© 2022 Innovation Trail

The future of farming, told with 800 pounds of butter

The butter sculpture at the New York State Fair
Ryan Morden
A dairy farm in 2020, presumably after some sort of butterpocalypse.

The New York State Fair’s butter sculpture is an annual tradition. It’s kept a deep, dark secret leading up to the beginning of the fair. Finally, it’s unveiled right before opening day according to Fred Pierce, Public Relations Director with the fair.

This year’s exhibit is titled “Dairyville 2020.” It showcases how farming practices can promote a sustainable future by using cow manure to generate electricity.

“The purpose behind the butter sculpture, and so many of our exhibits at the fair, is to promote dairy,” said Pierce. “Dairy is New York’s largest agriculture industry, and agriculture is New York’s largest industry.”

He says after the fair, SUNY-ESF melts the sculpture down and turns it into biodiesel to run vehicles on its campus.

You really view it in three stages: (1) “Whoa, that’s made of butter?!” (2) You then start to notice the details in the sculpture. You’re so fixated that you forget it’s made of butter. (3) You snap out of being mesmerized and realize you’re staring at a thick mass of butter.

For further reading, someone cobbled together a Wikipedia page about butter sculptures.

Innovation Trail alumnus Ryan Morden is originally from Seattle. He graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor's in journalism, minoring in political science and Scandinavian studies. Morden was Morning Edition producer and reporter at WRVO before moving over to the Innovation Trail project. Before landing at WRVO, Morden covered the Washington State legislature as a correspondent for Northwest News Network (N3), a group of nine NPR affiliates in the northwest.