Ain't it sweet: New York maple syrup production on the rise

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Think pancakes, think sweet and golden; think economic development.

New York state’s maple syrup production surged this year, rising nearly 60 percent after a slow crop in 2012.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says production was boosted from 360,000 to 574,000 gallons in the 2013 season.

Industry leaders say increasing demand for the product could make the maple syrup industry an economic opportunity for upstate regions.

“The world market is growing, it’s not just a local, or United States, or North America thing, the interest in maple is growing worldwide,” says executive director at the New York State Maple Producers Association, Helen Thomas.

More than 3 million gallons of maple syrup were produced in the U.S. this year, up 70 percent from 2012, USDA officials say.

And, Thomas says each year the value of maple syrup is increasing, along with the number of seasonal jobs available at harvest time.

“In western New York, in the Adirondacks and in the Catskills and those regions around the state where maple production is strong it is very definitely a benefit to the local economy,” she says.

Thomas says more producers are joining the ranks in New York state each year and there’s been a noticeable increase in international interest in this product that is unique to North America. 

She says Russia, China, Japan and Guatemala have shown interest in importing New York maple syrup.

New York ranks number two in the nation for maple production, behind Vermont.

Thomas says the rebound in this year's crop is mainly attributable to more favorable weather.

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail