Aug. 27, 2010

From butter art to barbecue: Deans Boor and Kotlikoff sample New York's variety

For deans Michael Kotlikoff of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Kathryn Boor of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, an opening day visit to the 2010 New York State Fair Aug. 26 was a welcome chance to relax, explore and reminisce.

The two -- Kotlikoff sans tie and Boor in comfortable walking shoes -- made the rounds, taking in sights from the giant butter farm scene sculpture in the dairy building to the crafts, arts, engineering projects, interactive exhibits and animals on display by some of the 450,000 students who participate in 4-H through Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Along the way, the deans had a quick meeting with Gov. David Paterson; and later a longer one with New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Patrick Hooker '84. ("All the things Cornell does for the health, safety, lives of 19 million people -- it's almost incalculable," Hooker said.)

And Cornell's presence at the fair is equally ubiquitous, from the Veterinary College team that provides clinical services for livestock to the programs and services provided by Cooperative Extension in every county statewide.

There was not enough time to see it all, but there was the obligatory -- and much relished -- lunch at Bob Baker's Chicken Coop, now in its 61st year at the fair. Along with Assemblyman William Magee '61 (111th district, Madison, Otsego counties), the deans were greeted by Reenie Sandstead, daughter of the late Cornell food science professor Robert C. Baker, who revolutionized the poultry industry with inventions from chicken nuggets to the famous Cornell-developed barbecue sauce.

"I've eaten here every year since 1968," Boor confessed.

Outside the 4-H building, Kotlikoff and Boor took in the pile of 380 million-year-old shale -- part of an annual display by the Paleontological Research Institution and the Museum of the Earth -- where children can dig for trilobotes, crinoids and ammonoids.

And inside, they admired the dorms where 4-H kids stay during the fair ("It does bring back memories, but it's so much nicer now," said Boor, herself a 4-H'er in Chemung County from age 10 until college); toured the displays with Cayuga County teen Taylor Brown; and took on a (gentle) grilling from teen journalists Renee Schweizer, Morgan Kissinger and Megan Rosko.

To a question from Kissinger, Kotlikoff said the fair reminded him how diverse and varied the state is. "We have so much richness here," he said. "There's no need to leave New York -- we have all kinds of opportunities at home."