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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.

Growing local supply network feeds WNY microbrew boom

While smaller micro-breweries are becoming a growing part of the alcohol picture in this area, they usually don't rely on local sources for anything other than water.  But there's a growing supplier network feeding the breweries.

For beer, you need high-tech machinery and the traditional ingredients: water, hops, malt and maybe rice.

A century ago, New York state not only produced innumerable kinds of beer, the state's farms produced the agricultural elements the hops and the malts to make them. 

Between some agricultural plagues and prohibition, the beer business became dominated by a few giant companies.  That's changing, as is Albany's attitudes toward beer with new legislation allowing farm breweries like the farm wineries which have created so many opportunities for using grapes.

Those farms are changing, not only considering a brewery but also growing the ingredients for beer like the increasing number growing hops.

Batavia farmer Ted Hawley is about to start producing one of the key ingredients of beer.

"There really isn't any local malt available. It's from from the Midwest: Manitoba, Canada or all imported from around the world. There really is just a fraction of what's needed for a local New York state malt and beer," says Hawley. 

Hawley says he has 100-tons of malting barley stored on his farm and should have some ready for brewers to use late this spring.