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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.

Worm Power putting earthworms to work

Zack Seward
Some Worm Power employees on the job. When they finish chewing through this cow manure, it'll be high-end organic compost.

According to owner Tom Herlihy, there’s a running joke among local chamber of commerce officials. They like to say that Worm Power is Livingston County’s largest employer.

Total workforce at the Avon, N.Y. facility: about 60 million.

“The worms are our workers,” says Herlihy, sitting in front of one of his brand new composting beds. “My job is to create the maximum environment for them and to keep them fat, dumb and happy.”

Herlihy’s army of earthworms works around the clock converting cow manure from a nearby dairy into plant fertilizer that’s certified organic.

The end product is called vermicompost, a finely-ground living soil amendment that provides nutrients to growing crops.

Researchers from Cornell University say the vermicompost is also able to suppress plant diseases.

“We’re looking at something that could be a pesticide alternative,” says Allison Jack, a PhD candidate at Cornell who’s been doing research with Worm Power's vermicompost since 2006.

“You can actually get disease control with a natural biological substance,” says Jack. “And in this case it’s one that’s made out of a recycled waste product.”

In the world of organic agriculture that’s a big deal.

Owner Herlihy says business is booming for Worm Power. Customers include golf courses, vineyards and high-end greenhouses. Herlihy says his compost sold out this year and the company had to get bigger to accommodate demand.

Worm Power recently completed an eight-fold expansion of its production facilities. A big chunk of the tab was picked up by venture capitalists.

Yesterday, Herlihy showed off the expanded Worm Power facility. Among other officials in attendance was the head of the research arm of the USDA.

Of course, the Innovation Trail was also there, and a video piece on Worm Power will be coming soon.

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WXXI/Finger Lakes reporter for the Innovation Trail.