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Great New York State Fair sports Big Red involvement

Fair 4-H
Lisa Richards/Provided
Back row, from left, Chris Watkins, director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, Kathryn Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Joel Malina, vice president for university relations, meet with Wyoming County 4-H members at the New York State Fair.
Fair goats
Lisa Richards/Provided
The goat barn at the fair.
Fair Watkins
Chris Watkins receives the Organization of Distinction award from Harry Robbins and Marylynn Collins of the New York State Dairy of Distinction Program at the New York State Fair on Aug. 29. Collins is also a dairy/livestock educator in for the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Oneida County.

The renovated Great New York State Fair may have an updated look, but it still has that familiar Big Red feel.

A reimagined layout courtesy of a recent $50 million project has transformed the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. But those physical changes have not diminished the fair’s celebration of New York agriculture and its role as an economic powerhouse, with Cornell’s contributions to the state’s agricultural fabric evident throughout the 12-day event.

New York is the country’s largest producer of yogurt, and fairgoers were treated to free samples of Cornell-made Greek yogurt Aug. 27 as Cornell food science students and members of the Cornell Cheese Club handed out cups of the probiotic plain and vanilla-flavored dairy favorites.

“The only ingredients are cultures and skim milk, and a very small amount of Stevia and pure vanilla for the vanilla-flavored yogurt,” said Elizabeth Freeman ’16, who has been making yogurt for the fair for three years.

“People know what Cornell is, but they don’t always know about the production facilities and what we offer and how much students are involved in the making of products like cheese, yogurt and ice cream,” said Freeman, president of the Cornell Cheese Club, whose members will hand out samples of Cornell Big Red Cheddar at the cheese booth in the Dairy Products Building Sept. 3.

As part of the 40th annual Dairy Day celebrations Aug. 29, Cornell expertise helped crown the top cheese in the state. Emeritus Professor Dave Bandler, assistant professor Sam Alcaine and senior extension associates Rob Ralyea and Steven Murphy were among a group of judges who rated cheeses from New York producers for the 2016 Dairy Products Competition. Gold and silver honors went to 26 processors and manufacturers, with Yancey’s Fancy cheese company of Corfu in western New York earning the Grand Champion award.

Kathryn Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, congratulated the competitors, noting, “Cornell’s Milk Quality Improvement Program works hand in hand with our partners in the dairy industry to ensure that New York state products are fresh and tasty.”

Also on Dairy Day, Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) was recognized by the New York State Dairy of Distinction Program for dedicated service to the Northeast Dairy Farm Beautification Program.

Marylynn Collins, a dairy/livestock educator in CCE Oneida and president of the New York State Dairy of Distinction Program, said, “In many counties, it happens to be the extension educators who are directly involved with the Dairy of Distinction Program and coordinating the judging of dairy farms each year.”

CCE Director Chris Watkins said it was a privilege to accept the honor: “This award is, of course, in recognition of the great work that dairy-related CCE extension educators carry out to meet the needs of the New York state dairy industry.”

Collins said the New York dairy industry remains strong despite the downturn in prices, and opportunities to offer continuing support and recognition to these hard-working and dedicated family farms strikes a positive note in a challenged industry.

While New York dairy products and the people who make them got their due, the cows responsible also took center stage. Members of the Cornell University Dairy Science Club assisted at the popular calf birthing center that drew crowds at the fair and on the internet. So far 24 calves have been birthed and broadcast live on a 24/7 webcam.

Matt Hayes is managing editor and social media officer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Lisa Richards is communications specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension.

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Melissa Osgood