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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.

Wet weather straining farmers, but season not a washout yet

Brian Reeves is plucking dead leaves off of pepper plants on his farm in Baldwinsville.

"If it keeps up, they will lose more and more leaves and you come back here in two weeks and it's like a stem with no leaves," he says. "It's just gone."

Low-lying spots in his fields are wetter than they should be with large puddles collecting in some areas. Crops trying to grow in those areas are showing signs of too much moisture - like dead leaves and disease.

It's a result of the wetter-than-average summer so far in upstate New York.

"If this just kept up and kept up, this could end up being a really lousy piece of peppers," Reeves says.

But so far, his crop isn't a total loss.

"Right now it looks pretty good, except for a few spots. I’ve seen years like this before and then all of the sudden, whatever date, it turns around and it’s sunny and nice and you pick a nice crop of peppers," he adds.

Growers are having a tough time getting early season crops to farmers markets, reports the Farmers Market Federation of New York. Yield on green beans and peas are low this year, says executive director Diane Eggert.

The hot, wet weather is also keeping customers away.

"Farmers are suffering losses in that respect as well, so it’s kind of a double hit," she says.

Farms in the Mohawk Valley, where flooding and heavy rains have been the worst, are in worse shape, but the Farm Bureau reports tough conditions throughout the state.

"Any prolonged weather situation," says Reeves, "I don’t care if it’s prolonged wet, prolonged dry, prolonged cold, puts a stress on everything you’re growing."

WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail
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