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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.

Catherine Tumber talks about the future of upstate's "Small, Gritty, and Green" cities

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Courtesy photo
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MIT Press
Journalist and historian Catherine Tumber is in the Finger Lakes region to discuss the findings of her new book, "Small, Gritty, and Green."

Catherine Tumber is a big believer that small cities matter.

"Cities like Rochester and Syracuse have been gradually dropped out of the urban conversation," Tumber says. "I wrote this book to address that oversight."

Tumber's new book, Small, Gritty, and Green: The Promise of America's Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World, documents examples of small- and medium-sized cities charging toward a sustainable future.

Tumber, who grew up outside Syracuse and received her PhD from the University of Rochester in 1992, is now returning to the Finger Lakes to talk about her findings.

Tumber is speaking at a panel discussion in Geneva Monday night at 7 p.m.

She's also speaking at RIT on Wednesday. (UPDATE: Tumber's talk starts at 5 p.m. at RIT's College of Business, room 1225.)

The focus: How smaller cities across New York State can lead the sustainable revitalization of the regions they anchor. Tumber's two big keys: agriculture and manufacturing.

I spoke with Tumber earlier today. You can listen to our conversation above.