Thursday, August 21, 2014

New York State Fair Opens Today

Go to for information on all agriculture exhibits, schedules and events.

New York state is agriculture.

And agriculture is New York state.

How can you tell? Just visit the Great New York State Fair.

Yes, folks, there is much more to the fair than the rides, the concerts and the food. It’s amazing what you will see if you venture just a short ways outside the Grandstand, Chevy Court or the Midway.

Step inside any of the animal buildings and see all the different breeds of cows, sheep, goats, horses and poultry. Talk to the farmers. Ask them questions. They don’t mind. In fact, they love it.

Beef cattle in the beef barn in 2013
Do you know the difference between a Charolais and a Limousin? Go to the beef cattle barn to find out. Why do some farmers raise Jerseys or Belted Galloways instead of the ever-popular black and white Holsteins? Ask the farmers in the dairy cattle building.

Why do roosters crow? Each day at 11 a.m. in the poultry building, roosters from across the state compete in a crowing contest. I bet some farmers there can give you the low-down on that noisy affair.

And while the state doesn’t have a lot of goat, pig and sheep farmers, that doesn’t mean these folks aren’t passionate about their animals.

This goat checks out the photographer at the 2013 fair.
Go to the goat barn to find out the difference between meat and dairy goats and what goat meat and milk are used for. In the same building, see all the swine of different colors and sizes. Watch a sheep being shorn and find out about what all that wool is used for in the sheep barn. 

Also check out the llamas and alpacas, other animals which supply fiber for clothing. They also are some of the most curious creatures and love having their photos taken.

There are few animals more beautiful than horses and you not only can see them up close and personal in the horse barn, but then go to the Coliseum to watch them compete. There is every type of horse imaginable in this great state of ours – from miniatures to the grand workers Percherons and Belgians – and they all are majestic and mighty and worthy of our attention.

And of course, agriculture isn’t just animals.

Maple syrup at the 2013 State Fair
Be sure to stop at my favorite building – the Horticulture Building -- to see the busy bees making honey, taste some gooey sweet maple products or buy a New York state apple for a delicious and nutritious State Fair snack.

There also are many booths and exhibits of other state agriculture products, such as grains, beer, plants, vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees (yes, folks, this all is agriculture).

And just outside the right front door of the Horticulture Building, fairgoers can begin to dream of a white Christmas by checking out the New York State Christmas Tree Growers Association and its display of award-winning trees. You might even see Santa and some snow!

The biggest part of the state’s agriculture industry is, of course, dairy.

New York ranks third in the United States in dairy production, behind California and Wisconsin. It ranks number 1 in the country in the production of cottage cheese and yogurt. Annual sales of New York milk total nearly $500 million.

Farmers in New York supply milk to plants throughout the state that are making all types of hard and soft cheeses, fluid milk, ice cream, regular and Greek yogurts, butter, cream and half and half. There’s nothing better than coming out of a store with some dairy products that you know were made just a day or two ago from fresh, New York milk.

While at the State Fair, be sure to taste some of these dairy products in the Dairy Products Building, where you can get milk at the ever-popular Rainbow Milk Bar, cheese, ice cream and – new this year – yogurt at the Yo2Go Yogurt Bar.

Photo supplied by NY Animal Agriculture Coalition
Also, be sure to stop into the dairy cattle building and see all the different breeds that call New York home. Then head back toward the FFA Building and next door, stop at the Dairy Cow Birthing Center. The center, run by the New York Animal Agriculture Coalition, is in its second year and features the live births of dairy calves.

This is where the process of all that delicious milk begins.

Anyone who wants a beverage with a little more a kick than milk can go to the Colannade (the columned area between the Dairy Products and Science and Industry Buildings) to visit the Wine Court. Here you can buy and taste wonderful New York state wines. Talk to the winery owners and find out about just what New York state has to offer.

Tastings of various wine and cheese pairings also are available in the Pride of NY Room located in the back of the Horticulture Building at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. every day except Labor Day. Each day will be hosted by a different New York. On Labor Day, the area will host beer tasting seminars at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m.

Holstein ready to show at the 2013 State Fair
You see – you could spend an entire day at the Great New York State Fair and do nothing but check out the agriculture offered by the farmers of this state. This is the time for the farmers to shine, to show off what they do 365 days a year to all of the great consumers in the state.

So, even if you do attend a concert, play some games on the Midway or chow down on sausage sandwiches or blooming onions, please try to spend some time with the farmers. Thanks to them, we have the most fabulous food in the world that is grown or raised right here in our backyards on our plates each day.

I can’t think of anything more wonderful than that.

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