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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.

Cold winter could mean fewer bees to pollinate fruit come spring

Ryan Delaney
Mike Martino, owner of Honey Hill Orchards in Chittenango, N.Y. talks with U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

This winter’s cold temperatures are creating tough survival conditions for honeybees. Come spring, the bees will be relied on to pollinate upstate New York apple, cherry, and other fruit trees.

Mike Martino began the winter with a hundred bee colonies on his Honey Hill apple orchard in Chittenango. He estimates he’ll lose about 30 colonies by spring time. He’s hoping the prolonged frigid temperatures of the past few months don’t kill off more.

When it’s cold, the bees have a harder time flying and need to eat more honey to keep warm. If they run out of honey, "they’ll starve to death and that’s obviously not a good sign. If the bees are dead in the spring, it’s hard to do anything with them", Martino said.

He also rents his bees out to neighboring orchards. With bee populations already declining in recent years, the damage to hives this winter could hurt fruit production this year.

"There’s a lot of farms that depend on my bees for their crops. And generally I probably need somewhere between 30 and 40 colonies to pollinate existing farms that I’m working with," Martino said.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) visited Martino’s farm Thursday to promote aspects of the recently-passed Farm Bill that could assist fruit farmers recover their losses from the unusually cold winter. Schumer also called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to quickly release more aid to orchard growers and beekeepers.

Schumer says the upstate New York will qualify for additional disaster assistance if the state applies for it.

WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail
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