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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.

Energy grant helps Jefferson County dairy farm expand

Joanna Richards

A Tylerville dairy farm, in Jefferson County, is growing, in part thanks to help from National Grid. The company awarded the farm a grant of $50,000 to increase its access to electricity. 

Milk Street Dairy has grown quickly since it began in 2008, with a herd of 400 cows. Now up to about 1,000 animals, the farm's partners want to add 800 more by 2014.

To do that, the farm needs a costly upgrade to accommodate its power-hungry machinery. Gaining access to what's known as three-phase power can be an obstacle to businesses' growth, especially in remote, rural areas. That's because there often aren't enough customers to make extension of the service affordable.

Joe Russo is lead economic development representative for National Grid. He says the company didn't want to become a barrier to business growth and economic development in rural communities.

“Eventually their growth requires three-phase power. We were standing in the way of that, so that's why we created the program,” he said.

That's National Grid's Three-Phase Power Incentive Program. Recently, officials from the utility company handed over a giant fake check to one of Milk Street Dairy's owners, John Ferry, in his operation's milking barn. The gesture was a celebration of the farm's receipt of that $50,000 for the required power upgrade that, along with a $2 million investment from the business, will help make its expansion plans a reality.

John Ferry says growth at the farm will help boost the local economy, too.

“It means a lot more jobs. It means a lot more land rents, it means more business for everybody, from the Quick Stop down the road, that sells us gas and lunches, to the lumber yards and cement factories, and the feed mills that bring us 60 ton of feed a week,” he said.

Jay Matteson is agricultural coordinator for Jefferson County. He put a number on the impact increased dairy production has on the local economy.

“When you look at each of those dairy cows today, you're looking at $13,737 per cow, as far as the amount of impact they will have on our community,” he said.

Ferry says the dairy business in the state is on an upswing lately, especially with the booming market for Greek yogurt.

North Country Public Radio/North Country Reporter for the Innovation Trail
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